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Giroux, Abel play same game, Fischler says

Compares Flyers forward to member of Red Wings' 'Production Line' seven decades ago

by Stan Fischler / Special to

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, brand of humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.

This week, he compares Philadelphia Flyers forward and captain Claude Giroux and Sid Abel, who filled the same roles with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1940s and early 1950s.

The common denominator when comparing Claude Giroux, captain of the Philadelphia Flyers since 2012-13, and long-ago Detroit Red Wings captain Sid Abel is that each spent much of his NHL career being underappreciated.

In Giroux's case, he's often been overlooked despite leading the Flyers in scoring seven times in the past nine seasons, including each of the past two. Abel endured a similar fate seven decades ago despite centering Detroit's famed "Production Line" with Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe and being captain of the 1949-50 team that won the Stanley Cup, the first of four championships in a span of six seasons for the Red Wings.

Another laudable trait shared by Giroux and Abel is their emphasis on team success over individual stats.

Giroux demonstrated that in 2017-18 when he was asked to move from center, where he'd played for a decade in the NHL, to left wing. The idea was to let up-and-comer Sean Couturier take a bigger role in the offense.

"Giroux responded by helping his teammate enjoy a career season," Flyers reporter Wayne Fish wrote in The Hockey News. "Couturier's goal production doubled, allowing him to finish second to Anze Kopitar (of the Los Angeles Kings) for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward."

Video: Fischler on the similarities of Giroux and Abel

Typically team-oriented, Giroux explained his feelings about the switch. "I was up for trying anything," he said without mentioning that he produced an NHL career-high 102 points (34 goals, 68 assists) of his own.

Abel had to feel the same way as the Red Wings regrouped after World War II. Before entering the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. Abel had centered the "Liniment Line" with Don Grosso and Eddie Wares (all three had struggled with injuries on their way to the NHL, hence the nickname). But when Abel returned late in the 1945-46 season, general manager-coach Jack Adams wanted an accent on youth. When he prevailed upon Abel to break in Lindsay, a rambunctious but talented left wing, Sid gladly obliged. Abel did the same with Howe a couple of years later.

While Abel won the Hart Trophy as League MVP in 1948-49, Giroux has come close just once; he was a finalist in 2013-14 when Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins won for the second time.

It will be interesting to see how the remainder of Giroux's time in the NHL unfolds. The 31-year-old has spent all of his NHL career with the Flyers, is signed through the 2021-22 season and appears destined to remain in Philadelphia.

Abel probably figured he would be with the Red Wings for life. But when Adams discovered a brilliant young center named Alex Delvecchio, the 12-year veteran was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks (then two words) on July 22, 1952, and became a player-coach.

The Black Hawks had missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for six straight seasons. But with Abel at the helm and playing 39 games at center, they returned to the postseason for the first time since 1945-46.

I can envision Abel fitting right into the Flyers of today and, likewise, Giroux doing just fine on those terrific Detroit teams of yesteryear.

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