Having your Flyers’ captaincy compared to that of Dave Poulin’s might be close to the best honor one can achieve.
Especially when such praise emanates from the only leader ranked higher than Poulin, namely Hall of Famer Bob Clarke.
With Claude Giroux set to pass Clarke’s all-time record for games served as Flyers captain, it seems timely to hear what No. 16 has to say about No. 28.
To put it simply, it’s all good.
Whether it’s setting a fine example for young players, sticking it out through the tough years or playing through pain, Giroux has done it all with style, grit and class, according to Clarke.
That puts the guy they call “G’’ right up among the franchise’s elite.
Clarke, Poulin, Giroux were never rah-rah types. They’ve quietly let their play do the talking.
“Nobody leads by giving people a hard time,’’ Clarke said during a recent telephone conversation from his home in Florida. “Yelling at people or stuff like that. That doesn’t help anything.
“The good leaders – and I believe the two best leaders we’ve had are Davey Poulin and Claude Giroux – they lead by their performance.’’
Giroux was scheduled to serve in his 610th game as Flyers captain in Saturday night’s game at Boston, tying Clarke’s mark, and then will pass it on Tuesday night in New Jersey.
The term “lead by example’’ might get overused at times but it worked for Clarke, who led the Flyers to their only two Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.
Similarly, Giroux gets the most out of his players by performing at the highest level. Just a few seasons back, he registered 102 points, second in the NHL.
Currently he’s played in 320 straight games (prior to Saturday night), tied for the third-longest ironman streak in Flyers’ history. He’s only missed approximately 10 games out of 895 for his career.
“When you do things right and play the game properly like he does, you earn the right to ask players to raise their game,’’ Clarke said.
“You lead by example but because your example is the right way to play the game, it gives you the right to ask that.’’
The Flyers have been through good times and bad, but through both the lean years and the successful ones, they’ve always played with emotion.
Clarke’s Broad Street Bullies set the tone, an “Us Against the World’’ mindset that in some ways persists to this day. Giroux understands what it means to be a Philadelphia Flyer, through thick and thin.
“The problem times in our franchise were when management was messed up. . .the best times were when we had the right coaching, when management was stable and solid so the players could only worry about playing hockey,’’ Clarke said.
“When you get messed up at the top, those types of things – it’s hard to be a captain when there’s no standard, no definite standards. Under (coach) Fred Shero, under (GM) Keith Allen there were definite standards.
“Claude has gone through some pretty messed-up times in our organization. And he’s done what I believe is an incredibly good job. Now we’re solid at the top, solid in coaching and we’re a solid hockey club. He’s gone through the tough times and been the same player. . .done things properly for the good of the team.’’
As mentioned, Giroux, a first-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, continues to play a full slate of games and does so at a high level at age 33.
Clarke admires that determination. He seldom took a night off either.
There was the night Clarke got hit in the head with an errant puck off the stick of teammate Reggie Leach, started bleeding all over his face and jersey but refused to go to the locker room for stitches. Clarke says he wasn’t hurt but there are still iconic photographs and videos of him playing through the gore in today’s digital world.
“I did play lots of times when I could have taken a night off,’’ Clarke said. “Claude has, too. Davey Poulin did, too. Those are characteristics of the individual player. Lots of players have done that but I think if you’re the captain it’s important to do those things.’’
Giroux feels honored to reach this milestone, especially one held by Clarke, the man he ultimately looks up to the most.
The two share a common bond with the way they’ve played the game. Now the record book will show it for all to see.