There are few players in Philadelphia who are as long-tenured and fully indoctrinated into the sports landscape in the city as Claude Giroux, the Flyers captain and a staple with the team since 2008.
As their season came to a disappointing end, becoming the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs during a year that contained a 10-game win streak, there is not surprisingly a lot of blame landing on the center's shoulders.
So much so that several news outlets have reported rumors, or have suggested strategically, that general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers' front office move on and trade the 29-year-old.
After missing the postseason for the third time in five seasons with roughly the same exact core at the center of the team's offense, something has to change, right?
"When you don’t make the playoffs, when you don’t meet your expectations, change might happen," Giroux said, in full acknowledgement of the team's three goals per game scoring average through 32 games that shrunk to just two over the final 50. "But at the end of the day, it’s not up to us. For us, it’s to keep working, keep doing what we’re doing. We like our team, we like our group."
Giroux faced a few road blocks that led to his decreased production and minus-15 rating. He had a constantly-changing roster and played with a bevy of different line combinations. He also had offseason surgery on his hip.
"When you try to do something and you can’t do it, your mind wants to do something but your body doesn’t do it, it’s frustrating," Giroux said. "It was up and down like our team and it’s got to be better, and it will.”
Giroux scored just 14 goals in 2016-17, his lowest total since playing in just 48 games in 2012-13. He played in all 82 games this season and has scored 20 or more goals in five of his last six full seasons.
"G’s a great player," Giroux's teammate and occasional linemate Wayne Simmonds said. "This year I don’t know what it was. I think his hip, I don’t know what it was. Maybe there was something there. Maybe he wasn’t 100 percent, but he’s a warrior. He’s going to battle for the guys, he’s our captain, he’s our leader. He’s not going to leave us to hang no matter how he feels. He’s going to show up and he’s going to put his best effort forth no matter what."
There are a lot of unknowns this offseason for a team with a deep, rich farm system and a core of players for whom expectations are always sky high. Is it possible the Flyers are not as close to contending for championships as many have thought in recent years?
“I really think that we’re not far off," Giroux said. "We’ve shown that we can be a good team, but good teams are a little more consistent than what we were this year. It’s just a couple games that we let get away from us. If I remember right, I think Toronto to where we almost tied it up at the end of the game and then went to Boston and lost that one with a couple of seconds left in the game: Those are games that you’ve got to win, so we’ve got to find a way to do that.”