Behind The Bench: Claude Giroux
Born: January 12, 1988
Wt: 172 lbs
Draft: 22nd Overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006
Plays for: The Philadelphia Flyers, Center/Right Wing, Shoots Right
Jersey No.: #28
Regular Season: 208 GP – 50 G – 100 A – 150 P
Playoffs: 40 GP – 13 G – 25 A – 38 P
Claude Giroux is an undersized forward but in no way is he a midget clown.
Giroux played his entire junior career with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. In his last year with the Olympiques, he helped the club win the QMJHL Playoffs and was rewarded with the Guy LaFleur Trophy as Playoff MVP. He posted 17 goals and 34 assist in 19 playoff games, setting a franchise record of 51 points.
After his jaw dropping performance in the QMJHL playoffs, Giroux was expected to make an immediate impact with the Flyers, who gave him a top 6 role for the upcoming 08/09 season. Unfortunately, Giroux had a disappointing training camp and was assigned to the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, to adjust to the pro game. Giroux’s disappointing training camp can be attributed the removal of all four of his wisdom teeth during the camp; it was all blue skies for him after that.
Giroux was named AHL Rookie of the Month in December for his 8 game, 15 point streak and was called up to the Flyers after Christmas break. There he stayed, scoring his first NHL goal on January 27, 2009 against Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers. As the season progressed, Giroux found his niche, competing as a top-6 forward on a team with six players with 20 or more goals (Jeff Carter, 40; Simon Gagne, 30; Mike Richards, 28; Scott Hartnell, 27; Mike Knuble, 26; Joffrey Lupul, 21). By March, Giroux was centering the first line with Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble on his wings.
He finished his first pro season with 42 games played, 9 goals and 18 assist for a total of 27 points. These aren’t numbers to write home about but he was still impressive. After tallying only 3 points in his first 6 games of the season, Giroux went on to collect 16 in 26 games and finished the last 10 games of the season with 8 more.
Though the Flyers spent the bulk of the 09/10 season as the most inconsistent team, Giroux helped turn the tide as the campaign neared its end. The Flyers and Rangers, tied at 86 points before the final game of the regular season, were vying for the for 7th seed in the Eastern Conference; Montreal had already clinched the 8th spot with 88 points. The Flyers made the playoffs thanks to Giroux’s five-hole game-winner in the shootout against Henrik Lundqvist; the Rangers, one point shy of a playoff birth, were barred from playoff contention.
In the 09/10 playoffs, Flyers fans finally got to see what they had anticipated since Giroux was drafted. Giroux carried the momentum from his shootout goal straight into the playoffs and was a major contributor in the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers defeated the 2nd seeded New Jersey Devils in 5 games. In the next round against Boston, he helped the Flyers become only the 3rd team in NHL history to come back from a 3 game deficit and win in 7 games. Giroux continued his post season domination against the Canadiens in the Conference Finals, scoring 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. Though Giroux brought his A game to the SCF and continued his stellar production, the Flyers were defeated by the Blackhawks in 6. Giroux ended the 2010 Stanely Cup playoffs with 21 points, solidifying himself as a big game player. Giroux was rewarded for his great play with a 3-year $11.25M contract extension with the Flyers.
Giroux played all 82 regular season games for the Flyers during the 10/11 season. He set new career highs in goals (25), assists (51) and points (76). Giroux also played in all 11 post season games and contributed 12 points despite an early 2nd round sweep.
Giroux is a terrific all-round player: he kills penalties, scores goals, and even sacrifices the body once in awhile. His true value, however, is in how he makes those around him better. Giroux is one of the best passing forwards in the league, finishing 8th in assists last season. Giroux’s skills have even drawn comparisons between him and Peter Forsberg. The legendary Swede’s teammates knew to keep their sticks on the ice at all times; whenever Forsberg had the puck, he would likely set up his linemates without them even anticipating a pass. Giroux is just like that. His assets, particularly his great hands, speed, passes, and perceptive vision and anticipation, make it hard to believe he was pegged to be a mid-second round draft pick. Despite his small size, Giroux is very tough to knock off the puck. His small size and his deceptive strength make him very good in the faceoff circle. He’s created lots of goals from the offensive-zone faceoff circle and made a lot of centermen look silly.
The face of the club has certainly changed: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded away for Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds and the signings of Ilya Bryzgalov, Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr. With the revamp the Flyers lineup has gone through, there will be a heavy burden on Giroux’s shoulders to elevate his game. He should be just fine though, as he has shown throughout his career that he is willing and able to confront challenges. With van Riemsdyk and Jagr as prospective linemates, there should be little to worry about next season.
Behind The Bench appears Monday to Friday only on puckpuckgoose.com.
Edited by: Aneil Parashar