NEW YORK -- In the ongoing education of Claude Giroux, it’s hard to imagine a season that provided greater ebbs and flows than the 2013-14 campaign.
Giroux began the season by going without a goal for the first 15 games of the season. His Philadelphia Flyers floundered, costing head coach Peter Laviolette his job.
The slow start also likely cost Giroux a spot on the Canadian Olympic team.
Yet by the end of the season, Giroux finished third in scoring with 86 points and earned his first Hart Trophy nomination, while his Flyers surged into the postseason in spite of their slow start.
“It was a really tough start,” Giroux told ESPN.com on Monday. "I think we lost too many games at the start and our confidence went down and we didn’t really believe in each other anymore. Then we started winning one, two games, then our confidence started going, [we] played as a team and people started playing better individually, so the team was better and then, when we saw that we could win a lot of games in a row, we started believing we were actually pretty good."
No question that part of Giroux’s early struggles were tied to trying to do too much to lift the Flyers out of their slump.
“It was the worst," he said. "When something’s not going, you put a little bit more pressure on you and I’d come to the rink and coaches would be like, 'Stop trying so hard.' I’m like, 'What do you mean stop trying so hard?'"
But the coaches were simply trying to encourage Giroux to relax.
“Just trying to tell me, 'Relax, play the game.' When you’re having fun that’s when you settle down and kind of believe in what you can do,” he said.
While the sting of not making the Olympic team isn’t likely to ever completely go away, being nominated for the Hart was an important counterbalance.
“Obviously you want to play for your country in the Olympics. It’s probably anybody’s dream and not a lot of people get a chance to do that. At the same time, getting nominated for the Hart I think it’s personally I’m kind of proud of that. It’s good for my confidence a little bit and you can enjoy it a little bit too,” Giroux said.
“It was a roller coaster of a season. But yeah, I was a little surprised, but at the same time it’s a great honor.”
As for the playoff loss to the Rangers -- a seesaw affair that saw the Flyers fall behind 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before falling in Game 7, Giroux said they have no one to blame for the loss but themselves.
“To know that the Rangers went to the Stanley Cup finals after we lost 2-1 Game 7, it’s tough to swallow," Giroux said. "But at the same time, we’re going to learn from this. We put ourselves in that situation. I think we could have played better in the whole series. But like I said, we learn from it, now we’ve got to take this as an experience.
“We have a team that cares. That has a good attitude and works hard and that’s what we want to be. We’re still a pretty young team.”
— ESPN NHL coverage (@ESPN_NHL) September 8, 2014