Thirteen members of the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHoF) have played for the Philadelphia Flyers at some point during their careers. This list includes legends like Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, and Bill Barber. Does one more former Flyers legend belong on the list someday? There is a lot of disagreement regarding Claude Giroux’s Hall of Fame prospects.
Giroux played 1000 games in parts of 15 seasons in Philadelphia. He sits second in franchise history in points, games played, and assists behind only Clarke in all three categories. Despite a less-than-spectacular supporting cast at certain points during his tenure with the Flyers, he scored 25 goals and added 48 assists in 85 playoff games in orange and black. He finished in the top five in the Hart Trophy voting three times and spent more games as their captain than any player in their storied history.
The 34-year-old isn’t quite ready to hang up the skates just because he’s left the Flyers. He produced at a prolific pace with 23 points in 18 regular-season games with Florida Panthers after Philadelphia moved him in March 2022. His eight playoff points in 10 games were good enough for second place on a Panthers team that fell quietly in the second round against the eventual Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) star signed with the Ottawa Senators in July to play close to the town where he’s spent the majority of his offseasons during his NHL career. He’ll instantly become the elder statesman for a Senators team with blossoming young stars like Tim Stützle, Alex DeBrincat, and Brady Tkachuk.
What is a Hall of Fame Career?
Consider the following resumes of two former NHL forwards:
Player A: This player eclipsed 500 goals and 800 assists and finished his career with 1,327 points. He was a nine-time 30-goal scorer and tallied over 100 points twice. His best offensive season was in 1992-93 when he finished fifth in the NHL with 132 points. He was selected to five NHL All-Star Games and won the 1993 Lady Byng Trophy. Though he never won a Stanley Cup, his team made the playoffs all but four times in his 19-year career. He even played in two conference finals and captained his team for one season.
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Player B: This player recorded 319 goals and 378 assists for 697 points in his 14-year career. Though he was a six-time 30-goal scorer, he was also known as one of the toughest players in the NHL in his day. He recorded over 1000 career penalty minutes while protecting his future Hall of Fame linemates. He also helped lead his team to four consecutive Stanley Cup victories from 1980 to 1983; was selected to two All-Star Games, and captained his team for two seasons.
One of these players is in the HHoF; the other is not. Can you guess who is who? Player A is Pierre Turgeon, and Player B is Clark Gillies. Turgeon had the better offensive numbers, but Gillies is in the HHoF. Turgeon is evidence that offensive production alone usually does not guarantee a spot in the Hall of Fame, so there must be other factors that determine a player’s eligibility.
Evaluating the Criteria for a HHoF Bid
The trouble with hockey is that it doesn’t have a statistical threshold that equates to an HHoF bid. In baseball, unless you violate MLB rules, recording 300 wins or obtaining 3000 hits will get you a one-way ticket to Cooperstown. Hockey doesn’t have a direct parallel. One might think that 500 goals or 800 assists would do the trick, but Turgeon has been waiting ten years to get his bid.
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The Turgeon and Gillies examples show that sometimes, team contribution is just as important as individual achievement. Of course, if a player scores at a Wayne Gretzky or Jaromir Jagr rate, they will make the HHoF regardless of team contribution (for good measure, both also won multiple Stanley Cups). Nonetheless, players like Gretzky and Jagr only come about once or twice a generation. Therefore, most other players will need to have significant contributions to their team’s success.
Turgeon helped get his team to the playoffs almost every season, but he never won a Cup or played in a Final. Furthermore, he didn’t leave a strong legacy with any team in particular. Though he played 19 seasons in the NHL, he spent his career with six different teams and never played more than five seasons with any of them.
On the other hand, Gillies served a vital role during his 12 years with the New York Islanders. Though he scored 30 goals multiple times, he knew that he was not expected to be the primary scorer. Rather, he played as a hard-checking power forward and enforcer. He would do the dirty work so that his future HHoF linemates, Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier, could score. Gillies made his teammates better by doing the dirty work, and he was an essential factor in New York’s four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-1983. He was deserving of his HHoF nomination.
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The ideal HHoF candidate will have strong individual achievement and contribute to his team’s success. For a forward, points, All-Star Game appearances, and individual awards are all important. Leadership, team success, and legacy should also play a role in the evaluation process.
What Does Giroux Still Need to Do?
The good news for Giroux is that he’s already compiled impressive individual achievements in his career. His 923 career assists are the 83rd-most in NHL history. He has already recorded more assists than several Hall of Famers, including Mike Bossy, Pat LaFontaine, and Eric Lindros. Over the past 13 NHL seasons, only Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos have more points.
Giroux would jump into the top 50 in NHL history with just over 100 assists, which is a conservative expectation for an established, prolific point producer with three years of term on his current contract. Although his days in the Hart Trophy conversation are behind him, he played at a high level on a desolate Flyers roster limping through injuries and underperformance in 2021-22. His stint with the Panthers showed the production that could come with a stronger supporting cast.
Giroux’s longevity and durability will play in his favor when the voters look back at his career after he finally decides to hang up the skates. If he is able to compile stats with the same incredible consistency through the tenure of his three-year contract in Ottawa, he will give himself a good shot at the HHoF. We’ll just have to watch how the last chapter of his already illustrious career plays out.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.