Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds account for about $16.5 million, or 27 percent, of the Flyers’ salary cap.
Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds combined for eight points in the Flyers’ first-round playoff series, which the Penguins won in six games.
“Not good enough,” Giroux said after the Flyers blew a two-goal lead in Game 6 on Sunday. “Got to find a way, when you play against the best players on the other side. Got to step up your game and play better. Only word I can say is that it’s frustrating.”
Frustrating? Imagine how the people in the stands feel, and the people at home; the people who pay their salaries. They have suffered this trio’s shortcomings longer than you’d think.
The Big Three have combined for 12 points in the last two Flyers playoffs runs. That’s not very good.
They lost to the Capitals in six games in the first round two years ago. Giroux and Voracek each had a goal and three assists in those 12 games. Simmonds has two assists in each series. But he hasn’t scored a playoff goal since the second period of Game 6 against the Rangers in the Flyers’ seven-game, first-round loss in 2014. That’s a span of 40 periods.
Your exasperation is understandable, and justified, and wasted.
They’re probably not going anywhere.
Voracek, 28, makes too much money for too little production. Simmonds, 29, would have excellent value – he’s owed a $5 million salary next season (cap numbers usually differ from actual salaries) – if he were healthy. But he’s not, and it sounds ominous. On Sunday he wouldn’t say exactly what ails him, but he told reporters to stay tuned for when the players have exit interviews Wednesday: “You’ll find out later.”
As for Giroux, well, he’s 30, but this team belongs to him. For better or worse, he has been captain for 5 ½ seasons. He’s a little guy with a big heart and massive talent who plays hard and plays hurt. The players respect him, and they follow him.
He’s good for second-year winger Travis Konecny, and he’s good for rookie center Nolan Patrick, and he’s still good for offensive defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, even though Ghost has been around for three seasons. Giroux has forged a passionless relationship with dispassionate coach Dave Hakstol. More significant, general manager Ron Hextall and the rest of the front office love him. The team is made in his image: scrappy, accountable, occasionally incandescent. Even if he doesn’t lead it on the ledger in April.
Giroux also has a no-movement clause, so he would have to approve any trade. He seems completely committed to completing the Flyers’ rebuilding. This season he seemed to improve a career already distinguished by appearances in five All-Star Games.
Giroux compiled MVP numbers this season – career-bests, when he was moved from center to wing – but those stats are diminished by consecutive postseason disappearances. The allure of 102 points, 34 goals, and a league-best 68 assists is offset by his minus-10 rating against the Pens and his minus-2 rating against the Capitals in 2016.
After the Flyers missed the playoffs last season, Voracek said that he was “embarrassed” that he was a minus-24 and worried the core of the team needed to “start winning some series, because if we don’t, it’s going to get blown up and we all know it.”
Any explosion seems unlikely; perhaps even unwise.
The team has an identity. Giroux and Voracek never will be Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and they might not be playing to their pay grade, but they’re very good players, excellent teammates, and superb examples.
It’s become obvious that if the Flyers ever expect to play in May, they will be propelled by 25-year-old center Sean Couturier, the two-way genius and a Selke Trophy favorite; 21-year-old Ivan Provorov, their best defenseman; and Patrick, who’s just 19. Also goalie Carter Hart, the franchise’s top prospect, who will turn pro and play at Lehigh Valley next season while Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth finish their contracts.
“We’re going to keep building here and we’re going to come off strong next year,” Giroux said.
That’s a fine sentiment, but after being outscored 25-6 in their playoff losses to the Penguins, including 18-6 at home, the Flyers proved they are nowhere near ready to compete with a real Stanley Cup contender. That will take two more seasons.
By then Giroux will be 32; Voracek, 30; Simmonds, 31, if he’s still a Flyer. They will have devoured another $37 million or so in cap space.
Perhaps, by then, they will have combined for more than 12 points in the playoffs.