Mark Streit (left), Claude Giroux (middle) and Vinny Lecavalier all served as captains last season. (AP/AP/USA Today Images)
If inexperience was a problem for last year’s Flyers, it shouldn’t be this time around.
Never mind the understanding Claude Giroux now has of what it takes to be the Flyers’ captain -- though that will certainly help. Thanks to GM Paul Holmgren’s offseason moves, Giroux has two new teammates who also wore the "C" last year, as well as a new goaltender who already knows what it takes to play in Philadelphia.
Those new additions will more than make up for the supposed excess of youth (and lack of veteran leadership) on last season’s team.
“Having guys like Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit come in, they've been captains in the league and they are good leaders,” Giroux said. “A guy like Ray Emery has been around the league for a while. To have guys like that come in and help the young guys -- and help me -- it's obviously a real good thing for us.”
The Flyers bought out alternate captain Danny Briere’s contract over the summer, and with him they lost a veteran well known for his off-ice influence. Briere mentored and even hosted Giroux and Sean Couturier in his home when they were new to the team, was captain of the Buffalo Sabres before he came to Philadelphia, and wore the "A" on his jersey while he was here.
But, arguably, the Flyers were able to upgrade on the ice while bringing in comparable leadership experience even as they let Briere go. And that’s the idea.
“They were great additions,” Max Talbot said. “You look at the three guys they brought. You have two captains and [two] Stanley Cup winners. All guys with experience and all of them have great attitudes, as well. That is the base. And we know they can all play.”
Streit and Lecavalier agreed that having served as captains in the past will help them personally, as well as help the team when there's a need for players besides Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen (the latter two will serve as alternates this season) to speak up.
They won't, according to Lecavalier, fade into the background just because they're no longer wearing a letter stitched onto their jerseys.
"I don't really think like that," Lecavalier said.
Instead, he said, he thinks having so many players with leadership experience is "great” for the team.
“When you’re captain, you need a group of guys, you need to help each other out," Lecavalier said. "And of course our leaders, Claude Giroux, and great leadership with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell and other guys coming up, and obviously Mark Streit, and myself being captain in Tampa -- we’re all going to help out each other and try to lead by example, for sure.”
There are times and places for different players to raise their voices throughout the year, and Giroux will benefit from having others around him who've been through tough times, as well as the best times (like those aforementioned Stanley Cup victories).
As Streit said, "it’s a long season. There’s a lot of ups and downs."
“Experience, leadership, it’s going to help us down the stretch,” Streit said. “For me, it was a great experience being captain for two years. I learned a lot.
"The [Flyers'] guys are all great, it’s a great room, and I think that’s really important, to have great chemistry. And I can tell -- I’ve been here for a few days and already feel comfortable. It made my adjustment really easy.”