The back to back Stanley Cup championship victories from the mid-70’s is a distant memory for Philadelphia Flyer fans. The team has reached the Cup finals six times since capturing those first two championships, but that might be make things even more infuriating for the Philadelphia faithful. The pieces finally seem to be in place, but the team is still trying to take the next step as an Eastern Conference contender.
The Captain: Claude Giroux
To become a legitimate contending team, the Flyers will need the best version of their 32-year-old captain Claude Grioux. Considered a late bloomer, he has been a proud member of the Flyer organization since the team took him with the 22nd overall pick in 2006. The skilled playmaker has had a productive career in Philadelphia scoring 257 goals and adding 558 assists (815) over 890 games.
Despite his excellent individual numbers, the Flyers have missed the playoffs four times and have only reached the second round once since Giroux was named captain in 2013. The historical scapegoat of goaltending can no longer be used as the starting position has been filled by one of the games finest young goaltenders in Carter Hart.
Hart is entering his 3rd NHL season and the 22-year-old seems intent on being a difference maker for the Flyers. It is now up to the rest of the squad to follow suit and make hay while they can.
Losing Matt Niskanen will hurt, but the team signed UFA defenseman Erik Gustaffson to help fill that void on the back end. A healthy Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick will also help generate some more offensive opportunities for the club.
Leading the Charge
All that said, this team runs as Giroux does. Maybe he has had trouble adjusting to that role, but his time is running out on trying to figure it out. Other significant Flyer forwards Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk are now post 30, while Kevin Hayes and Sean Couturier are knocking on the door at 28.
With a starting goaltender, a decent defensive unit and perhaps one of the deepest forward groups in the league, Giroux needs to find a way to lead this group into a real contender. A shortened season will make that a challenge, but a good leader should rise to that occasion when the team needs him most.
Giroux has proved himself as an individual, now he needs to take the next step in his captaincy for this Flyer team to thrive.
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