Captain Claude Giroux admits 'Flyers do not have an identity'

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Maybe Flyers captain Claude Giroux's pregame words from Monday are a sign of better things to come.

"Right now, you know, you look at our group and … we don't have an identity," he said shortly before the Philadelphia Flyers extended their winless streak to nine games with a 7-5 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

"Identity" seems like a buzz word in professional sports in 2021. It has been a major theme for the retooling of the Eagles at the hands of a new coaching staff. And now the Flyers' longtime team captain — incidentally, the longest-tenured athlete currently in Philadelphia sports — is talking about "identity" just hours after the firing of their head coach, Alain Vigneault.

Giroux was responding to a question about what adjustments could be made to help get the most out of his dwindling team.

"We need to find that confidence in our group," he said. "We need to believe that, even if a team scores the first goal, that we just keep playing our game, believe in our game, knowing that our style of play and how we play as a team is gonna get us the win."

To the Flyers' credit, they kept pushing back against Colorado on Monday night when the chips were down, and they scored more than three goals for the first time since Oct. 27. But the team's identity is clearly an issue and has been for years.

Vigneault, not yet three full years into his tenure, is simply the latest to suffer the consequences amid a decade of mediocrity and generations without a Stanley Cup Championship.

His dismissal, while unexpected, was not surprising. And Giroux, who made his debut with the Flyers in 2008 — and is in the final year of his contract — called it "a wake up call." The Flyers have been skating backwards and have had legitimate problems putting the puck in the net.

He said what has happened to this season's team is not entirely the fault of Vigneault, or assistant coach Michel Therrien — who was also let go.

"It's on our group," Giroux said. "Players, coaches, everybody that's involved with us playing hockey. It's the business side of it. It's not fun. But right now, it's gotta be a wake-up call for us."

Vigneault's first season with the Flyers in 2019-20 was very successful, even though the league took a lengthy pause at the start of the pandemic. When play resumed in the NHL bubble in Toronto, the Flyers catapulted themselves to the top seed in the East, and went to Game 7 of the second round before losing to the New York Islanders. Vigneault finished second for the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the coach of the year.

In Vigneault's second season — a campaign shortened to 56 games because of the pandemic — the Flyers missed the postseason, continuing a nine-season trend of missing the playoffs every other year. Now they are at risk of missing playoff hockey in two consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-94.

Giroux says he can't explain why the club hasn't been able to get back to playing the way Vigneault wanted them to. He noted the team's strong start this season. "We were playing pretty good," he said, "and then the wheels fell off a little bit. So, you know, I think it's important to kinda look at the present now, looking at what we got and how we can get out of this hole."

What Giroux has is his seventh head coach on this team, and an interim coach, at that. No wonder this team lacks a consistent identity.

Whether Mike Yeo loses the "interim" label, or someone else takes over the role, the next permanent head coach will have to change that. ​