So when things are off with them, the rest of the team can struggle, and that is exactly what has happened during this lockout-shortened season. There are a number of possible reasons for their respective slumps, which I will delve into later, but right now let's just analyze the actual slumps themselves.
First we have Giroux, who was just named captain this past offseason and has officially become the leader of the team and one of the most recognizable figures in the NHL. He's a bright young star who will play a large role in the success of both the Flyers organization and all of hockey in general.
Last year, Giroux scored 93 points in 77 games, meaning he scored at about a 1.21 point-per-game rate. This season, he has just 28 points in 31 games, giving him a points-per-game rate of about 0.90.
Towards the beginning of the season, Giroux had a streak of 14 games where he tallied just one goal. Recently, he went through another rough patch, scoring just one goal over seven games. He also has just one multi-goal game.
But the most concerning thing with Giroux is how sharply his assist rate has fallen. This year he is averaging roughly 0.58 assists per game, compared to 0.84 last season. And that's where we get to Hartnell, the player who is often on the other end of those assists.
Hartnell had a career year in 2011-'12, tallying 37 goals for the Flyers. This season, he has just two. A big part of that is having his season cut in half due to injury—he has only played in 15 games so far this year).
But even in 15 games, two goals is about five too few for a guy whose main job is to put the puck in the net. He has taken 40 shots this season, so his goal total can't be blamed on not getting enough space to shoot. He simply hasn't done his job.
Also frightening are both players' plus/minus totals. Hartnell's dropped from plus-19 last season to a minus-two this year, while Giroux's went from plus-six to minus-nine. They aren't producing enough offensively, and it is hurting them on both ends of the ice.
Maybe a lot of their trouble has to do with Hartnell's injury. The lack of a preseason and then Hartnell getting hurt quickly could throw off their chemistry, but they played together all of last season. That cannot, and should not be an excuse.
When they're on the ice, they need to be at their best. If they are struggling, it puts pressure on the third and fourth-line guys who don't have the offensive talent of the top liners.
Giroux and Hartnell need to figure out what's wrong and fix it quickly, because even if the Flyers don't make the playoffs, they need to have confidence in their top scorers to do what they're supposed to. Without their production and leadership, it will be impossible for Philadelphia to be successful.
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