Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Worst kept secret: Giroux named Flyers captain

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

It happened 47 hours earlier than everyone expected, but Claude Giroux has been named the Philadelphia Flyers' next team captain.

"We have some veterans who are really solid guys and have been captains and could be captains, but I think they realize along with us that this is Claude's time,” said Flyers chairman Ed Snider upon Tuesday night's revelation.  “He is our leader and without a doubt our best player, and is one of the premier players in the NHL right now. I am very proud of him and I think this is only the beginning of a phenomenal, phenomenal career."

Giroux will begin his fifth NHL season as the 19th captain in team history and the 18th man to serve in the post. He takes over for Chris Pronger, who lasted unofficially for one season, but in reality less than that, after an eye injury and concussion issues stemming from the same ended his playing career in November of 2011 after less than two months with the responsibility.

“Claude has put himself in this position by demonstrating excellent leadership qualities both on and off the ice,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette.  “Every day he practices and plays games like he wants to make a difference.  After watching him grow for three-plus years, it’s now time for Claude to become the captain of this team.”

Laviolette can point to the events surrounding the start of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins as a reason to trust in that change. Giroux reportedly asked his head coach to have the first shift in an eventual 5-1 series-clinching victory on home ice, sending Penguins captain Sidney Crosby to the ice with a vicious, clean open-ice check and then scoring the first goal of the contest less than a minute in.

It was the zenith of a 17-point playoff performance in 10 games for the native of Hearst, Ontario, who was coming off a career-high 93 points in the regular season. 

“Obviously, this is a huge honor,” Giroux said.  “There have been a lot of great captains here in the past.  Along with this comes a lot of responsibility which I am prepared for.  Being named captain is not really going to change the way I play on the ice and act off the ice. But I am very excited about this opportunity."

In atypical fashion, there will be three more players to have a back-up leadership role alongside the budding star.

Kimmo Timonen has been dubbed "associate captain," while Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere will be tagged as "alternate captains."

As if Giroux needed any more motivation after being away from NHL ice for the last 3 1/2 months, he certainly has it now with four days remaining before the Flyers' season opener against Crosby and the Penguins.

Before that, he will take the ice at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd and be cheered as the new prince of the franchise.

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