Philadelphia Flyers: Will Claude Giroux Be the Best Player in the NHL This Year?

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Philadelphia Flyers: Will Claude Giroux Be the Best Player in the NHL This Year?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Claude Giroux enjoyed what can only be described as a tremendous breakout year last season for the Philadelphia Flyers.

This had led many fans and analysts to compare him to the current top players in the NHL, such as Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

With those comparisons come both expectations and one of the biggest questions a player can face; is Giroux the best player in the NHL?

The answer to that question is understandably subjective. But it's safe to assume most people would say that a player who has failed to win a Stanley Cup, Hart Trophy as league MVP, scoring title or even broken 100 points in a season is still a ways off from that point.

Giroux has accomplished none of those things, but he has a bit of a different skill set than the players that have. 

His toughness and physical presence make him more comparable to Ovechkin, but his puck-handling and passing draw comparisons to Crosby. 

Giroux has done well on the big stage for the most part, as fans will remember his OT goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals as well as his famous first shift against the Penguins in Game 6 of the 2012 quarterfinals. 

Still, Giroux has yet to prove he's the best player in the NHL. As much as Flyers fans hate to admit it, that honor probably still belongs to either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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But to say that Giroux is close would be an understatement, as he is poised to seize the title of best in the NHL if he can build on what he has done so far.

Last season saw Giroux post career-highs in ice time, goals, assists and points.

Giroux has been healthy, aside from a minor concussion that he suffered last season in a freak accident involving teammate Wayne Simmonds, and also had some minor wrist surgery this offseason, and he seems to be finding that balance between creating opportunities for his teammates and taking responsibility to make a play himself as the team's best player.

There are two things standing between Giroux and cementing himself as one of the best; his ego and his linemates.

Giroux is confident, evidenced by his now-legendary request to play the very first shift of the aforementioned game against Pittsburgh.

But sometimes that seems to border on arrogance, as evidenced by a shootout attempt where he skated in backwards, as well as his tendency to try to do too much when he has the puck.

That could hurt him in the long run, although it's probably minor. Still, when dissecting the best players, you have to nitpick. Arrogance is never a good thing.

Another complication could be Giroux's linemates. Scott Hartnell should be cemented as Giroux's partner for the remainder of Hartnell's tenure in Philadelphia, as the two have shown strong chemistry together.

But his other wing was Jaromir Jagr, a player that many credit with Giroux's development last year. Jagr is gone now, and if Giroux struggles to click with his new winger, his numbers will suffer for a time.

If Giroux can overcome those minor roadblocks as well as build on his strong season, there is no reason he can't become the most dominant player in the NHL.

If he can combine that with team success, it will be easy to argue that he has ascended to the top of the superstar ladder.

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