Claude Giroux spent a few days in San Francisco with his wife before arriving in San Jose for this weekend's All-Star Game festivities.
Once again for the organization's lone representative, the honor and distinction of being chosen as an All-Star isn't lost on the Flyers' captain.
"When I was young, all I wanted was to play in the NHL," Giroux said. "I remember how special it was for me to participate in my first All-Star Game. You go there the first time, you don't know what to expect. You meet those other guys you've competed against and rivals. It's a great weekend."
Now at the age of 31, Giroux no longer stares around the room in admiration of the greatness that surrounds him. Of the current All-Stars in San Jose, only Chicago's Patrick Kane has played in more of these events. With 11 All-Stars in San Jose 22 years of age or younger, Giroux's now that guy that the next generation of stars looks up to.
"I hope not. I hope that I'm not that old," Giroux said smiling. "It's always great. The young players in this league are good and they're quick. You see more younger players at the All-Star Games and it's fun to see what kind of things they can do on the ice."
From the time Giroux made that first appearance in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the age of 23, he has continued to redefine his greatness. His sixth All-Star appearance Saturday now ties him with Hall of Famer Eric Lindros, whose last All-Star Game came in 2000 - which also coincided with his final season in Philadelphia.
This season, Giroux has leapfrogged Rick MacLeish for fourth place on the franchise's all-time scoring list and became only the second player in Flyers history to top 500 career assists. And after this season, only Bobby Clarke will have served a longer tenure as Flyers captain.
If Giroux averages between 85-90 points (depending on where he finishes this season) over the final three years of his current eight-year contract, he and Clarke will be the organization's only two members of the 1,000-point club.
But before we can link those two stars in the same stratosphere, Giroux has to lead this franchise to a championship. For starters, he has to win a playoff series again, and his best shot of winning a Stanley Cup undoubtedly will be with Carter Hart in net. The Flyers' rookie goaltender has proven to be well ahead of the NHL timetable that many expected.
During Thursday's media day, Giroux compared Hart to the kid's idol Carey Price, the Canadiens' goalie who also broke into the NHL at the age of 20.
"I was watching him during practice the other time and I told Sean Couturier I thought he looked a lot like [Price]," Giroux told TVA speaking in French. "Sure, he still has time before he gets to his level, but in his way of life, Carter reminds me a lot of Carey. He is calm and always in a good position."
Indeed, no Flyer has garnered more attention at such an early age than perhaps Giroux did when he became a full-time NHL regular just weeks before his 21st birthday in 2008. Two years later, Giroux led the Flyers in scoring, prompting the team to trade Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, paving the way for Giroux to become that cornerstone player.
But the Flyers' captain can only succeed with complementary pieces and Hart has been that one, big missing component. The 2010 Stanley Cup Final may have tilted differently with a player of Hart's caliber in net.
"You don't see a lot of goalies that are 20 years old and they come in this fast," Giroux said. "For him to get called up and do the things that he's doing right now, it's obviously not a circumstance that we wanted to happen. For him to come in, play the way he is right now, it's pretty amazing. It's certainly very motivating for us."
And Giroux's legacy in Philadelphia very well may be determined by how well Hart performs over the next few years.
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