Where to start with Claude Giroux? After scoring over 65 points in five seasons (not counting the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season where he scored a point-per-game), the Flyers captain was capable of a measly 58-point year last season.
Even worse, only 26 of those points came at even-strength. Scoring or creating a goal at any on-ice situation is of course valuable, but the Flyers have been a weak 5v5 team lately and when their best player isn’t contributing there will be issues.
And there were. After a strong start to the season, the Flyers and Giroux floundered in February and March missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.
Giroux wasn’t the only one that can be blamed for that, but it’s clear that he needs a bounceback season if Philly wants to make any noise in the Eastern Conference.
There’s some hope for that, though. Giroux (and Shayne Gostisbehere) had abdominal surgery in the offseason last year and the effects of it may still been felt last season. For Gostisbehere, he looked noticeably more effective at the end of last season.
Unless Nolan Patrick is Auston Matthews in disguise, Giroux will be the first-line center in October.
Look at any Flyers beat reporter’s latest articles and there’s bound to be one on Giroux believing he’s still an elite player or is expecting an 80-point season. It’s great to see the 29 year old knows there needs to be an improvement and is confident in himself, but we need to see that on the ice first.
The fact is last season wasn’t Giroux’s first to decline. His stats have been falling since the 2014-15 season. In the last four seasons he’s gone from 86 points to 73 to 67 to 58 last year. Reaching 80 points again would be a 22-point improvement and something he hasn’t done in four years.
That doesn’t make me confident that he’ll reach a number like that even if he’s recovered from his surgery fully.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think a modest bump shouldn’t be expected. Giroux is at his best when he plays with a lot of passion. He has plenty of reason to play with passion and like Gostisbehere, did look better at the end of last season.
I’m expecting something closer to a 65-point year from Giroux. That’s not a huge number, but an appreciative one for a player that’s been on the decline lately.