LANE JOHNSON owes Claude Giroux.
The Daily News on Tuesday reported that Johnson, the Eagles' first-round pick last year and their starting right tackle, tested positive for a banned substance and likely will be suspended for the first four games of this season.
The Ottawa Sun yesterday reported that Giroux, the Flyers' captain and star center, allegedly repeatedly grabbed the backside of a male Ottawa police officer in a bar.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Actually, by the letter of the law, there is, of course. Any contact between Canadian adults must be mutually consensual; even on Canada Day. No matter how patriotic your underpants.
Comically, Giroux's alleged transgression provides years of ammunition for friend and foe alike.
Practically, the image of little Claude copping a feel and feeling a cop completely overshadows the news about Johnson. At least it does for the moment.
There will be a sanctimonious and vocal group that calls for Giroux to be fined; or suspended; or, at least, be stripped.
Of his captaincy. His captaincy.
To the sanctimonious: relax. There are way worse things done when under the influence.
Driving, for instance.
Writing sports columns. Obviously.
The cop probably shouldn't complain. Giroux always has had the softest hands in the league.
Besides, the cop's mom said he always was a handful.
Giroux is the biggest thing in Philadelphia hockey since Eric Lindros. Giroux can be a fun and funny guy, but he has become wooden and stilted since he assumed the captaincy last year. This, at least, humanizes him.
He also is resilient. Giroux rebounded from a slow start this season and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy.
Does this hurt or help his chances for the Lady Byng?
Hopefully, Giroux is not a pathological fondler. Hopefully, he was just goofing around, releasing steam during a trying offseason. After all, he just saw his pal Scott Hartnell traded by new general manager Ron Hextall, whose promotion pushed Giroux supporter Paul Holmgren into the team's presidency.
Perhaps Giroux will get a pardon.
Of course, there is nothing funny about violence directed at public servants, unless you're old enough to remember the "Smokey and the Bandit" franchise.
The alleged incident gives rise to several pressing questions, such as:
Isn't 9 p.m. awfully early to be butt-grabbing drunk?
Giroux, who is from the Ottawa area, apparently hits this bar, The Great Canadian Cabin, pretty often. What else has he latched onto in this joint?
Former Phillies outfielder Jason Michaels was arrested for fighting a cop; Giroux, for aggressive flirting. Aren't hockey players supposed to be tougher than baseball players?
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and new league sheriff Stephane Quintal find themselves in a quandary. It's tough to find recent precedent by which to judge a just penalty for Giroux.
Dan Carcillo nailed Joni Pitkanen from behind in 2011, and that cost Carcillo two games, but, while it sounds a lot like what Giroux allegedly did, it clearly was more dangerous.
A few months later, Matt Carkner was suspended for a game for being the aggressor with unwilling opponent Brian Boyle.
That sounds pretty close, right?
It would be interesting to see where NFL czar Roger Goodell ranks public groping . . . especially in relation to racial slurs, which warrant no verifiable punishment; and PED use, which will cost Johnson a little more than $100,000 of the $20 million he signed for last year.
See, the NFL doesn't guarantee contracts, so most of the real money is paid in signing bonuses. Game checks are relatively small, and only game checks are lost when a player is suspended.
So, the suspension system works about as well as replay.
It would have been interesting to witness Giroux mixing with the other prisoners on Tuesday night. Consider this possible dialogue:
"What're you in for?"
"Grabbed a cop's butt."
"Really?" Wink. "How you doin'?"
The Flyers aren't talking, of course. Neither is Giroux. No charges are likely to be filed, so the particulars might never be known.
There are so many unanswered questions:
What if Giroux thought the cop was a woman? After all, he allegedly came at the cop from, er, behind.
What if Giroux was sure the cop was a dude?
Again, not that there's anything wrong with that.
What if Giroux thought he was at the Jersey Shore? Isn't that where the Flyers do most of their (strictly consensual) groping?
Here's hoping Giroux gets slapped with a light fine; by a velvet glove, if that's what he's into.
Johnson allegedly testing positive for doping, or whatever, now is seen as the price of doing business.
Comparatively, the depth of Giroux's humiliation in the most macho of sports is punishment enough.
After all, he's going to be the butt of endless jokes.
On Twitter: @inkstainedretch