Claude Giroux stood in front of his locker at Skate Zone. He had his ball cap on backward, hands on his hips and a look of purpose on his face.
Knowing Claude like I do, I knew he had something he wanted to say. He doesn’t often want to make many proclamations. He’s usually the kind of captain who likes to lead by example rather than with his words.
But on this day, he wanted to talk. There wasn’t anything special about this particular day. The Flyers hadn’t played in four days and wouldn’t play again for three more. I expected it to be another mundane day of practice.
Then Giroux opened his mouth and did something no one expected – he predicted his team would make the playoffs.
The look on the faces of the gathered media was collectively puzzled. Was the captain off his rocker? Or was he just trolling everyone with some nonsensical quote as a lame attempt at rallying his perplexed team.
After all, this Flyers team was destined for the NHL’s trash dumpster. A 1-7-0 start and just 11 goals in eight games – none by Giroux – told you all you needed to know about the kind of team the Flyers were in the opening weeks of the season.
So for Giroux to say what he said, it didn’t really resonate with those charged with documenting the trials and tribulations of a last place team for posterity.
And who could blame them for dismissing Giroux’s comments as the ravings of a captain of a sinking ship with nothing else to say.
Fans had a hard time buying it as well.
Here were some comments on my story back on October 21:
Again, it’s difficult to fault fans for feeling the way they were. It was the worst eight game start in franchise history and there wasn’t a lot of looking up.
Fast forward 169 days.
Giroux, who has had a resurgence worthy of consideration as a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, scores two goals as the Flyers defeat the Florida Panthers 5-2. It is the team’s 41st win of the season and it’s enough to clinch a playoff berth.
Hey Claude, when you know, you know. Am I right?
The win will probably be overshadowed as just another win in the franchise history that secured a playoff spot. After all, it marked the 37th playoff berth since the Flyers inaugural season in 1967-68. It didn’t have the drama of the 2010 clincher, the shootout win over the Rangers in the final game of the season, but it may have been the most satisfying playoff clincher ever.
Considering where the Flyers were when Giroux made his declarative prediction, and considering everything the team went through this season, starting with a coaching change three games in and ending with a treacherous schedule against the best teams in the NHL in the push for the playoffs, it’d be hard to find another more gratifying.
As for Giroux, he wouldn’t say if his prediction was preplanned, but after saying the following, he winked into the camera.
“Eighty-two games is a lot of games and there were only eight games [at that point] so we had to believe in ourselves,” he said. “When we started to believe how good we were we started to win more games. [The media] looked at me with crazy eyes when I said it, but it’s good to be in the playoffs.”
Yep, he knew what he was doing. And he knew he had a very good team behind him. They bought into his statement and in less than six months made the prediction come true.
Now, the next journey begins and maybe next time when the captain speaks, people will listen.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers