How Claude Giroux Is Proving Himself as Philadelphia Flyers' Captain

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 29: Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers warms up prior to his game against the Winnipeg Jets on November 29, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Claude Giroux was named the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers prior to the start of the 2012-13 lockout-shortened NHL season.

He was coming off a career year where he scored 93 points in the regular season and 17 points in 10 playoff games, but he got off to a slow start in 2013, and the Flyers missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1994.

Expectations were that Giroux and the Flyers would bounce back in 2013-14, but then they lost seven of their first eight games, and coach Peter Laviolette was fired after just three games.

Giroux himself struggled mightily. He failed to score in the team's first 15 games, and had just six points in the first 13 games of the season.

A lot of people were really questioning Giroux and the direction of the team, and I was definitely one of those people.

It was never a question of Giroux's talent and his ability as a leader, but only a few years earlier we saw Mike Richards named captain at a young age and get swallowed by the pressure and media of Philadelphia.

If the rest of the season had continued like the first month did, then this would be magnified tenfold. But Giroux has rewritten the story of the Flyers' season, and likely of his career, over the past month or so.

There's something to be said for a player and team bouncing back after underachieving. It takes a lot to pull a team out of the depths of a horrendous stretch, but that's what Giroux has done for the Flyers.

After two rough losses to the Panthers and Lightning near the end of November, Giroux and the Flyers have really played well and scrapped their way up the standings.

They're above .500 and on the right side of the playoff picture after Monday night's win over Minnesota, and Giroux has been the catalyst for that success.

Since those bad losses in Florida, the Flyers are 7-4-2. Giroux has looked more confident with the puck and has finally gotten some bounces to go his way.

He's also playing with a renewed energy, and is getting (and creating) chances around the net like he did in his breakout 2011-12 campaign.

He's been solid defensively as well, and is just bringing an energy and passion on every shift that lifts his teammates up.

Last Thursday's game against Columbus was really a microcosm for the entire season, as the Flyers headed into the third period down 3-0 with the game seemingly lost.

After two Philadelphia goals (one of which was assisted by Giroux), the Blue Jackets added a fourth goal to pull ahead 4-2 and essentially put the Flyers away.

But then with four minutes and 39 second left in the game, Giroux assisted on another goal, and was absolutely flying around the ice. He then followed that up less than a minute later with this incredible play.

Giroux absolutely sells out and dives past the Columbus goaltender to push the puck into the net and tie up the score.

With a frenzied crowd behind him, Giroux pushed onwards and scored what might be the goal of the year in the NHL so far to put the Flyers ahead with less than two minutes to go.

It's an unbelievable display of skill, but it also shows a level of confidence that had been missing in the beginning of the year.

While everyone's starting to come back around and remember how good Giroux is, Flyers fans have been noticing his revitalization for a couple weeks now.

After an embarrassing 7-2 loss to Chicago on December 11, Giroux has been flat-out on fire.

In the six games since that blowout, the captain has five goals and seven assists, and the Flyers have gotten nine of the possible 12 points in that stretch.

After starting the season off with three points in nine games, Giroux now has 33 points in 37 games and could miraculously get back and finish the season at a point-per-game pace.

The Flyers were pretty much as low as a team can get, and they needed their leader to step up and carry them back to contention.

Giroux, as the team captain, has done just that. He's elevated his level of play and put the team on his shoulders.

Signing veterans Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit, both longtime former captains of their respective teams, definitely has helped in his development.

But the Flyers still have a generally younger team, especially the forward corps. Giroux has really stepped up for them and set a good example for Brayden Schenn and for Sean Couturier, who has also been playing extremely well lately.

The Flyers are now very much contenders from this point on, but a strong second half will be needed for them to make the playoffs.

But if Giroux keeps this up, he'll lead the charge for one of the most remarkable season turnarounds in Flyers history and further prove why he was named captain last January.