Degrees of Separation
Alexandre Giroux is one of a handful of players fighting for one of the final roster spots as the Capitals prepare to open their 2006-07 regular season. The former junior teammate of Michael Ryder, Jiri Fischer, Ales Hemsky and Radim Vrbata, Giroux played under former Caps coach Bruce Cassidy in 2001-02, his first year as a pro. Last season, Giroux played under another former Caps bench boss, Jim Schoenfeld.
“Schoney was really great,” says Giroux, smiling at the mention of the big redhead’s name. “He said he had a chance to go back to the NHL as an assistant coach and a coach but he didn’t want to do it, he wanted to stay in the minors in Hartford and I think that was a great choice for players like me. At practice I got a lot stronger in skating and other abilities. He knows the game so well. He played, he was a coach and a general manager. When a guy like him has so much experience and he can share it with the guys, it really helps a lot.”
Giroux has also played alongside former Caps Kip Miller, Joel Kwiatkowski, Jason Doig, John Gruden, James Black, Josef Boumedienne and Ivan Ciernik during his pro career. He has worn the same minor league sweater as current Caps Brooks Laich and Brian Pothier and current Caps farmhands Lawrence Nycholat and Chad Wiseman.
When the Caps take on Philadelphia in a preseason contest at Verizon Center on Friday, Giroux will be skating on the right side of the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Dainius Zubrus. Those are a couple of guys Giroux would really like to be able to call teammates, and Glen Hanlon is the coach he really wants to play for.
“It was nice to be a free agent,” says Giroux, who signed with the Caps as an unrestricted free agent in July. “It was my first time I ever experienced that. A lot of teams called, it was quite a surprise. When Washington called, it was one of my top choices. I heard a lot of good things about the coaches. You want to go to an organization where they have good coaching and a good organization. Here, they had a lot of young guys who came from the American League last year. I played against a lot of those guys like [Brian] Sutherby and now they’re here. It was a good choice to come here.”
Giroux’s versatility is a plus as he tries to crack the roster. The Capitals are deepest on the wing, and Giroux’s best position is probably left wing, where the Caps are flush with the likes of Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Matt Pettinger, Tomas Fleischmann and others in Washington and throughout the organization. But Giroux can also play center and, as he will on Friday, the right side.
“I played center in junior,” he says. “I played left wing the last two years and since I’ve been in the American Hockey League I have been left wing and a couple times center when somebody was hurt. Last year, a couple times I played right wing. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Giroux might be able to shift the odds and the numbers a bit in his favor with a strong showing against the Flyers on Friday. But even if he does not find his name among Washington’s season opening 23-man roster, he is a good bet to be pulling on a blue, black and bronze sweater at some point this season.