For the fourth straight month now I've managed a Card of the Month post...I'm really on a roll! Every so often I browse the hockey or baseball card auctions on eBay just to see if there are any real bargains about to end that I can snipe at the last minute. This month's card is the result of one of those last minute bids, and in my opinion it was an absolute steal for the price:
Claude Giroux has emerged as one of the top two-way forwards in the league over the past couple of seasons. When he first broke into the NHL I always thought his game was very similar to David Krejci's, in that he had amazing puck possession skills and that every touch of the puck seemed to have a purpose. In fact, I believe Krejci and Giroux played together for Gatineau in Juniors. Fast forward a couple of years and I think most everyone can agree that he has become a better player than Krejci. If I were an NHL GM and had to select one of those two players to build a team around, I hate to say it but I'd be going with Giroux.
With very few exceptions, it seems to take the game's young stars a season or two to get comfortable at the NHL level. We've seen it with Steven Stamkos, who had more goals in his second season (51) than he did points in his rookie campaign (46). Tyler Seguin is another example, as he's currently sitting just a point out of the top 10 in league scoring, and just 21 games in has already surpassed his goal total from his rookie season. I would put Giroux in this same category. After about half a season of action in 2008-09, Claude registered 47 points in 2009-10, his first full season. Last year he really broke out though, crossing the 25-goal and 50-assist plateaus and falling just short of a point per game scoring pace (76 points in 82 games). Those 76 points were good for 11th place in the league's scoring race.
2011-12 has been even better for Giroux so far. Thanks in large part to great chemistry with linemate Jaromir Jagr in the early part of the season, Giroux's 13 goals and 16 assists in 22 games have him second in the NHL in both goals and points at the time of this post (just one point behind Toronto's Phil Kessel for top spot). Claude is generally successful regardless of who's he's paired with though. Even with Jagr missing some time lately, Claude has racked up 2 goals and 5 assists in his last 5 games. The Canadiens suffered at his hands just last night, when he scored two goals himself and made an amazing stick-handling play on the game-winning goal by Jakub Voracek.
After an off-season where the Flyers made some controversial moves including signing Jagr, and letting both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards go, Giroux has really answered the call and stepped up his game. Aside from being one of the league's top scorers so far, he consistently plays 24+ minutes a night and hasn't missed a game in over 2 1/2 seasons.
Given what the Young Guns rookies of some other top stars go for, I was amazed that I was able to win this auction for just over $7 ($10 shipped)! Giroux is definitely one of the game's future stars and I think this card has the potential to be worth much more than $7 someday.
Changing of the Guard - I know my NASCAR posts don't generate many clicks, but I'm going to bang one out anyway - outside of a select few that I'm aware of, there simply doesn't a...