Many in the hockey world are quite familiar with Jeremy Roenick. Before he was an outspoken analyst on NBCsports, “JR” played 20 seasons in the Nation Hockey League, racking up 513 goals and 1,216 points. No matter what team he played for, he played with not only his heart, but with his upbeat personality as well. Since retiring in 2009, Roenick has spent time making controversial statements about hockey teams and their players. JR’s rhetoric’s have been questioned by many because of one simple reason. He’s never led his team to a Stanley Cup.
But last week, JR once again made some statements towards Flyers Captain, Claude Giroux. However, instead of taking his comments with a grain of salt, I think there is a deeper meaning behind what he said.
JR went on Philly Sports talk radio on Friday and had plenty of things to say about the Flyers captain Claude Giroux. “He’s a stud,” said Roenick. “The reason why Claude Giroux doesn’t get success is [because] he lets everything get into his mind and he looks for other things to blame it on,”
I think JR is correct in that statement. Giroux, while one of the best top 5 players in the NHL in points since 2011, hasn’t been that same guy that once said, “I want that first shift” back in the 2012 playoffs against their arch rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Back then, Giroux showed what type of leader he was. He wasn’t even the captain then, but in opening 29 seconds, he went out, drilled Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby, then he scored a goal. Flyers fans will never forget that moment, but often reminisce and wonder, “Who was that Claude Giroux?”
Since becoming a Captain, it took Giroux a couple of seasons to get to comfortable wearing the “C.” Former Flyers Captain Mike Richards, while playing in LA, saw the tough transition Giroux was going through and even reached out to him. “Take it easy, don’t put too much pressure on yourself” Richards told Giroux.
It was then, Giroux eased up and started playing like the player he should be.
However, a few seasons later he still seems to be struggling on the ice. JR continued, “Claude Giroux can play this game and he can play it at a high, hard level. He’s just got to get back into the inside of the game, start attacking the game and not worrying about what the media or the fans are saying about Claude Giroux, period. He is a world-class player that can make a difference and that’s why he has the ‘C’ on his chest.”
The media can be difficult in Philly. The organization firmly blamed them [the media] on successfully distracting goalie Illyia Bryzgalov back in 2012 and former Captain Mike Richards used to have battles with them during interviews as well. However, Giroux has never let the media get the best of him while being interviewed. He’s calm, collective and simply takes the entire blame for the team as a captain should. But I don’t think Claude blames it on other things. If you watch his interviews, he blames his play on himself and really nothing else. But maybe that’s where he’s letting too many things get to his mind.
Last year, he did not have a good season. In April, he commented that his offseason surgery the year before, limited his abilities and that he was taking a long time to feel 100 percent. Injuries are part of the game. But what JR is talking about in my opinion is the same thing I mentioned about Giroux and his “want that first shift” mentality. He’s looking at that Claude Giroux, the hungry young player that put his heart on his sleeve. "If I was sitting in front of Claude Giroux right here today, I would say, 'You need to make amends and you need to have a bounce-back season and show everybody why you have been one of the better players over the last five years and last year was just a bad-luck situation,'"
JR knows Giroux should be hungry. He should be ready to win come training camp. The Flyers’ rookies are coming up and they are going to look at Giroux as if he was their commander leading them into battle. If Giroux was as upset as I was watching Sidney Crosby raise his third Cup in the last 10 years, I’d be ready to come in and make it a mission that the Flyers not only played a dominate season, but made the playoffs.
Fans have been on Giroux, JR is dead on about that. Many fans think he should be scoring 30 goals a season and putting up 100 points, but fans forget a couple of things. One, Giroux is a playmaker 20 goals would be a blessing for him. Two, Giroux isn’t on the level of Crosby or McDavid, 100 points is reaching. Three, Giroux is 29 years old. He is not going to get any faster than he already is. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good captain or your best player. Just because Wayne Simmonds scores 30 goals every year, doesn’t mean he should be the captain. Giroux has been that leader, he has been the Flyers best player, he’s has been that example. Last year was bad year overall for the team, not just Giroux.
October is a new year and Giroux should use JR’s comments constructively. The time is now, he’s the captain, he has the players around him to succeed and it’s up to him to come in, lead and deliver that expectation that was placed on his sweater in 2013.
JR’s message to Giroux isn’t one of those out of left field remarks that he normally makes to get a rise out of hockey fans, but its advice from one player to another. It is a reminder that it’s a new year. It’s a spark that perhaps Giroux needs. But most importantly it was something that needed to be said and in October, we’ll find out if the message was received or if was just “seen.”