Putting Claude Giroux's Scoreless Slump in Perspective

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Putting Claude Giroux's Scoreless Slump in Perspective
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux was still searching for his first goal of the 2013-14 season heading into Tuesday night's game in Carolina against the Hurricanes.

The Flyers have played 13 games this season, and their inability to score has been well-documented.

It is hard to blame one specific player, line or shortcoming for this lack of scoring. But Giroux, in his second campaign as captain and two years removed from a breakout season, shoulders a lot of the pressure.

Giroux has just six points so far in 13 games, with all six coming from assists.

How bad is this slump? And how does it compare to other elite players with whom Giroux apparently shares a tier?

Let's first look back on Giroux's career. This is his fifth full season (including the lockout-shortened 2013) in the NHL.

In his first full NHL season, he averaged 0.57 points per game. The next season, he approached the point-per-game mark, averaging 0.93 PPG. Then he had his breakout season, scoring 93 points in 77 games for a remarkable 1.21 PPG average. Last season, he averaged exactly one point per game.

If Giroux continues this current season's pace (which nobody expects him to), he would finish with about 38 points and a career-low 0.46 PPG average.

For Giroux to finish the season even as a point-per-game player, he would need to score 30 goals and 46 assists over the remaining 69 games of this season. It isn't impossible at all, given his 2011-12 breakout year's production, but it would be an impressive turnaround while still finishing as a significant step back from that 93-point season.

As far as the 13-game goalless slump, there is some interesting history there.

In his rookie season, he actually did struggle through 13 games without a goal. The next year, he had a 10-game stretch without a goal.

Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Last season, he had one (somewhat concerning at the time) streak of seven games where he didn't score a goal. 

But in his 93-point 2011-12 season, he endured an 11-game goalless streak. Looking back at that season, he certainly had some ups and downs, but his ups were high enough that they masked the downs.

He had a measly 10 points in January, but he covered that with a 16-point December and 17-point February. He also scored in bunches, including three four-point games and a five-assist performance.

Those bunches have not been there this season, as he has just one multi-point effort. Taking things a step further, the numbers do not help when looking at Giroux in comparison to other elite-tier players

Sidney Crosby endured a 12-game goalless streak in 2011-12, but the thing with that "slump" was that he still put up 17 assists during that time period. There were other mini-slumps; a nine-game one in 2008-09 and a few six- and seven-game slumps, but he was still registering a ton of assists when he wasn't putting the puck in the net and therefore making up in spades for not scoring.

Steven Stamkos' longest goalless streak after his rookie season was an eight-game stretch in 2009-10, and other than that, he has no significant other slumps, just a few five- and six-gamers.

Even though he was a very young player on an awful Islanders team at the time, John Tavares suffered a 13-game goalless drought in 2011-12 (but still had nine assists).

Other than a couple seven- and eight-game goalless droughts, Patrick Kane endured a 12-game streak without a goal in his second season. 

These are just a few examples, but combined with Giroux's history, they help put this slump in better context.

While Giroux's slump is a bad one, it is not a sky-is-falling situation that should make everyone clamor for the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter era to return. 

There are a few things that are worth mentioning here. The major one is that Giroux has just six assists, which makes the lack of goals all the more pronounced. It also means that perhaps everyone's expectations were a bit skewed in regards to Giroux's scoring ability. Coming into the league, he was known as a playmaker, not a goal scorer like Stamkos. 

His breakout season came alongside Jaromir Jagr, one of the best offensive players in the history of the NHL. It's no surprise that Scott Hartnell also set a career-high for goals while playing on that line. Giroux assuredly benefited from Jagr's puck-handling, scoring ability and vision on the ice, which freed up space for better shots.

Some of the slump has to be attributed to the players around Giroux as well. He's a gifted talent, but he can't put the puck in the net on the other side of his passes either.

The Flyers need more of this

Save for Vincent Lecavalier, nobody on the Flyers has been finishing and scoring well. It's not an accident that Giroux assisted on two of Lecavalier's goals in his hat trick against the Islanders when the two were put on a line together.

A final small bit of the slump has to be attributed to pure dumb luck. It seems like Giroux has been hitting the post a ton and has not gotten any clear breakaway opportunities, which he usually capitalizes on.

There is an element of accountability here because at the end of the day, Giroux is the leader and best player on the team, and he needs to find a way to get it done. But he is not suddenly a bad player. He is suffering through a slump; his confidence is down, his teammates have played poorly, he's feeling a ton of pressure and he's suffering from a bit of bad luck.

All slumps are broken eventually, and this one will be no different.

This is no ordinary player in an ordinary slump, however, and how Giroux responds to his slump could end up defining the Flyers' 2013-14 season.

 

Statistics via hockey-reference.com and ESPN.com.

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