The Concern About Wasting Giroux's Prime Years Has Writers & Fans Buzzing

Created 2 years 316 days ago
by Michael DeNicola

Tags: Claude Giroux
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by Michael DeNicola

Friday, November 13th, 2015 --

Philadelphia Daily News writer, Sam Donnellon, published an article yesterday titled "Maybe the Flyers should trade Claude Giroux while he's still valuable". His argument, in a nutshell, is pretty simple -- If the Flyers aren't ready to contend today or seasons soon to come, what's the point of wasting Claude Giroux while he's in his prime?

It's a premise we've seen written about and repeated since this Club began struggling mightily in 2013. The concern itself is not an irrational one, I'll give it merit. Admittedly, it's one of my concerns and it really should be a concern for everyone. This includes the brainpower up the franchise flagpole like Ron Hextall and Team President Paul Holmgren. 

The Flyers arguably employ a Top 10 player in the NHL, no doubt in the Eastern Conference. Despite Claude being in his prime.... Hextall's ability to build a contender around him is suffocated by the restrictions he inherited. 

I mean, for the love of God, we can't even call up the Phantoms' leading goal scorer, Petr Straka, because we're unable to squeeze his modest $925K AAV under the salary cap. We can't waive Lecavalier and collect $950K in relief because of his strict no-movement clause. And apparently, according to Elliotte Friedman, Hextall is having major difficulty finding buyers for the players he has for sale. 

This team has a lengthy list of problems. Mainly a lack of Top 4 defensemen, and we're basically missing an entire 2nd Line. The list doesn't stop there, not even close. 

And what's most depressing is knowing we have this many holes on our roster, and the team is currently 10th in League spending. [

From this morning's Sportsnet 960 radio show in Calgary, in the words of Elliotte Friedman, "[The Flyers] just have to ride it out."

Getting back to Donnellon's article, you can imagine the response from fans. On one side you have the crowd chanting "YOU'RE AN IDIOT!", and on the other side you hear "I'VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR YEARS! TIME TO BLOW THIS ROSTER UP!" Or something of that degree. You get the point. 

To me, no player is untouchable. If the return is worth it, and the timing is right, I'd sell any name on this roster, including those on the farm and in the system. And that's why I gave Donnellon his chance to explain himself. I read the article, I understand the point he was trying to make, but he is mistaking the current transition phase for a rebuild. Or a "half-rebuild" as he implied it in his article.

"But if you're going to rebuild, shouldn't it be all-in?" Donnellon asks.

This team hasn't entered a rebuilding phase. There are no big moving parts, and the franchise's most valuable Win Now assets aren't (I'm assuming) on the trade block. It was just yesterday that Hextall spoke to the media and said "We can make the playoffs, absolutely. We have enough talent, enough depth. We have enough top-end players to make the playoffs." []

I don't think the Flyers are good as a whole, but it's obvious there are key players who are underperforming. If our best players weren't slumping, we would be winning more games and we'd probably be in contention. So I think Hextall's quote links to that train of thought. 

More than half the teams make it to the Playoffs. As bad as it is for the Flyers (and it's real bad), believing they could still make it to the postseason is not far fetched. I say that with a straight face.

With all that said, there's no sight of a rebuild in this organization. Things, believe it or not, would have to get worse. And they probably will get worse. Like, 2006-07 kinda worst.

If anyone wants to objectively analyze Donnellon's article and project their own theories from it, I'm totally interested in listening. And luckily I didn't have to wait very long...

John Saquella is a veteran Flyers fan and someone I follow on Twitter intently. No matter how low or high the Flyers get me, John has always been a source of intelligent, equitable input, and no shortage of humor to boot. 

With no surprise, John had a response to Donnellon's article that I want to share here in my blog...

To add to his points...

POINT 1: The return on Giroux begins with looking for suitable buyers. I'm positive that if Hextall put Giroux up for sale, 29 teams would speed dial our GM like 911. That's all well and good, but not every team operates financially the same. Teams have problems of their own and strategic plans of their own. So there will be limiting conditions on a team-by-team basis. And as John followed up, we'd need to hit a homerun. It's nowhere as easy as it sounds. 

POINT 2: At 32-years-old, could Giroux still perform at an elite level? Would he be able to lead the prospects we have in the system today, and the ones Hextall will inevitably continue accruing? That isn't out of the realm of possibility. 

Donnellon argued that Giroux's body will be broken down by the time this team is ready to seriously contend; thus eliminating a good chunk of his trade value when he's not the team's biggest star. "You play an 82-game schedule at 20, you will feel it in your body at an earlier age than someone. At least most of the time. You can gamble that Giroux, of slight build and generously listed as 5-11, will buck this trend ... Just know the odds are long."

Well, not for nothing, but Claude didn't begin playing a full 82-game season until he was nearly 22 years old (21 years, 263 days). Not counting the current season or the 2012 lockout, Giroux has recorded five 82-game campaigns. He'll be turning 28 this January. 

POINT 3: Ed Snider may be giving Ron Hextall a lot of space and slack, but at Ed's advanced age... you have a better chance of freezing in Hell than seeing Snider agree to a full system reboot. 

POINT 4: Fans can pump the tires on our prospects all day and go to bed feeling excited and optimistic all they want. But there isn't anything proven or guaranteed about a prospect. Or a Draft pick, for that matter. Giroux would certainly fetch prospects, high Draft picks, and a young NHLer or two. But like John said, you cannot realistically expect to replace Claude Giroux. It's not like there's a Connor McDavid available every July. 

Over the past three seasons, only four players have recorded more than Giroux's 169 combined points: 

4) Alexander Ovechkin, 176

3) Tyler Seguin, 186

2) Jaime Benn, 188

1) Sidney Crosby, 197

Those are proven NHL numbers. It's tough to believe that difference could be made up with a Draft pick or prospect. Not to mention acquiring and developing players with the faceoff success, possession skill, and playmaking ability that Giroux owns as one package.

Some people may mention the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades as an example to push the agenda. Never mind that these are two completely different instances (there's an entirely new CBA between then and now), let's just run with it...

Trading Richards netted us Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. Two Top 9 forwards with scoring upside, not to mention... look where Richards is today. Trading Jeff Carter landed us Jake Voracek, and a 1st Rounder spent on Sean Couturier. In these cases, it's not tough to imagine Claude Giroux yielding similar or better production in a trade. But rewind to the Summer of 2011: while the Flyers were wheeling and dealing two stars out of town, they knew they had a safety net in Claude Giroux, so the juice was worth the squeeze. Still on the roster were impact players like Scott Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere, Braydon Coburn, and Chris Pronger. Newcomers like Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot came in to fill the ranks with experience while younger players like Couturier, Voracek and Matt Read got acquainted with the system.  

There is no safety net here at this time. There is no 23-year-old rising star with NHL-quality production like there was with Giroux in June, 2011. There's hardly a supporting cast of impact players. Other than (maybe) two teammates, behind Giroux is a drop-off of vast proportion. His exit would likely leave a hole that'd take closer to a decade to fill than 3 - 5 years. 

If Ron Hextall thinks he can make this team a Cup contender within the next 5 years, he'll need Claude Giroux to drive that goal. And judging from his actions and interviews as General Manager, I'd say that's what Hextall is aiming for. 

Am I against trading Claude Giroux? I'm not against trading any player as long as my team gets better. But when it's your best player that's under the microscope, all the planets and galaxies must be aligned just right before I pull the trigger. 

There may come a point when it's time to move on from the current face of our franchise. I don't believe now's the time. Frankly, the time may never come. 

And I'm perfectly okay with that.

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