Anthony Lancione breaks down Giroux's slow start.
Claude Giroux, who blossomed into a 90+ point producer last season, has struggled out of the gate in 2013. Why? His PPG (points per game) last season of 1.21 put him up with the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby with regards to offensive production. However, four weeks into 2013, his underwhelming 0.57 PPG drop-off marks less than half the rate of production he was accumulating last season.
Sure, you could stand and point to a mid-December concussion last year as an arbitrary point of reference for declining production. However, that theory is void as he produced strongly down the stretch including an performance for the ages against Pittsburgh in the first round of Lord Stanley’s playoffs, which included a single game six point outburst and 15 points in six contests. Post-concussion syndrome certainly did not plague him.
The more likely reason for his early season struggles can more likely be attributed to an unfamiliarity in current linemates. His 2011-2012 linemates at both even strength and special units have seen a ton of turnover. Frozen Pools’ Most Frequent Line Combination Report Generator very easily illustrates below this drastic turnstile of linemates filtering in and out.
Giroux quite naturally and transparently seems to be very much missing Scott Hartnell’s rugged protection and chemistry on the offensive, as the charismatic winger has been on the sidelines since the first week of the season. As shown in the table below, the injured Hartnell spent a large percentage of the time on the ice side by side with Claude. The departure of legendary and mentoring Jaromir Jagr also poses a legitimate reason for Claude’s temporary (hopefully) futility, as he was the individual who spent the second most time with him. You could even take that further with James Van Riemsdyk, who no longer dons the orange, black and white, who spent a significant chunk of playing time on Giroux's wing.
His 2012-2013 linemates this season appear to have much less consistency with a not yet 100% Danny Briere as the only recurring member continually finding ice time with Claude. I’d like to think that the return of Hartnell by the end of the month will bring an added element of familiarity Giroux needs. This may also be the telltale sign that Giroux isn’t in fact a member of that upper echelon group of highly esteemed forwards who don't rely extensively on their linemates for production.
Giroux’s capability of making those around him better, like Crosby has done countless times with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, and like Joe Thornton has done with Jonathan Cheechoo, may well be exposed now to be more dependent on other elite talent than we thought. Its still too early to state that claim definitively, but its beginning to appear that this is the case. Afterall, even an 80% Briere is no slouch.
We’ll be monitoring this more closely here at Dobber Sports in the coming weeks as Simmonds, Hartnell and Couturier return from injury to give Peter Laviolette the ability to mastermind his line combinations more appropriately. However, I do have faith that Giroux’s simply experiencing a little slump, and some returning healthy bodies may be just what the doctor order to rejuvenate his game. He was simply far too good last year to be a full time great player and part-time elite player. You don’t vastly overshadow the tried, tested and true playoff juggernauts of Crosby and Malkin in the playoffs by accident.
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