Giroux evolving into NHL phenom

If former Flyers GM Bobby Clarke had his way, Claude Giroux never would have been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Entering the 2006 draft, the Flyers, who held the 22nd overall pick were hoping to grab Trenton New Jersey’s Bobby Sanguinetti. At pick 21, the New York Rangers took Sanguinetti, which reportedly sent the Flyers draft table into a panic.

They had no doubts that Sanguinetti would be there for them at pick #22. So flustered were the Flyers, that is when Clarke went to the podium to announce their selection.

He actually forgot Giroux’s name and embarrassingly had to turn around to his assistants and whisper to them, “what was his name again?”

Needless to say, no one will forget Giroux’s name anymore.

After being drafted by Philadelphia, Giroux spent two more years with his Canadian junior team, the Gatineau Olympiques putting up 86 goals and 132 assists in 118 games.

Heading into the 2008-09 season, it was clear that Giroux was ready for the NHL. Many thought he had a solid chance to make the Flyers roster out of training camp.

However, still recovering from offseason tonsilitis, Giroux wasn’t in the best of shape and wasn’t quite ready for the big show. He was sent to the AHL and  showed that what he was able to do in juniors, he would be able to do at the professional level.

In 33 games with the Phantoms, Giroux posted 17 goals and 34 points. When Flyer forward Danny Briere went down with a groin injury, the opened for Giroux. He seized his opportunity.

Playing in 42 games for the Flyers, he scored 9 goals and 18 assists, playing mostly 3rd line minutes.

Giroux was so impressive, that when Briere was healthy enough to return to the lineup, the Flyers decided not to send Giroux back to the Phantoms. Instead, they chose to put two players on waivers and trade another to make the salary cap space to accommodate having both Briere and Giroux in the lineup.

During the playoffs that season, Giroux was by far the Flyers best player. In six games he had two goals and five points, highlighted by a “Gordie Howe hat trick” (goal, assist & fight) in a game-3 win.

Coming off his impressive rookie campaign, a big second year jump was expected for #28.

He suffered through the proverbial “sophomore slump” coming up short of many’s expectations scoring only 16 goals and 47 points.

It wasn’t until last season’s magical Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals that the phenom of Giroux began to grow.

At many times throughout the postseason, Giroux took control of the game with his superior stick-handling ability and outstanding vision on the ice. Playing primarily on a line with fellow youngster and rookie James van Riemsdyk and Aaron Asham, Giroux scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 23 games.

The apex coming during overtime of game-3 of the Finals when Giroux tipped a shot from Matt Carle past Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi to win the game and put the Flyers back in the series.

Two years ago, Flyers radio color analyst Chris Therien said that Giroux has the potential to be a “top 5 player in the entire league. He’s got that much raw skill.”

Giroux may not be a top-5 player in the league just yet, but he is certainly headed in the right direction. It’s hard to argue that through the first month of this season, he has been the Flyers Most Valuable Player.

The 22 year-old out of Hearst Ontario, Canada has the unique ability to control the tempo of the game, score at will, and can use his unique skill set to set-up highlight-reel goals for his teammates.

Watching Giroux work his magic on the ice, reminds a lot of people of a young Peter Forsberg. Those comparisons beginning to look spot on. Giroux is only 22 years old, he has not even come close to hitting his prime and  what’s almost as impressive as his on ice abilities, is his “team first” mentality.”

Anytime a player performs that way, one who tries and show up every game, it does nothing but spread throughout the rest of the room. 

The Flyers have a lot of elite players and whatever his role is, he’s always ready to take it on. This team has been successful in the past because guys know their roles.

Providing that the Flyers can sign ‘G’ long term, he will develop into one of the cornerstones of a franchise on the cusp of breaking through and winning a championship as well as progressing his way into the short list of ” one of the best players in the league.”


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