Flyers Post Mortem Part 5: Was Claude Giroux the real team MVP?
It’s easy to look at the outcome of this Flyers season and say that Claude Giroux took a step backwards.
After all, he had a monstrous season in 2011-12 finishing with 93 points and garnered serious Hart Trophy consideration.
Then, he played in the playoffs under a moniker provided by his coach, when Peter Laviolette called him, “…the best player in the world” after Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
And for a brief while, it looked like Giroux was quickly becoming the new face of the NHL. His jersey sales were through the roof. He was emblazoned across the front of the league-endorsed video game.
And, he was named captain of a storied franchise who always seems to be in the mix for the Stanley Cup.
And with all the additional attention, the spotlight grew bigger. The expectations became greater. The pressure intensified. And any misstep was going to be scrutinized.
So, when Giroux got off to a slow start in this shortened season – coming off a concussion he suffered in Germany, which has been often glossed over – immediately the criticisms were that Giroux couldn’t live up to his new title as the best in the game.
Many an expert and hockey scribe felt that Giroux could no longer play to such a level without Jaromir Jagr by his side.
And after the Flyers first 13 games, he had just seven points.
It was true that playing without Jagr required an adjustment. It also didn’t help any that Scott Hartnell broke his foot in the third game of the season, leaving Giroux without either linemate from the previous season.
Keep in mind Giroux did score in each of the Flyers first two games, but after Hartnell’s injury, Giroux went with just one goal in his next nine contests.
Teams were focusing on shutting him down completely and daring the rest of the team to score without much help from their captain.
But then something happened. Not only was Giroux paired with Jake Voracek, but the breakout winger suddenly found the confidence to start shooting the puck more and with greater accuracy.
Voracek averaged a career-best 2.67 shots on goal per game. He also had a career best of 17.1 percent scoring percentage.
Whether what happened next was because of Voracek’s influence on the top line or Giroux’s influence on Voracek, or a little bit of both, can be argued ad nauseum.
But what can’t be debated is the level of success the duo enjoyed together. While Voracek set a career-high in goals and was close to a career-best in points as well – in a 48-game season no less – Giroux quietly became one of the best scorers in the NHL.
There were only 16 players in the league this season to register at least one point per game. Giroux was one of them, sneaking into a four-way tie for 13th with 48 points in 48 games.
However, from Feb. 12th through the end of the season, only three players outscored Giroux (see table at the bottom of this blog post).
As a matter of fact, if you take Giroux’s pace over those 35 games and stretched it out over an entire 82-game season you’d end up with a 23-goal, 70-assist, 93-point season.
His 2011-12 numbers: 28-65-93.
Pretty spot on, wouldn’t you say?
Which begs the question, should we look at Giroux’s season and call it a failure because he had a tough stretch of 11 games at the beginning of the season where he had little help on his line?
Or should we look at the 35-game stretch, which is a better sample size, and realize it was exactly on par with the Hart-conversation season he had a year earlier?
Most definitely the latter.
Voracek may have won the Bobby Clarke trophy as the team MVP – and it’s easy to see why when you look at how much better he was as compared to last season.
But think of the additional responsibilities Giroux had that Voracek never had to worry about.
Giroux took (1,182) and won (644) more faceoffs than any player in the NHL. He was also a key cog in the Flyers fifth-ranked penalty kill and tied for sixth in the NHL with 21 power play points on a third-ranked Flyers power play.
And he did all of this while bearing the heavy burden of being a Flyers’ captain, a role that always carries with it a great deal of additional pressure.
No knock on Voracek, but Giroux was the Flyers best player this year save for those three weeks in late January and early February.
And there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case moving forward.
NHL SCORING LEADERS (Feb.12-Apr. 28)*
1. Alex Ovechkin WAS 28-20-48
2. Martin St. Louis TBA 14-30-44
3. Phil Kessel TOR 18-23-41**
4t. Claude Giroux PHI 10-30-40**
4t. Ryan Getzlaf ANA 12-28-40**
4t. Steven Stamkos TBA 22-18-40
4t. Nicklas Backstrom WAS 7-33-40
8t. Sidney Crosby PIT 10-29-39
8t. Eric Staal CAR 10-29-39**
8t. Taylor Hall EDM 14-25-39**
11. Patrick Kane CHI 14-22-38
12. Chris Kunitz PIT 16-21-37
13t. Pavel Datsyuk DET 10-26-36
13t. Jonathan Toews CHI 17-19-36
15. Mike Ribeiro WAS 9-26-35
16. Henrik Zetterberg DET 6-24-30
* Among players who averaged at least one point-per-game during the season.
** Players who did not have at least one teammate who also averaged one point-per-game.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37