On his 10-hour ride from Ottawa back to Philadelphia, Claude Giroux had plenty of time to think by himself.
“It was actually a pretty lonely ride,” Giroux said. “I just listened to a bunch of music.”
The possibility of being named the 19th captain over the next week wasn’t at the front of his mind.
“It’s a big responsibility, obviously, but it’s an honor at the same time,” Giroux said after his first practice back at the Flyers’ facility. “Whatever decision they make, I don’t think it will make a difference on how we play or things in the (dressing) room.
“I’m still going to be the same player on or off the ice. A ‘C’ or no letter, it’s how you play and it’s how the players in the room look at you.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said on Monday’s “Daily News Live” that he would discuss a possible replacement for injured defenseman Chris Pronger with coach Peter Laviolette sometime in the near future.
Pronger was named the 18th captain in team history on September 16, 2011. He sustained what appears to be a career-ending injury less than 2 months later and the Flyers played the remainder of the season - from Dec. 15 to May 8 - without a captain.
The Flyers have only played one season in team history without a captain, back in 1992-93, when the team finished 9th in the Wales Conference.
The Flyers have gone through 6 captains (Keith Primeau, Derian Hatcher, Peter Forsberg, Jason Smith, Mike Richards and Pronger) since 2006 alone. Twelve wore the ‘C’ for the Flyers in the previous 34 years.
Giroux turns 25 on Saturday, which could mark the opening of training camp. Richards was named the Flyers’ captain on Sept. 17, 2008, at the age of 23.
Giroux is young, but he is already the face of the Flyers’ franchise. He was already an alternate captain last season. Many critics believe handing Richards the captaincy added undue pressure to a burgeoning career, since John Stevens bypassed former captains Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere along the way.
“Mike was a great captain,” Giroux said. “When I came in, he wasn’t a guy who talked a lot, but when he did, everybody listened. He would do most of his leadership on the ice.
“In one shift, he’d be saying a big speech, pretty much (without talking). He was impressive to watch.”
Laviolette wouldn’t have to make much of a case for Giroux, simply pointing toward his Game 6 shift against the Penguins in the first round of last spring’s playoffs. Giroux memorably pummeled Sidney Crosby, stole the puck and scored 32 seconds into the game.
“I don’t look at (that shift as a case for captaincy) at all,” Giroux said. “I wanted to have a good start. It just happened.”
Maybe, the fact that it “just happened” - without any hoopla - is the point. Giroux simply took it upon himself to do what was needed, lead the Flyers to a 5-1 win, ending Pittsburgh's season in a game in which they could have forced Game 7.
“If you’re comfortable enough to speak in the room, I don’t think you need a letter on your jersey to do that,” Giroux said. “Any time you get a chance to have that responsibility, it means they have a lot of confidence in your will to win and to help the team get better.”
Read more in Wednesday’s Daily News.
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