Giroux feels 'lucky' to have good veterans around

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Giroux feels 'lucky' to have good veterans around

The best way for former captains to really get to know present captains, Mark Streit says, is in a quiet setting.

Such might be the future meal for one Claude Giroux as he begins his first full season as the Flyers’ captain.

“We’re going to go out to dinner on the road somewhere and we’ll talk,” Streit said. “There’s an awful lot of experience in this dressing room to support him.”

You can debate it as much as you want whether having multiple ex-captains is good or bad on a hockey club. Every season, the Flyers seem to have several former captains who also sit on the club’s leadership group.

This season is no different with the addition of Streit and Vinny Lecavalier, joining Kimmo Timonen to act as a sounding board for Giroux, who seemed at ease in camp with his team.

Last year was an enormous challenge to the 25-year-old Giroux.

In the lockout-shortened season, a plethora of injuries that smacked the club early and often, and the Flyers’ overall bad start doomed them given every game was against teams in their own conference, when every loss represented points against you without inter-conference play to draw even.

“Claude did a terrific job last year as captain of this team in a difficult situation,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s not easy when you’re not finding the success you want, especially in a city like Philadelphia where there is an expectation to be successful.

“For a young captain, that can be a stressful situation. I think he did an amazing job. And I am not just saying that. The way he handled himself and handled this team, that is growing leadership.

“And the leadership we had in the room is a tremendous strength and support for him. When you add guys like Mark Streit and Vinny Lecavalier, and even Ray Emery, who is older now and won a Stanley Cup … you start to build a nice leadership group. That can only help Claude.”

Streit captained the Islanders and Lecavalier was a captain in Tampa Bay.

“He’s got a lot of leadership qualities,” Lecavalier said. “He’s the captain and our leader, but he has Mark Streit, who has been a captain and been around. I’ve been around a few years as well. We’re all gonna help each other to push each other and make decisions.”

Players say Giroux is still the happy-go-lucky guy he was as a rookie, long before he got a letter on his sweater.

“Any time they can help, doesn’t matter if you have a letter on your jersey or not, it’s what you can do on the ice which speaks for itself,” Giroux said. “They have been captains before. They know what to say, how to act and those are guys I will be leaning toward.”

Keith Primeau used to say the only way a captain can grow in his role is to endure some adversity along with success. Giroux already had his share of the bad.

“His job and how he handled things in a tough year, he will continue to learn from the goods and the bads of being a captain,” Laviolette said.

“I can tell you as a coach, you don’t just learn from the good times. You learn a lot more from the bad times where you have to dig in and look have to work and figure. The same thing can be said for a captain as well.”

Giroux agrees.

“You learn from what you do,” Giroux said. “You start thinking of how you should do things. You learn from it. I’ve been lucky to have good veterans [around me] at the start of my career and I’m still learning, every practice, every time I go on the ice.”

Flyers extend qualifying offers to 7 restricted free agents

Flyers extend qualifying offers to 7 restricted free agents

As expected, the Flyers made qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents on Monday.

Goalie Anthony Stolarz, center Mike Vecchione, and forwards Roman Lyubimov and Taylor Leier, all of whom saw some duty at the NHL level last season received offers.

So did forwards Cole Bardreau, Scott Laughton and goalie Alex Lyon.

Flyers development camp is expected to open on Sunday, July 9 at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., which is undergoing extensive upper level renovations which is closed off from the general public.

Camp will be open to the public and admission is free.

Flyers free-agent goalie targets: Steve Mason

Flyers free-agent goalie targets: Steve Mason

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Steve Mason
Age: 29
Height: 6-4
Weight: 217
Last team: Philadelphia Flyers
2016-17 cap hit: $4.1 million 

Scouting report
Selected with the 69th overall pick in 2006 by Columbus, Mason spent his first five seasons in the NHL with the Blue Jackets before being traded to the Flyers in 2012-13.

Mason took the league by storm in his rookie season and took over the No. 1 job in Columbus. He posted a 33-20-7 record with a 2.29 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and 10 shutouts. He won the Calder Trophy and was a Vezina Trophy finalist.

However, Mason never regained his rookie success with the Blue Jackets. Over his next three seasons, he had a 3.16 GAA and .897 save percentage. Columbus traded him to the Flyers at the 2012-13 trade deadline, and he eventually regained his confidence in Philly.

