NEWARK, N.J. -- You could see the hurt etched across Claude Giroux’s face on Tuesday morning at the Prudential Center.
Being left off Team Canada’s Sochi Olympic roster was nothing short of a crushing blow to the Flyers’ captain.
“It was one of my dreams to play for Team Canada,” Giroux said. “A lot of good players in Canada, a lot of talent, so, obviously, it is disappointing but it just happens.
The official announcement was made Tuesday morning in Toronto.
Flyers coach Craig Berube thought Giroux would make it, as well.
“It’s tough, it’s not an easy thing to pick those teams,” he said.
If you look at the Canadian 25-man roster, it would appear that executive director Steve Yzerman and his committee wanted to pair players who have played together. For instance: Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz with the Penguins; Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry from Anaheim; Jonathan Towes and Patrick Sharp from Chicago.
“Those questions are for Team Canada,” Giroux said. “I’m the hockey player. I was there to put my product out and play the best I could and I didn’t make it. You gotta move forward.”
The selection of Jeff Carter and Matt Duchesne were the two spots that impacted Giroux.
This would have been Giroux’s first Olympic Games. His most notable international competition to date was competing for Canada in last spring’s IIHF World Championships in Sweden and Finland.
Despite a very slow start to this NHL season – which mimicked the entire Flyers roster - Giroux really turned his game around and goes into Tuesday’s meeting with the Devils as the Flyers' leading scorer with 38 points.
He missed nearly all of preseason recovering from a freak golf injury that sliced tendons in his right index finger and hand.
“He turned this team around,” said Scott Hartnell “He had a tough start with his hand and training camp and all that stuff. When he felt comfortable to play at the top of his game, look where our team went. We’re in a playoff spot now. He’s at the top of our team in scoring, the penalty kill, the last minutes of our game. He brings a lot to our team."
Asked if the hand injury and subsequent slow start was a factor in his start, Giroux replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
However, Yzerman was more blunt on a conference call.
“[The injury] didn’t really come into it,” Yzerman said. “Ultimately, in players of that stature and ability it came down to fit. We kept saying, ‘I’m trying to cram 17 bodies into 14 spots and I couldn’t do that.' In the last month, he’s playing the way Claude Giroux plays. At the end of the day, the start didn’t have a big effect.”
The hand injury also forced Giroux to skip Canada’s team orientation camp.
Kimmo Timonen, who will represent Finland as a five-time Olympian, said he was both disappointed and surprised for his teammate.
“The last six, seven weeks he has been the old Claude we all know,” Timonen said. “The way he was playing, I was 100 percent sure he’d be named to the team. It’s all about who is playing good at that moment and he is playing good now. I’m really surprised.”
Without a proper training camp, Giroux didn’t score his first goal this season until Nov. 9 against Edmonton.
He is currently second on the Flyers with 12 goals, seven of which have come in his last 11 games, over which he has produced 17 points.
Yzerman left open the possibility that Giroux could make the team as an injury replacement.
“Claude Giroux is a great player, and in the event of injury, these guys will all be under consideration,” Yzerman said. “I cannot criticize any player that we did not put on this team.”
Giroux seemed agreeable to that scenario, if it occurred.
“Oh yeah, anything can happen,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. There is a reason behind it. I’m disappointed but not upset or mad. It’s tough, tough today, but we have a game today to put it behind me and move forward.”
Giroux admitted it never occurred to him not representing Canada.
“I didn’t think about,” he said. “In my mind I wanted to make the team. Like I said, it is disappointing but I’m 26 years old and I have a lot of years left.”
Five Flyers will travel to Sochi: Kimmo Timonen, named Tuesday to Finland; Andrej Meszaros, named Tuesday to Slovakia for his third Olympics; Jakub Voracek, named previously to the Czech Republic; Mark Streit, named previously to Switzerland; and Michael Raffl, named previously to Austria.