The Philadelphia Flyers cleaned house this past offseason moving, among others, Mike Richards, the team captain whose immaturity was said to have fractured the locker room and resulted in the Flyguys' second round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins to end the 2011 campaign.
Heading into 2011-12 the Flyers placed an emphasis on leadership and chemistry.
To steady the ship the Flyers named veteran defenseman Chris Pronger as their new captain, who played in only 50 regular season games and three of 11 postseason games in 2010-11.
The Flyers were captainless for all but the 13 games Pronger was able to play in while dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
Despite the loss of Pronger, who did not play after November 19, the Flyers were a tight-knit team with a strong veteran locker room presence that was able to lead a very young roster to a 100-point season and a playoff series win despite no active player replacing Pronger as the official captain.
Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen, Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot were and are battle-tested veterans capable of leading on the ice and by example and did so very well.
Since the Flyers' elimination from the playoffs there has been speculation that Claude Giroux, the team's leading scorer and first-round playoff hero, should and will be named the 19th captain in Philadelphia Flyers franchise history.
I will begin by conceding that I fully expect Giroux to spend the rest of his career in orange and black and at some point take over the captaincy and perform his duties as the go-to-guy excellently.
However at this point in time, "G" is not ready.
Based on a number of factors it appears, in my humble opinion, it would be best for the Flyers as an organization and for Claude Giroux's career to wait to name No. 28 captain.
First, a little history.
From the day Mike Richards was drafted he was deemed the future captain of the franchise.
While Richards improved each year and generally impressed the fans and front-office, questions about his maturity and commitment and willingness to wear the "C" lingered.
However when Jason Smith departed and left the captaincy vacant following the 2007-08 season, the Flyers jumped on the chance to name then 23-year-old Richards captain, despite his reluctance to accept the responsibility.
Looking back, had the Flyers waited to anoint Richards as "the next Bobby Clarke" and waited to give him the "C" they could have made the most of his talents and not had to trade him—but stripping a guy of the captaincy and keeping him around, especially at such a young age, would have been a disaster. So the Flyers were forced to trade him.
Now at 24-years-old Giroux is probably already more mature and responsible than Richards.
However, "G" has shown signs of merely acting his age.
Giroux was lauded for his leadership and intensity all season, and his first 32 seconds of Game 6 in the opening round of the playoffs where he laid out Sidney Crosby and scored the game's first goal was the stuff of legends.
But his actions in Game 4 where his disagreement with an official lead directly to Giroux taking a cheap shot at Dainius Zubrus and getting himself suspended for an elimination game demonstrated how far he still has to go before he can be considered the leader.
Again, I do believe Giroux will lead this team to a title as the captain one day down the line.
Furthermore I'm not saying Giroux would be a particularly bad captain.
It just seems that at this point in his career the risk is not worth the reward when there are better options on the roster to wear the "C" on their sweaters.
Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere are both former captains with a lot of locker room influence, experience in the postseason and a wealth of knowledge to pass on to the young Flyguys.
Now Kimmo Timonen recently underwent back surgery and after watching how limited his mobility was this past season it would seem foolish to name him captain unless the franchise wanted a repeated captain-less season.
Danny Briere seems the perfect choice as his clutch playoff performances, willingness to be a leader and mentor young players, media savvy and consummate professionalism make him the ideal captain.
With Briere as captain, Giroux would be free to grow up and just play the game without the added responsibility that has crushed many promising young Flyers in the past.
Giroux will be nearly 28-years-old when Briere's contract expires after the 2014-15 season.
By that time it will be the natural progression of things for Giroux to simply step into the captaincy, not the bold move naming an emerging star in his early-20s as the leader of the team would be at this point.
The bottom line is that it does not make sense to make Giroux the captain this early in his career when there is a deserving veteran more fit for the role on the roster.
Remember Eric Lindros and Mike Richards—both were made captains before they were ready and the organization suffered for it.
It seems the end of current captain Chris Pronger's career is here and a new captain will be named this summer. It is my hope, for the good of the Flyers, that Claude Giroux is not the man handed the "C".
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