Sean Couturier has developed into one of the best Flyers of this generation and a lot of the credit for that has to go to Claude Giroux.
According to Couturier, it was Giroux who played a strong role in his career after he was selected in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
“He probably had the most impact on my career,’’ said Couturier during Monday’s media Zoom call to discuss Giroux’s upcoming milestone 1,000th game as a Flyer. “I came in probably when he was right at his peak. He got 90-something points and people were talking about maybe an MVP that year. It just followed year after year. I got a chance to play on his line and that kind of really helped push off my career. When you play with a guy like that, you’re just pushed to follow his lead.’’
If Giroux should move on to a Stanley Cup contender such as Colorado or St. Louis, he will do so with the blessing of his Flyer teammates, especially Couturier. He’s earned that right.
“We would be happy for him,’’ Couturier said. “Especially me. I’ve been around him since the start of my career. To have learned so much from him. The time and the effort that he’s put into this organization. You just wish him all the best. Whether it’s here or somewhere else. He’s a guy who definitely deserves to win once in his career.’’
In a way, the situation could play out in a scenario similar to 2015 when the Flyers traded defenseman Kimmo Timonen to the Chicago Blackhawks with the express purpose to give the Finn native a chance for greatness, which ultimately did happen.
“Wherever it is,’’ Couturier said of Giroux, “I’ll be happy for him.’’
From a leadership standpoint, this has probably been Giroux’s toughest year. Couturier, recovering from season-ending back surgery, said it’s times like these when Giroux’s greatness comes to the forefront.
“He’s a little bit down, like everybody this year,’’ Couturier said. “We haven’t been winning, we haven’t been getting the result we want. He’s no different, he’s not a guy who plays for his stats. That just shows the kind of leader he is.’’
Scott Hartnell, who played on a line with Giroux and legendary Jaromir Jagr in 2012, enjoyed his best season ever with 37 goals. Hartnell said he learned about accountability from both men.
“I remember a story,’’ he said. “G wanted me to practice better, but it was Jagr, too, as well. We were fooling around after practice doing three-on-ones, three-on-threes. I didn’t really compete as hard as I should have. Jagr came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t come here just to waste a year. I want to win.’ And G said, ‘C’mon, let’s do it again.’ So we did it again and I thought lesson well learned. I didn’t want to disappoint the legend as well as Claude.’’