Let's 'C' what Flyers' Claude Giroux can do

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux raises arms after scoring in practice Tuesday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Claude Giroux raises arms after scoring in practice Tuesday.
Posted: January 10, 2013

WHENEVER THIS salvaged (or savage) NHL season finally gets under way, after the votes are counted and the signatures dry on the contracts, the Flyers should name Claude Giroux the 19th captain in franchise history.

Giroux is young. He turns 25 on Saturday, about the time training camp will open.

He is the face of the Flyers. He is quickly becoming one of the most electrifying players in the league. He is well-respected and well-liked in the Flyers dressing room. And he will bring some much-needed stability to a leadership position which has changed more jerseys (six) since 2006 than Michael Leighton.

Some may say he was already the de facto captain after Chris Pronger was shut down with post-concussion syndrome last season.

Most importantly, Giroux is not Mike Richards. That isn't a shot.

Richards' captaincy likely gives the Flyers' brass pause. Richards was named the Flyers' captain on Sept. 17, 2008 at the age of 23. By every account I've ever received from players, he did a fine job. He just never seemed fully comfortable in the Flyers' rockiest moments. He took losses harder than most, which isn't a knock.

But a captain must steer the ship as well in high seas as he does near port. He must answer for his deckhands' blunders postgame, not only in the media, but also to the coaching staff. That is part of the job.

On Tuesday, in his first appearance in the Flyers locker room since last May, Giroux was peppered with questions about the possibility of trading his "A'' for a ''C.'' Even though questions revolved solely around speculation, he barely flinched until the very end.

"Can we change the subject, here?" Giroux asked, laughing.

It wasn't that Giroux minded being asked. It was a hot topic toward the end of last year. He was just slightly embarrassed about it all. To know Giroux is to know his humility. He rarely takes credit for his success, hates talking about himself, and is always passing off praise to teammates.

Giroux was asked pointedly about Richards, who was a less vocal leader.

"Mike was a great captain," Giroux said. "When I came in, he wasn't a guy who talked a lot, but when he did, everybody listened. He would do most of his leadership on the ice.

"In one shift, he'd be saying a big speech, pretty much [without talking]. He was impressive to watch."

Head coach Peter Laviolette wouldn't have to make much of a case for Giroux' on-ice leadership. Aside from the goals, assists and important consistency, his now-legendary first shift against Pittsburgh in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last spring should sell even the toughest critic.

Giroux asked Laviolette to start the game. With the Flyers holding a fading, three games to two lead in the series, he wanted to stop the bleeding and set the tone to avoid a Game 7 in Pittsburgh. Giroux laid out oft-concussed star Sidney Crosby near the Penguins' bench from the puck drop, scooped the puck and roasted Marc-Andre Fleury with a top-shelf snapshot. It took just 32 seconds.

"I don't look at [the shift as a case for captaincy at all]," Giroux said. "I wanted to have a good shift. It just happened."

Richards had plenty of similar, equally stirring on-ice moments, particularly on that run to the 2010 Stanley Cup final.

But if HBO's "24/7" showed us anything last year, it's that Giroux has a much more vocal locker-room presence than his normally reserved, on-camera personality reveals. His intensity is apparent. He has his teammates' ears and respect. There is no reason the Flyers' next captain cannot lead by example and voice.

This is a big decision for the Flyers, both for Giroux' development and the team's character makeup for years to come.

Giroux is ready. He has been here long enough that he is the perfect bridge from 20-year-old Sean Couturier to 37-year-old Kimmo Timonen. And, he has a great support system in the form of close friend, mentor and former NHL captain Danny Briere.

"It's a big responsibility, obviously, but it's an honor at the same time," Giroux said. "A lot of great captains have been in Philly. I'm still going to be the same player on or off the ice. A 'C' or no letter, it's how you play and how the players in the room look at you. If you're comfortable enough to speak in the room, I don't think you need a letter on your jersey to do that."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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