At 30, Giroux already belongs on list of Flyers’ alltime greats

Claude Giroux

Claude Giroux recently passed John LeClair and Tim Kerr to move into sixth place on the Flyers’ alltime scoring list.

Eric Lindros, fifth on that chart (six points ahead at 659 points), figures to be next in a week or two.

And fourth-place Rick MacLeish (697) looks to be reachable sometime next season.

That would leave only Brian Propp (849), Bill Barber (883) and the probably unattainable Bob Clarke (1,210) ahead of Giroux.

At just 30 and with four more full seasons still left on his contract, Giroux probably could wind up second on the register, barring a trade or injury.

So, from a historical perspective, where does this put the Hearst, Ont. native among the franchise’s greats?

Well, despite Mark Twain’s famous line (lies, damn lies, statistics), the numbers really do tell much of the story. Garnering 1,000 points someday would be impressive on any resume.

But there’s much more than just offensive production to Giroux’s game, and much more than just physical skills.

Giroux’s has one of the brightest hockey minds in the sport.

His vision, his ability to think a step ahead of the competition (someone once said Wayne Gretzky was two steps ahead. . .on a bad day) and his ability to make players better around him all factor into calling him a generational star.

Folks like Giroux’s coach, Dave Hakstol, and his long-time sidekick, Jake Voracek, appreciate the “little’’ things that Giroux does so well.

You can start by pointing out that Giroux had his least productive last season (57 points, partly due to recovering from offseason abdominal surgery) and now, in the 2017-18 campaign, is enjoying his best ever and could reach the 100-point plateau for the first time.

“His vision and his ability to read plays and be a step ahead of plays is very special,’’ Hakstol said at Tuesday’s practice. “Also his deception with the puck is what separates him from a lot of players.

“When he has time and space, he’s a very hard guy to read, he’s a very hard guy to close on. So, those along with some of his skill sets, are some of the things that make him a good offensive player.’’

Then comes the competitive part of Giroux’s makeup. It’s why he’s been a captain in Flyers history longer than anyone except Clarke.

“You can have all the skill in the world,’’ Hakstol explained. “But the game of hockey requires a high level of competitiveness. That (bounce-back season) speaks as well to his level of competitiveness as anything.’’

Voracek has had the pleasure of playing alongside Giroux for much of the past seven years. The two have been basically the one constant on the power play.

Toss in extraordinary talents such as Wayne Simmonds, and, in years past, guys like Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, and you have a winning formula.

“Given his contract, four more years, he could finish with a thousand points and you would have to consider him one of the best in the business,’’ Voracek said.

“When ‘Jags’ (Jagr) was here, he helped a lot (with such things as a training program). Confidence-wise, playing-wise, he (Jagr) showed him different types of hockey. . .how he could develop as a player. I was lucky enough to play on that line with him (Giroux) and ‘Hartsy.’

“And we (Voracek and Giroux) are very good friends. So that helps with the chemistry, too. We’re always hollering (at each other) too, which I think is disappearing from the game. Everybody’s too overly sensitive. Things get taken too personally but we know it’s about making each other better.’’

The cerebral side of the game might be what Voracek appreciates most.

“If you have all of it (physical and mental skills), you’re lucky,’’ he pointed out. “He doesn’t have the size but he’s one of the smartest players in the league. His hands, his passing – sometimes on the power play, he will make a pass when there isn’t much space; it’s impressive the way he will thread the needle.

“His mental approach, his being hard on himself, it can hurt you sometime but he wants to do so well. Down the road that competitive sense is a great thing to have.’’

It should be noted that Giroux has missed only 10 games out of a possible 732 games over nine-plus seasons.

That sort of ironman mentality also sets him apart from others.

As the milestones pass by, Giroux says he appreciates what they mean but doesn’t want to get caught up in the numbers.

There’s still the little matter of a Stanley Cup to win and with the young Flyers definitely on the rise, his role is more valuable than ever.

“I try not to pay too much attention to those (statistics),’’ he said. “Obviously the guys in here let me know. They get on me a little bit.

“When you play with one team, it’s such a good organization. . .I’ve been here since I’ve been 18 years old. They treat me so well. Hopefully I’ll play my whole career here.’’

Among the franchise headliners, only Clarke and Barber have been able to achieve that.

True to his personality, Giroux credits others for much of his success.

“Any time you get to play with good players, and you find chemistry, I think it’s good for yourself personally,’’ he said. “I’ve been pretty lucky to have good chemistry with guys like (Danny) Briere and Hartnell. They help your career a lot.’’

A career which just now might be catching the eyes of folks in distant places.

That’s what happens when your numbers start going past the game’s legends.

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About Wayne Fish 2471 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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