Better With Popcorn

Hartnell: "Giroux is ready to be captain"

Hockey will finally resume on January 19, but the talks concerning a certain letter in the alphabet has already begun for the Flyers.

Chris Pronger is nowhere nearing a return to the ice. And with his retirement inevitable - but not official due to his contract - the designated captain slot will remain vacant until the Flyers decide to finally fill the void.

Three names have been on the lips of fans during the 2011-12 season: veterans Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen, and the young leader of the team, Claude Giroux. Only one of those players has remained a hot topic for the captaincy and it's the one who many around the NHL view to be the future of the Flyers and the league.

Sam Carchidi threw up a tweet that shouldn't come to a surprise to anyone. Giroux's best friend and locker room leader Scott Hartnell said that "Giroux is ready to be captain."

Hartnell's voice has always been influential, especially during the lockout. So his endorsement for Giroux is a great honor for the 25-year-old, who along with Hartnell was an All-Star this season.

The talks heated up this past week in regards to the next captin. David Isaac of USA Today wrote a story that the Flyers are expected to name a new captain.  

Then on January 9, Carchidi posted on Philly.com that Giroux was deflecting any questions by the media asking if he felt he was deserving to wear the "C" for the Flyers.

"It's a decision they have to think about. It's a big decision - but at the same time, it doesn't matter if you have a 'C' or 'A' or nothing on your jersey," he said Tuesday after joining 10 teammates for an informal practice in Voorhees. "If you lead by example on the ice or if you feel comfortable enough to speak in the room, I don't think you need a letter on your jersey to do that."

The first question that comes to mind when considering giving the 25-year-old center the "C" is, "is Giroux too young to be the captain?"

The reason this question is asked is because Mike Richards was only 23 years old when the Flyers appointed him as captain before the 2008-2009 season. 

In 2009-2010, Richards' second season as captain, the Flyers saw John Stevens fired and Peter Laviolette replace him while the Flyers managed a Stanley Cup visit and loss to Chicago.

The following year, the Flyers were boasting one of the top records in hockey until a late-season collapse gave them poor playoff seeding and they were crushed by Boston. The collapse was blamed on a rift in the lockeroom between certain players and Laviolette's coaching methods.

That off season, the Flyers traded Richards to Los Angeles where he won a Stanley Cup. Fellow young star Jeff Carter was also traded to Columbus.

Pronger replaced Richards as the captain, but after an eye and head injury early into the 2011-2012 season, Pronger hasn't put the skates back on and probably never will.

But during that season, Giroux stepped up big time as the leader on and off the ice for the Flyers. His 28 goals and 65 assists (2nd in the NHL) gave him the third highest point total in the league with 93 and catapulted him into the discussions for the Hart Trophy.

Giroux was then voted by all of hockey fans to grace the cover of EA Sports' hit hockey game "NHL 13" and Giroux became an instant NHL star. The highlight of him crushing Sidney Crosby to open up Game 6 of the ECQF, and then scoring 32 seconds into the game is still played on YouTube today.

Deciding the captain is more than a popularity contest. It's a leadership role, but Giroux has passed that test with Flying colors with the season he had last year along with certain plays that included the Crosby hit.

If, and assumedly when, Giroux is named the 19th captain in Flyers history, it will officially cement Giroux's status as the next star that will help the NHL put behind itself an ugly lockout that marred the reputation of the sport.

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John Russo is the Editor and Chief for TCL Flyers. Follow him on Twitter. Follow TCL Flyers on Twitter.