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GREENBERG: Giroux looking forward

Flyers captain reflects on his season; eager to prove what he can do in 2017-18

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

Claude Giroux never has been one to shy away from the heat that comes with being the Flyers' marquee player. This year he got it.

"Some players respond, some don't like it and would rather play in a small market," Giroux said in the club's anniversary book, The Flyers at 50. "Personally, I don't think I would enjoy that. You want that pressure. You want the people to care."

Video: Claude Giroux talks about his play in 2016-17

Following a 58-point Giroux season, the third straight one of declining production, a lot of those same people care to see a player who led the NHL in points from 2011-16 playing elsewhere next season. But then impatience from the stands and in the media has long been endured by Flyer stars.

When Brian Propp scored one goal in consecutive three-game sweeps suffered 1983 and 1984, bringing the Flyers streak of playoff losses to nine games, an easy conclusion was that the team would never go anywhere with him as its leading scorer, until the Flyers went to finals in 1985 and 1987 with Propp scoring 18 and 28 playoff points.

Never mind Eric Lindros's 26 points in the 1997 playoffs and his utter dominance of the Rangers in the conference final, it was all the fault of No. 88 and John LeClair when the best duo in the game was shutdown during Detroit's shocking sweep of the final. In subsequent seasons, Lindros's inability to stay healthy had many diehards dying for his exit.

The classy Eric Desjardins chooses to forgive and forget about it today, but one of the Flyers' all time rocks took blame from the rock heads for first-round losses, few knowing, or particularly caring, that he was playing injured.

Unless you win it all, somebody good didn't do enough. This is not to suggest that this season's Flyers should have been a Cup contender, only to point out that difference makers had better make the difference every single time or else be cut little slack.

Fans fret, that at 29, Giroux is already too old to lead a contender when the dream defense the Flyers are assembling matures. Still on schedule to become the Flyers' fourth all-time leading scorer within the next three seasons, Giroux is being given little benefit of the doubt, never mind he played the 2016-17 season coming off hip surgery, never mind he hasn't been given a consistent scoring threat on his left wing since Scott Hartnell, never mind that for most of the last three seasons, the team hasn't had a second line that could share some of the scoring burden.

In other words, Giroux has needed help, which finally came in late season with the trade for Val Filppula, the callup of Jordan Weal, and the sudden flowering of Sean Couturier into the scoring threat the Flyers believe he would be when drafted eighth overall six years ago. In the final 20 games, a three-line attack enabled the Flyers to average 2.9 goals per game - projected over an entire season that would have put Philadelphia 10th in the NHL in offense -- and helped Giroux to 13 points, even if he didn't directly benefit with a sparkling addition to himself and Jake Voracek on the No. 1 line.

"We (all) started making plays and making better decisions," Giroux told reporters Tuesday, when the Flyers packed up for the summer. "It's like we didn't have a bus on our shoulder when we had the puck. We just played hockey.

"At the end of the season Schenner [Brayden Schenn], Coots and [Dale Weise] were probably the best line that we had. Fil really helped our depth. He brings a lot to the team; kills penalties, plays power plays, is very good defensively. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

With a full year's experience as Giroux's left wing, 20-year-old Travis Konecny may reinvigorate the captain even more. To back off defenders, the Flyers need either more size on the first line or more speed, either of which can make Giroux an even-strength threat again,

He also needs to shoot for more rebounds and fewer corners. But more than getting a new No. 1 center - and good luck trading for one - the Flyers need to make the game easier for the 5-foot-11 No. 1 center that they have. In 2013-14, when Giroux's 86 points made him a Hart Trophy finalist, the Flyers had seven 20-goal scorers. This year they had three.

"I don't think I'll be like [Jaromir Jagr] playing till I'm 45, but I'm only 29," said Giroux.

"There were times during the season I was playing really good, and then it kind of dipped down. I wasn't at my best. I didn't play how I wanted to play and when that happens I'm not making my linemates any better.

"I take responsibility. At the end of the day, it's about going back to work, getting healthy and feeling that excitement again."

At the end of the day, the days of Giroux as a player the Flyers are built around are not over. Inside the locker room, unlike outside of it, nobody complains about his leadership. 

"Maybe he wasn't 100 per cent but he's a warrior," said Wayne Simmonds. "He's going to show up and put forth his best effort no matter what. He's going to get time to get some rest, get some training, come back healthy. The type of competitor he is, he'll be back 100 per cent."

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