VOORHEES, N.J. – Over the years, Claude Giroux’s name has sometimes come up in the same conversation as superstars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin and for good reason.
While Giroux hasn’t won a Stanley Cup as the other two future Hall of Famers have, the longtime Flyers captain has done just about everything he can to keep his team in contention.
Clearly all three have shown outstanding leadership skills. But there is one big difference: Crosby is likely to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals. However, all signs are pointing to Giroux not enjoying that luxury.
Giroux, scheduled to play in his 1,000th NHL game with the Flyers on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators, could be traded prior to Monday’s NHL deadline.
In the days leading up to that red letter date, Giroux’s career with the team has been in the spotlight. In many categories, from games played to points scored, he stands second only to Hall of Famer Bob Clarke on Flyers’ alltime lists.
Count interim head coach Mike Yeo among those who believe Giroux’s career excellence should be recognized.
“No question I do,’’ Yeo said during a press briefing at the Flyers Training Center after Wednesday’s practice. “You look at the two people you mentioned (Crosby, Ovechkin) and the one difference is they have is a Stanley Cup. That is completely unfair in my opinion to place that on ‘G,’ the fact that we don’t have a Stanley Cup.’’
The closest Giroux ever got to a ring was the 2009-10 season, when the Flyers made the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks but came up a couple wins short.
“This isn’t to say that G didn’t have the teammates but you talk about those guys – I was with Crosby (as an assistant coach in 2008-09) and he’s phenomenal player and he also had (Evgeny) Malkin and (goaltender Marc) Andre-Fleury. Likewise with Ovechkin when you’ve got (John) Carlson and (Nicklas) Backstrom. This is very much a team game, no one player can have individual success without the players around him. A player like that can have a huge impact on his team as well.’’
Some believe if Giroux plays another four or five seasons and continues to produce offense at a high rate, he would be considered a Hall of Fame candidate himself.
Going to a serious Stanley Cup contender and possibly winning a title might swing the HOF vote in his favor.
“Hopefully that moment does come for him,’’ Yeo said. “Where he is a Stanley Cup winner because you always like to see those great players have the opportunity to do that. You look at a guy like Ray Bourque (who was traded from Boston to Colorado and finally got a ring in 2001) and how he was able to do it later in his career. And how amazing a player he was before he won that Cup. That didn’t take anything away that he hadn’t won one. He was still a dominant player and that’s the way I see G as well.’’
Many family members and friends have made the trip from Canada to take in the big event at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night. A number of them were in attendance at the practice on Wednesday.
These are bittersweet moments for Giroux, a former first-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He can reminisce and talk about his career highlights but it has to be a little unsettling knowing he’s the one who has to make a decision about whether or not to exercise his no-move clause.
Having the chance to reach this special milestone prior to the trade deadline was just a bit of fortunate good timing.
“Playing a thousand games for one organization doesn’t happen often anymore,’’ Giroux said. “So it was important to do this.’’
Being here for the better part of 15 years gave Giroux a real sense of what it means to play for the Flyers, both on and off the ice.
“Since day one here, being a part of the Philadelphia Flyers and throughout my career, having a chance to meet Mr. ((Ed) Snider (team founder/owner) and get to know him, see his passion for the game,’’ Grioux said. “I guess just everybody followed him. You just want to be part of the family. That’s what Mr. Snider was probably best at, making you feel like we’re a big family. To be part of it (the organization) for a thousand games is an honor.’’
It goes without saying how special Thursday will be. This won’t be a Flyers Hall of Fame or number retirement ceremony but it might have some of that feel to it.
“It’s exciting, I have a lot of family here,’’ said Giroux. “Everybody’s making it feel very special. . .teammates, coaches, fans. It’s very special.’’
Understandably, Giroux was reluctant to talk about a potential trade,
“If I can be honest, I’m trying to focus on playing a thousand games with the Flyers,’’ he said. “It’s something I’m proud of, something I’m very happy to have a chance to do this. After that, it’s going to be a change of mindset a little bit and see how things are going to go,’’
Giroux has stated he wants to play until he’s 40. But he wants to take it year by year.
“I think everybody wants to play until they are 40,’’ he said. “You play as long as you can. The love for the game is still there. You still have the drive. If you can still keep up, I don’t know why you couldn’t do it. If I could make it to 40, I’d be happy with that.’’