It’s one thing for a coach to say certain players on his team – without naming names — need to upgrade their conditioning to keep up in today’s ever-faster sport of hockey.
It’s quite another when he identifies just who must have to intensify their training when the years and the mileage start to show on their performances.
During his end-of-season press briefing conference call on Monday, head coach Alain Vigneault covered a variety of topics, but the one which jumped out of the discussion was his assessment of some of his veteran players.
When a coach says a possible future Hall of Famer such as Claude Giroux might have to rethink his approach to fitness, etc., for the years ahead, it grabs everyone’s attention.
Vigneault also threw two other over-30 players into the mix: Jake Voracek and James van Riemsdyk.
All three players endured disappointing postseason campaigns, Giroux perhaps the most frustrated of the bunch with just one goal in 16 games (including the round robin).
Giroux, who will turn 33 in January, did not generate a lot of offense in the playoffs, particularly in the seven-game loss to the Islanders.
Vigneault suggested his captain, as well as other veterans, might have to re-dedicate themselves during the upcoming offseason.
“There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind about his (Giroux’s) will to be successful,’’ Vigneault said. “And his will to help his teammates.
“I do agree that he is getting older. . .he’s got an opportunity now that we’re in pause to take these next months and really work at his conditioning and probably find the time to slow (the aging process).’’
Giroux has played in 889 regular-season games and has missed only about a dozen possible starts over his career. At some point, that’s bound to take a toll.
“He’s getting older,’’ Vigneault said. “As you get older, the muscles don’t react as quick. But you can work on that. He’s going to have to put in a lot of time and effort.’’
Vigneault said because of the pandemic he has not been able to hold traditional end-of-season in-person exit interviews with players. The Flyers went their separate ways after the Game 7 elimination last week.
Since both Vigneault and Giroux call their native Quebec home in the offseason, the two eventually will meet in person.
“I do believe there are some areas, after having gone through it with Claude for his first playoffs (under Vigneault), that I can help him with where he can perform better,’’ Vigneault said. “I need to see him face-to-face, a sitdown. I haven’t had that opportunity but because he’s one of those guys where we’re in the same region, I’ll be able to talk to him face-to-face.
“Obviously the comments I’m going to have with him and he’s going to have with me are going to be put on a personal level. But I can tell you on the record, very directly, that I do believe he can play better, perform better and knowing Claude he will put in the time and effort to do it.’’
Vigneault was asked if the four-month pandemic pause might have had something to do with a perceived lack of game readiness once the playoffs began in early August.
“Claude is an individual who takes tremendous care of himself physically,’’ Vigneault said. “I’m saying now, because he’s getting older, Jake Voracek (31) is getting older, JVR (31) is getting older. . .you know life is life. As you get older, it catches up to you.
“So they have to spend more time, maybe find new techniques to slow the natural evolution that we all go through. There’s a way for him (Giroux) to try and slow what happens to all of us as we get older.’’