Flyers, Giroux Have Complicated Legacy at Stake at NHL Trade Deadline

It’s nearly a foregone conclusion that the Philadelphia Flyers will trade their long-time captain Claude Giroux ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 21. The team has slipped toward the basement of the Metropolitan Division in their second consecutive highly disappointing season in 2021-22. The failure to meet expectations has left them in a position as deadline sellers with an obvious incentive to move veterans on expiring contracts, and Giroux is the obvious choice as the most appealing potential addition to playoff contenders.

The 34-year-old will likely get the opportunity to win the prize that has eluded him for the entirety of the past 14 years in Philadelphia, his first Stanley Cup. He’ll finally leave a team that has struggled to surround him with adequate talent for the past decade. His willingness to waive his no-movement clause to join forces with a talented roster like the Florida Panthers or the Colorado Avalanche seems like a no-brainer for a player still producing close to a point-per-game pace in the late stages of his career. However, the human element of the situation and the complicated legacy he’ll leave in Philadelphia make things a lot more complex.

Flyers During Giroux’s Captaincy

When the NHL returned from the lockout in January 2013, euphoria spread throughout the Philadelphia fan base because of Giroux’s expected ceiling as the savior that could lead the franchise back to Stanley Cup glory. He had shown strong potential as top-end talent with steadily increasing offensive production that eventually came to the NHL spotlight during an outstanding showing in the 2012 Playoffs. The Flyers named their budding star the 19th captain in franchise history just three days after his 25th birthday entering the shortened 48-game season. 

Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Only five NHL players have more points than the Hearst, Ontario native during the time span since he began wearing the “C” on his chest. However, the Flyers have gone through six head coaches and won only one playoff series during that time span. They wasted the entirety of the prime years of one of the franchise’s all-time great players during an era marked by mediocre or, more recently, downright abysmal play surrounding him.

The recent struggles of the team during the past two seasons have left the franchise in a state of turmoil, and the ugly position in which the Flyers find themselves creates an even more complicated legacy than a great player leaving the only team he’s played for since he made his NHL debut in February 2008.

Related: Flyers Failures Have Hindered Claude Giroux’s Career

Since Giroux began his captaincy, the Flyers have failed to replace Chris Pronger with a legitimate top defenseman capable of carrying a group of blueliners to the Stanley Cup. Their seemingly perennial goaltending issues have reared their ugly head on many occasions. Solid forward complements like Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek have found chemistry with Giroux for periods of time, but they haven’t been backed up by rosters deep enough with talent to compete with the NHL’s best.

Giroux has shouldered more than his fair share of criticism during his captaincy, in part because of his underwhelming statistical production in the team’s three most recent playoff appearances. However, the shortcomings of the organization outside of his control have restricted any opportunity he might’ve had to captain a team to their first Stanley Cup since 1975. 

Flyers Must Consider Human Element to Potential Giroux Trade

Giroux is second in Flyers history in points, games played, and assists trailing only the legendary Bobby Clarke. He has played on teams that have won six total playoff series and recorded 73 postseason points, including an overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. He has finished fourth or higher in Hart Trophy voting three times during his career.

“Nobody cares more about the Flyers than he (Giroux) does. I think we have to recognize what we’re dealing with here. He’s a franchise incon. His jersey is going to be in the rafters. To me, he’s a Hall of Fame player.”

-Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher

Giroux spoke on Feb. 16 about the mounting frustration of the 2021-22 season and the overall position of the organization. “When you put the Flyers jersey on, you’ve got to wear it with pride,” he said with a melancholy tone that implied the recognition of an impending change. Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet accurately assessed the emotion Giroux showed by pointing out that the reality of the final weeks of his tenure in Philadelphia is hitting him.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (a href=httpswww.facebook.com38PhotographyAmy Irvina The Hockey Writers)

Friedman emphasized the human element of NHL trades that doesn’t always come up in conversations between fans and media. Giroux has started a family in the Philadelphia area. It was obvious to viewers of the NHL All-Star festivities last month that his two-year-old son Gavin is his personal pride and joy. Changing a player’s uniform affects more than just hockey.  

The complicated emotions of Philadelphia’s leading scorer will play into the equation over the next three weeks. Giroux is in control of his own fate because of the no-movement clause, and he is five games short of 1000 for his career. He could reach the milestone on March 17 in Philadelphia if he stays with the team long enough. All indications suggest that will be a priority for him and a wish the organization will grant, for better or for worse.

Flyers After Giroux’s Departure

The Boston Bruins traded franchise legend Raymond Bourque to the Avalanche in 2000 under circumstances similar to what the Flyers face with Giroux. Boston felt they owed the player his wish to chase a Stanley Cup with a serious contender while the team he had spent the entirety of his career with had no chance to win one. The scenario ultimately played out as all parties hoped, and Bourque had the ideal NHL swan song when he lifted the Stanley Cup after the final game of his career.

Ray Bourque Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic
Ray Bourque and Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Giroux deserves a similar opportunity, and the Flyers need to move their most valuable trade chip in the interest of building for their future. Many Flyers fans will be happy for one of the franchise’s all-time greats if his quest turns out the way Bourque’s did in 2001. However, even a storybook ending with Giroux hoisting the Cup in another uniform won’t erase the broken dream of a championship in Philadelphia.

The organization can and should be happy for the player if he succeeds after he leaves. However, their greater focus should be on how they never enabled Giroux to lead his team to the top level of success in the sport. They will continue to live with the history of their slip from Stanley Cup glory in the ‘70s to near misses in the ‘80s and failure to capitalize on consistent contention from 1995-2012. Fletcher will pursue the “top-end talent” he covets while one of the most talented players in franchise history becomes another memory of unfulfilled potential for a franchise that has fallen from the graces of its fan base during the worst era of its existence.

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