Quick, name a hockey player who suffered through possibly his worst-ever season only to come back and enjoy possibly his best-ever season.
Well, Claude Giroux, for one.
Following the 2015-16 season, the Flyers captain underwent abdominal surgery. And, while he was declared fit to play the 2016-17 season, it turned out to be the least productive of his 10-year career.
Undaunted, Giroux returned for the 2017-18 season more determined than ever. A move from center to left wing re-energized him and now, with a handful of games remaining, he has a chance for the first 100-point season of his career.
For that sort of character – and much more – Giroux has been named the Flyers’ 2017-18 nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Previous winners of the Masterton by a Flyer include Bob Clarke, Tim Kerr and Ian Laperriere.
The Masterton Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. It is named after Bill Masterton, the only player in NHL history to die as a direct result of injuries suffered during a game.
“It (the nomination) means a lot,’’ Giroux said in a conference call from Dallas where the Flyers play on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been through a lot and I’ve been able to have a lot of help from everybody that’s involved with me, all my trainers here in Philly and my coaches and also my trainer back home Tony Greco. Just the dedication and all the time they’ve put in on me…it’s been a great journey.’’
Actually, Giroux struggled the previous two seasons with the injury, putting up only 68 points in 2015-16 and then just 58 last season.
“I think last year was pretty tough,’’ Giroux said. “My mind was telling me to do something but I just couldn’t do it. At the end it was more of a mental thing and I had a really tough time.
“But like I said, I was able to have a good summer last summer and I had good people around me to help me get better. It was a process but right now it’s going pretty well and hopefully we can keep going.’’
Giroux enters Tuesday night’s game fifth in the NHL in scoring with 91 points, including 65 assists, which ties a career high. His 26 goals are two off his career best and he’s also two points shy of tying his career best in that category.
As he mentioned, this past summer, Giroux was able to get completely healthy again and the move to left wing, pairing him with center Sean Couturier, has been greatly helpful.
I came to camp and I felt really good about my game,’’ Giroux said. “Moving to the wing was a little adjustment, but every time you play with good players, obviously your game is going to be better.
“Being able to have that chemistry with ‘Coots’ (Couturier), it’s been really fun, he’s a really fun player to play with. Also starting the year with Jake (Voracek) and now playing with TK (Travis Konecny), it’s been a really fun year.
“I think last year obviously when you’re not producing, not helping the team, and the team is not doing well, it’s not as fun. This year we’re being able to be a little more successful. You start having a little bit more fun. This year I feel like I’m just a kid playing hockey and having fun doing it.
Giroux has only missed 10 games out of a possible 742 in his 10-year NHL career and says he’s proud of that number.
“Knock on wood, but I’ve been pretty lucky for my health,’’ he said. “Like I said before, I’m lucky enough to have good trainers here like Jimmy McCrossin and Sal [Raffa]. They work really hard, they put a lot of time into it.’’
Giroux is his own worst critic but at times that can be helpful.
“I think in juniors my coach was pretty hard on me,’’ he explained. “He was always pushing me, even when I thought I was playing well he was all over me to do more and when he did that’s when I played my best hockey.
“So I kind of like to be hard on myself and kind of put myself in an awkward position. When a player gets comfortable on the ice, sometimes you get away with how you want to play, and if you put yourself in an uncomfortable position, I think that’s when you play our best.’’
With a half-dozen games left, Giroux still has a shot for his first 100-point season. He says if he gets it, a lot of credit would go to his teammates.
“I think if I do get it it’s not just me, it shows that the team can play well together,’’ he said. “I know I’ve been repeating myself a lot, but playing with good players and playing with defensemen that can move up the puck – it’s just been great, it’s been fun, and we just enjoy going to the rink every day. When you do that, you’re just putting yourself in a good situation.’’