Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Don't look too deeply into Giroux 'snub'

Remember two things today as you continue to question/denigrate/deride/stew in Team Canada's decision to exclude Claude Giroux from its Olympic roster:

You don't have the highest-scoring Canadian player in recent history going abroad and playing up to eight extra games in the dog days of the current season before coming back home to face the rigors of the playoff chase.

You have the best player on the Philadelphia Flyers, its team captain, and the man who will be counted on to elevate his teammates the most during the stretch run, resting for three weeks at a time when he needs it most.

That doesn't take away from the sting of rejection, as it was reported by multiple sources that Giroux was near tears when he learned that he will not join his countrymen in Sochi next month. In the birthplace of the game, the 25-year-old is a big fish in a big pond, deserving as he may be of selection, but it's a clear case of ignoring all the pertinent stats.

"Steve Yzerman called me [Tuesday] morning; it was a quick talk," Giroux said before last night's game in Newark. "It's obviously disappointing. It was one of my dreams to play for Canada but there's a lot of good players from Canada and the names announced are talented, good players. It's disappointing, but it happens. "Some believe everything happens for a reason, and if I didn't make this team, there's a reason behind it. But I'm not upset or mad. It's a tough day, but it's a good thing I have a game so I can just put this behind me and keep moving forward."

It almost certainly means we'll have the key player on the Orange and Black turning his mental and physical efforts towards the franchise which signs his hefty paychecks and gearing up for something a little less pressing than national immortality but a little more important than performance bonuses.

This may likely be the last time the hard choices of every participating nation will have to be made, and along with it the resulting arguments over who should and shouldn't be on the roster and the inevitable navel gazing on the merits of sending professionals in the midst of a season they're being paid handsomely to play. Count me among the throng who want to see the college kids and non-pros get their shot again.

"I am surprised he didn't make it, but again, there are a lot of good players," Flyers head coach Berube, a native Canadian, said. "It's not easy to pick those teams."

Besides, did the decision really affect Giroux beyond that brief burst, or are all of the armchair GMs the ones up on the cross, struggling and bleeding for him? On Tuesday, in the finale of a six-game road trip at New Jersey, Giroux opened up the scoring for his club with a third-period power-play marker, then drew a late-game penalty in a 3-2 overtime decision against the Devils.

My bet is, that still won't stifle the dissent. I asked the famous question in the late stages of Tuesday night's contest, "How long will it be before Claude Giroux isn't said to be doing something in response to being left off Team Canada? Rest of season?" and the answers I received from some fans and a fellow writer weren't great, somewhere along the lines of "until the next Olympics."

Yzerman said that Giroux might be an alternate if injury strikes an already-selected player. Might I suggest this be the first time in Philadelphia sports history you wish an opposing player doesn't get hurt in the line of duty.

“I mean yeah, anytime somebody takes something away from you, you want to prove them wrong,” said Giroux. “But you know, I put that behind me. I just have to continue to play my game out there. It’s a fun game, I’m not going to stress myself for that.”

There are, in fact, 16 more games before the NHL pauses for the Olympic break, and 23 more from the resumption of play to the end of the regular season. Given the roller-coaster ride the Flyers have endured just past the halfway point of the season, the hockey gods have seen that it's a far, far better thing they do to not throw an extra gravity loop into the course.

As Americans, you wouldn't want to see Giroux wreaking havoc in the Red and White, but as Flyers fans, it's the exact thing you'll cheer on, knowing it's the best possible outcome for the right cause.Why waste that talent on an ungrateful nation if Canada doesn't medal? Confidence is high in the team captain, who has struck for 13 goals and 19 assists since Nov. 9 to lead his club to the upper reaches of the Metropolitan.

Let's keep that mojo workin' where it belongs. You can thank Yzerman for that, starting Saturday afternoon.

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