Is Claude Giroux the Right Captain for the Philadelphia Flyers Right Now?
When former captain Chris Pronger went down with a serious head injury in December of 2011, the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves at a crossroads as an organization.
They played the rest of the season with a few rotating alternate captains, one of whom was young center Claude Giroux, in the midst of a breakout season.
Going into that summer, as the severity of Pronger's injury became evident, the Flyers realized they needed to name a new captain and move forward without their embattled leader.
Giroux, a former first-round pick and now the consensus best player on the team, was considered the front-runner for the job.
But veterans like Danny Briere (a former captain himself) and Kimmo Timonen would also have been very logical choices, and some felt that they deserved the honor.
Giroux was in fact named the captain at the ripe age of 24, and I personally began to have a few doubts.
It seemed like the Flyers could be making the exact same mistake that they made with previous captain Mike Richards: giving their top upcoming star too much responsibility too soon.
We all know how Richards panned out, thriving in a more complimentary role in Los Angeles but still helping lead them to a Stanley Cup.
There is no doubt that the pressure weighed heavily on Richards during his time in Philadelphia, and a lot of his problems with the media were a result of his youth and immaturity.
Is Claude Giroux the Right Captain for the Flyers Right Now?
I also have a problem with a team automatically making their best player their captain, a la Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Giroux is definitely not Ovechkin, and I do not mean to make a direct parallel between the two situations. But there is undoubtedly risk in equating talent to leadership.
Teammates and players around the league respect Giroux, and he really does seem to have great leadership traits.
He plays hard every shift, and is more of a complete player than he gets credit for. But there is something to be said for wisdom and experience, and very few players are conditioned enough in their early 20s to lead on their own.
So there were fears about Giroux becoming captain at that point, and no matter how you look at it, his first season with the "C" on his chest did nothing to quell those fears.
They failed to make the playoffs for just the second time since 1994, and had a generally frustrating campaign filled with erratic play and lackluster effort and cohesiveness.
Giroux himself also took a step back from his breakout 2011-12 season, averaging exactly 1.00 point per game along with a minus-six rating, both worse than his 1.21 PPG and plus-seven rating from the previous year.
I think the world of Giroux as a player, and there are definitely admirable leadership qualities that he possesses.
But I am concerned with the fact that the Flyers gave him the captaincy so young and so quickly after he broke out.
The answer to the question posed by the headline will be answered in the next 10 months. Unfortunately, if you pressed me for an answer right now, I would likely answer "no."
I think they would have been better served letting Timonen wear the "C" for a couple seasons and allowing Giroux to just focus on developing as a player while letting him continue gaining respect in the locker room.
It is difficult to fault the Flyers for making Giroux captain. But if they have another disappointing season, it will become a whole lot easier.
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