The relationship between Alexandre Giroux and the Edmonton Oilers didn't exactly get off to a good start. During the summer, the Oilers signed Giroux to a $500,000 one-way contract, and apparently promised him a chance to fight for a spot in the NHL. When Giroux didn't make the club, he wasn't happy, and didn't feel like the Oilers had kept their promise. Shortly after being sent away, this is what he had to say to a French newspaper (my translation):
I was duped. In the summer, the Oilers told me that I would fight for one of three forward positions. Little did I know that those spots were promised to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi…. In nine years of pro hockey, I’ve learned never to trust anyone, and yet I’ve managed to find some fresh proof…. Oklahoma City is an expansion team and the organization wanted to make sure that they had a star player. It was deceitful, particularly since I told the Oilers that I needed a new challenge. I’ve already done what I can in the AHL, and I don’t want to waste my time…. If things aren’t going to work out with the Oilers, I’ll look at Europe. I’ll even look at leaving during the middle of the season.
In other words, he was pissed. In the end, Giroux will be leaving his club in the middle of a life and death playoff push - the Barons are currently sixth in the division, two points out of the last playoff spot - but not because he's heading to Europe. Instead, Giroux will be joining the Oilers, and may well end up getting a shot in the top nine. After the jump, we'll take a closer look at what Giroux's done so far this season in Oklahoma.
Over the course of this season, Giroux has played almost exclusively with Brad Moran and Colin McDonald on Oklahoma's top line, which has mostly been used in a power v. power role by coach Todd Nelson. That group has been able to break even at even strength (Giroux's official +/- is -2, but that includes short-handed goals against and empty net goals against), but Giroux's really been a difference-maker on the power play. Of Giroux's sixty-five points (good enough for second in league scoring, and tops on the Barons), thirty-four have come on the power play. I don't know if he'll get an opportunity on the power play with the Oilers, but if he does, I think there's some chance that he could really help.
As for his overall game, I tracked all of Giroux's shifts in a game he played last season with the Washington Capitals, and had this to say about why he wasn't having any luck sticking in the NHL:
Alexandre Giroux is pretty darn slow, and when he's playing with and against players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Samsonov, and Cole, it's really noticeable. He just isn't able to get where he needs to be in time. There were even a couple of times where he was in a position to shoot, but took too long to get it off, and had the puck knocked away. The other thing is that he's weak positionally. He chases the play; he loses position in DZ coverage; he doesn't often pick up a man on the backcheck; his movement in every zone sometimes seems without clear purpose. There's also the little "selfish" plays like going to the bench with the puck moving the wrong way (Ovechkin does that too, but it's a different kettle of fish when you're not one of the best offensive players in the game), and sitting high in the zone hoping for an offensive rush. Now, some of these observations might have to do with the fact that he was playing both right wing and left wing in this game. That's definitely the kind of thing that could cause a player to look more confused than usual. Still, those are significant weaknesses.
Now of course, that was just some observations based on one game, so it's hard to know if that will end up being representative. At the very least, I know what I'll be looking for when I get a chance to see him play. In the big picture of the organization, this move kind of stinks. The improvement to the Oilers (and this is an upgrade on guys like MacIntyre and Jacques) is pretty much inconsequential in the standings, but it hurts the Barons big-time. Obviously, any farm team is going to need to respond to the needs of the big club, but it still stinks to lose one of your best guys in the midst of a playoff push.