Johnny Berman The Hockey Writers
Flyers’ Franchise Assist Record Within Reach for Giroux
The Philadelphia Flyers have had several franchise records remain unbroken for many years thanks to legends like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Bernie Parent. Finally, it appears one of these records is in danger of being surpassed thanks to the newest Flyer legend, Claude Giroux.
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Giroux has a very strong chance to set the Flyers’ franchise assist record. Currently, this record is held by Bobby Clarke who recorded a whopping 852 assists in his 15-year Flyers career. Clarke retired after the 1983-84 season, meaning that this record has been untouched for over 35 years.
Before Giroux, no Flyer had even come close to topping this record. Brian Propp was the closest, recording 480 assists during the 11 years he spent in Philadelphia. Interestingly, in their first five seasons, Propp (223 assists) nearly had as many total assists as had Clarke (232 assists).
Nonetheless, after his first five seasons, Clarke became a truly elite play-maker. He won the Hart Trophy in each of the next two seasons thanks to consecutive 89-assist campaigns. He topped 50 assists another five times after that. Meanwhile, after his first five seasons, Propp still tallied many assists, but just not at the same pace as Clarke. It didn’t help Propp’s case that he was traded to Boston in 1990, effectively ending any shot he had to set the Flyers’ assist record.
After Propp was traded, it appeared Clarke’s record would be safe for years to come. After all, Propp and Bill Barber were the only Flyers to ever record half as many career assists as Clarke. But then came along Claude Giroux.
Claude Giroux, a Flyers Legend
The Flyers drafted Giroux in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he has become the face of the franchise. Giroux has been captain since the 2012-13 season and for good reason. A quiet leader, Giroux has inspired his teammates with his strong character, and of course, his dominant play.
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Giroux has always had a pass-first mentality and has never recorded more goals than assists in a season. The eight-time 20-goal scorer can find the back of the net when he needs to, but he still primarily seeks to set up his teammates. As such, Giroux has topped 40 assists in eight different seasons. His career high was 68, set during the 2017-18 season.
In total, Giroux has recorded 558 assists in his 13-year Flyers career. He passed Propp last season for the second-most career assists in Flyers history. Unlike Propp, Giroux just may succeed in passing Clarke for first on the list. To do so though, Giroux will have his work cut out for him.
What it Will Take for Giroux to Pass Clarke
There are two factors at play here: maintaining similar production and remaining with the Flyers.
Giroux will be just 32 at the start of next season, meaning that he likely still has a few strong seasons ahead of him. As of now, he sits 294 assists shy of matching Clarke’s record. If Giroux could play another eight years, he would need to average just under 37 assists a season.
He was on pace to record 38 assists this season prior to the hiatus and was coming off back-to-back seasons with at least 60 assists. Giroux may not be able to maintain the 37-assist pace as he gets into his late thirties, however, perhaps he can make up for it over the next couple of seasons while he is still young.
Giroux will need to remain healthy to pull this off, which is no guarantee as he ages. Furthermore, it will help if he is surrounded by strong goal-scorers, but if this season was any indication, that may not be a concern. After all, the Flyers scored 227 goals this season – seventh-most in the NHL.
The bigger concern is Giroux’s ability to remain with the Flyers. Giroux has already entered nearly uncharted waters with his 889 games played for the Flyers. Only Barber (903) and Clarke (1144) have played more. In order to set the franchise assist record, Giroux will also need to set the franchise games played record.
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These days, it is rare to play for a single team for as long as Giroux has. Meanwhile, it is almost unheard of to play for a single team for as long as Giroux will need in order to set the assist record. He will likely need at least a 20-year career with the Flyers.
Giroux is under contract with the Flyers for the next two seasons before he will be a free agent in the summer of 2022. At that point, the Flyers will have to decide if they want to re-sign their captain. If they do, it will probably be a short-term extension, meaning they will face the same question again a couple of years after that.
Even if Giroux ultimately leaves the Flyers or decreases his productivity before matching Clarke, he has still put together quite the career. As a result, franchise assist leader or not, Giroux may one day receive an even bigger honor: an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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