Op/Ed: Let’s Not Make “The Label” a Thing

Photo courtesy of Philly.com

The Flyers have now played four games underneath a new head coach. And yet, apparently, we’re still blaming Peter Laviolette for some of their issues.

It might make sense if we’re talking about the mishandling of training camp, or his particular system, or something concrete. But no, according to one local sportswriter/analyst, Laviolette is at fault for the lackluster play of team captain Claude Giroux.

CSN Philly’s John Boruk published an article yesterday discussing how Giroux has not been the same since his now ex-coach labeled him “the best player in the world” during the 2012 playoffs. Maybe Giroux has struggled since then, but really? We’re blaming words now?

Boruk believes that the label placed a target on Claude Giroux’s back. No, what placed a target on his back is the captaincy and the fact that he and now ex-Flyer James van Riemsdyk were quickly pushed out as the new faces of the franchise when Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded two summers ago.

And you know what? That’s what happens in hockey. Guys who don a ‘C’ on their uniform have targets on their backs. Maybe Giroux wasn’t ready for the captaincy. There’s nothing wrong with that, but no one wants to admit that the Flyers made yet another mistake.

Giroux also hurt himself during the offseason. It’s possible that his current struggles are due to residual pain left over from his injury. But again, the team can’t admit that. It makes the guy vulnerable. At the same time, it makes him look like a bad player if there are no excuses for his play.

He admitted to CSN’s Tim Panaccio that his confidence is lacking right now. Hell, the entire team’s confidence is lacking. That’s what happens when you get off to a 1-6-0 start.

Giroux also said that he isn’t enjoying the game right now. Can you blame him? It must be incredibly frustrating to be on a team that can’t close the deal, and especially as the captain, since he faces the brunt of the criticism.

It’s possible that Giroux is buckling under the pressure. But that pressure is not Peter Laviolette’s doing, not anymore, and certainly not because he made such a claim. Giroux has pressure coming at him from all sides – the organization, the fans, and the media.

Boruk seems to think that “The Label” is the reason why fans in other cities dislike Claude Giroux:

If you think Giroux has been oblivious to the backlash, check his Twitter account, where fans in the other 29 cities have taken a virtual sledge hammer to his reputation in the wake of Laviolette’s words. It all has an impact and it was almost immediate.

Fans in other cities dislike Claude Giroux because he’s a good player. They dislike him because he’s the captain of the Flyers, a team that very few folks outside of Philadelphia have embraced. And sure, a lot of people berate athletes on Twitter. That’s life. That’s what you get yourself involved in when you’re an athlete in this day and age. And I strongly doubt Claude Giroux goes home after every game, checks his Twitter, and loses confidence because of the chirps he gets.

Everyone wants to come up with an answer as to why the team is struggling, why their captain hasn’t played up to expectations. That’s perfectly fine, that’s what we try to do as media — crack the code, solve the case — but to blame the words of a former coach (who, more than likely, said it without thinking as everyone was hyped up and feeling mighty confident after the Flyers dismantled the Penguins) is almost silly, especially with so many other factors at play.