Over four-plus seasons with the Flyers, Mason compiled 104 wins, a 2.47 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. His 104 wins are third most in franchise history, and his .918 save percentage is second best among goalies who started more than 50 games.

Last season, Mason struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season after having a strong preseason and training camp. He didn't start the season opener despite expecting to and it took a while to recover but he eventually put things back together. He finished the season 26-21-8 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save percentage.

In his final 20 games, Mason was 12-6-2 with three shutouts and a .927 save percentage. He proved himself as the No. 1 goalie after battling with Michal Neuvirth for the spot throughout the season. An injury to Neuvirth did help Mason's cause and he took control.

Still, the Flyers rewarded Neuvirth with a two-year contract extension in March, leaving Mason without a contract. After the Flyers didn't acquire a veteran goalie at the draft, GM Ron Hextall said Mason is "still in the mix." Mason is open to returning but not in a platoon.

Dougherty's projection
Mason is the Flyers' best option. He's the best goalie on the market. But with Neuvirth in the fold and how he was handled in Philly the last couple of seasons, I'm not so sure Mason would want to come back to the Flyers. With that said, I think it's more likely he'll be back with the team now than it was entering the offseason for a couple of reasons.

Opportunity being the biggest motivation. There aren't many teams in the market for goaltenders. At least starting jobs, which Mason would want. There's one team that comes into mind: Winnipeg. That's it. If the Jets don't go the Mason route, then the Flyers may be the best fit for him. Neuvirth's medical history suggests the other goalie here will get a decent amount of work. There may be more opportunity here than elsewhere for Mason.

For the Flyers, they know what they have in Mason. Sure, he's not keen to platooning, but his play can dictate that. Mason is the goalie I think the Flyers should have extended. It's a buyer's market at goaltender this summer and that will help GM Ron Hextall.

As much as this writer would like to see Mason back, the bridges are already burnt.

Hall's projection
We all know who Mason is.

He's a streaky goaltender and when he's on, he can carry a team. But when he's off, the poor performances tend to trickle into the next start.

I thought Mason made some terrific points at the end of the season about goaltending platoons. I think those points got through to Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol in their exit meeting with the goaltender.

However, there are too many differences in this situation for a re-signing to ultimately happen. 

The Flyers are looking for a term-friendly, placeholder-type deal — more of an insurance policy to place alongside Neuvirth while allowing the goalies of the future to receive further grooming. That's not exactly what Mason is vying for this offseason.

Speaking of Neuvirth, he will see playing time when healthy. Mason made himself clear about the importance of having defined roles in net from the start of a season. If he returned, he would have to accept a similar situation to the past two seasons.

Sure, between the pipes, there aren't many opportunities elsewhere — but with another team, Mason can at least find a fresh start and new chances at fighting for a No. 1 job. 

Mason is a sharp guy and his return should be strongly considered by the Flyers. I just don't see it happening. 

Paone's projection
While some fans may not think so, the bottom line is that Mason played well last season for the Flyers. Was he spectacular? No. But was he downright awful? No. He played well enough to give them chances to win games and deserved better fates than what he was handed on most nights. But such is life when you play behind a defense that struggled to get out of its own way, a penalty kill that lingered near the bottom of the league rankings most of the season and an offense that starved for goals in support of the goaltender.

In his exit interviews, Mason made it clear he does not want to be part of a platoon role he was in last season alongside Neuvirth. It's no surprise Mason's best stretches with the Flyers were when he didn't have to constantly look over his shoulder. He was at his best when he knew he was the guy. Remember when he put the Flyers on his back on their playoff push in 2015-16?

Well, the problem with being a clear-cut No. 1 here is that Neuvirth has his extension in hand and Mason is still wondering what the future is left to hold. This situation is a double-edged sword for Mason. He's the best goalie on a weak free-agent market this season. But the demand for goalies isn't all that high. Teams looking for goalies might include Buffalo, the Islanders, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Colorado. But still, Mason wouldn't be walking into any of those situations as the No. 1 option right away a la Ben Bishop in Dallas or Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas. He's going to have to compete for that No. 1 job he craves.

And while there's a competition here in Philadelphia that's open for the taking, why would Mason want to come back with how that competition went last season? It would be like skating in circles without the end he's looking for.

Nothing is impossible or out of the question, but this is a situation in which it's best for both parties to shake hands and move on to their respective next chapters.