NEWARK, N.J. – A few eyebrows were raised at Thursday’s practice when Flyers coach Alain Vigneault called for better play from his captain, Claude Giroux, and his righthand man, Jake Voracek.
On Friday night at the Prudential Center prior to the Flyers-Devils game, Giroux offered his reaction to those comments.
In effect, Giroux agreed with Vigneault that he has more to give and doesn’t have a problem with the coach making comments in public about his performance.
“I know I can give more,’’ Giroux said. “And I know I have to give more. I mean, the coach can say what he thinks is good for the team, but I think you guys know I’ll be the first guy to criticize my play. I am not worried about that kind of stuff. I’m just worried about getting my game where I know I can bring (it.)”
Is there anything specific on which he can improve?
“A little bit of everything,’’ Giroux said. “It’s not just one thing. It’s working on it defensively, offensively. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back before you take a step forward. Enjoy the game, play with passion, and usually if you do that, good things are going to happen.”
One complicating factor has been Vigneault’s decision to move Giroux back to center. He had played left wing for most of last season and the start of this campaign, although he has played center most of his career.
He was asked if the move has been awkward, or if it comes naturally like riding a bicycle.
“A rusty bike, maybe,’’ Giroux said. “It’s definitely a different game. But I have played center for a lot of years. It’s not like it’s something brand new for me. But I know I made a few mistakes as a centerman and I’ll probably make more. But it’s about minimizing those mistakes and being able to play my game.”
Giroux has come close to, if not reached, iconic stature with the Flyers. It’s not often a coach calls him out, particularly so early in his tenure.
The 31-year-old player says he tries to tune out the media.
“I’ve had a lot of talks with coaches before about where my game is at and that I haven’t been helping the team as much,’’ he said. “I mean, I have had plenty of those talks before. But if he goes in the media, or if you guys write a lot of negative stuff sometimes, I don’t let it get to me. I try not to. I’m here to play for my teammates and the organization and for myself. So it’s about worrying about helping the team win.”
Vigneault said his comments were no different than what any NHL coach would ask of his best players.
“I think I’m just stating the obvious,’’ Vigneault said. “And the facts. I mean I don’t think I’m any different than their guy (N.J. coach John Hynes) here would probably say, ‘that I need (Taylor) Hall to be one of my best players.’
“Toronto, who we’re playing tomorrow night, (coach Mike) Babcock would say, ‘I need (Mitch) Marner, I need (Auston) Matthews, I need (John) Tavares.’ Every coach is the same. If your team is going to do well, you need your top players to be top performers.’’
Going into Friday night’s game, Giroux had registered just two goals and five assists for seven points, tying him for fourth on the team’s scoring list. Travis Konecny was well out in front for the team lead with 13 points.
It should be noted Giroux was leading the team in plus-minus ranking with a plus-5.
“I’m sure the players know it (that they must play for team success), they don’t need me or anybody else to say it,’’ Vigneault said. “Whether it be ‘G,’ Jake or anybody else on our team, those guys need to play well.’’
>Rubtsov makes NHL debut
Former first-round draft pick German Rubtsov made his NHL debut on Friday night. Although the young Russian does not have a good grasp of the English language yet, Vigneault wasn’t about to give him any pre-game advice anyway.
“I don’t really get involved with players who are playing their first game, they’ve got a lot on their mind,’’ Vigneault said. “Usually you want them to be calm, enjoy it.
“I know (fellow Russian Ivan) Provorov has been spending a lot of time with ‘Ruby.’ He’s going to be fine. He looks a little nervous obviously but I’m sure he’s going to be fine.’’