Claude Giroux. Esquire.

No points in his first five, and only three through his opening nine. After 15 games, his goal count stood at a resounding ZIP. And his Flyers were just awful, an embarrassment to the Pennsylvania most of us foolishly thought was defined by those playful Penguins.

But Claude Giroux is a star, and we probably forgot this. We even considered Martin St. Louis to be the most talented snub from Team Canada, and we treated the former Lightning legend’s eventual selection to Yzerman’s squad like it was some kind of destiny saluted, some sort of earned cleansing… like, yes, the little guy got his due, and he’s the one who deserved it. He’s the ONE who deserved it. And St. Louis treated it the same way.

But Claude Giroux sat by, piling on points while Philly climbed the Eastern ladder, taking out his anger on every goalie from Hawaii to England.

(Get it? That’s all of them. All except for his own, Steve Mason, although we’re sure practice is hell for that baby-faced southpaw.)

Now, after 79 games, Claude Giroux sits fourth in the league with 81 points, behind Tyler Seguin and Ryan Getzlaf and – of course – Sidney Crosby.

He’s really third, I guess. Nobody’s gonna keep up with a healthy Crosby, not in points. Although Giroux will certainly have something to tell Señor Dirt Stache come playoff time, if the Flyers and the Penguins divide the Quaker aisle again.

Giroux could finish fifth, behind Perry, or even towards the bottom of the top 10, and I’d consider him a runner-up for the Hart. You should, too. It’s not all about the points and it never really should be.

His 2014 has been too astounding, too impressive, and too against the grain to avoid. He shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. It’s remarkable, really.

He’s been the best player in the world, post-Christmas – again, excluding Sid – and he’s done it largely on his own. His wingers are guys like Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, and Brayden Schenn. All fine players, of course, but nothing like the Jamie Benns or the Corey Perrys or the Evgeni Malkins – the guys the others on the Vegas stage have to help.

Giroux has less of a cast in Philly than the Sedins or Kesler do in Vancouver, because at least they have each other.

Watch him. Just take a Saturday off and watch Claude at work. He’s a bee buzzing from the gun to the line, moving in and out of corners and tight spots like Ali bobbing under Floyd Patterson’s slow-motion fists. Slow-motion by comparison, of course.

I have always been a Flyers fan. I have to confess this, or else you’ll just assume, and then I’ll be embarrassed I didn’t say it first, as if I should have disclosed such information and insight into any possible bias. You’re not allowed to be biased as a reporter or a columnist or a blogger anymore, even though there’s no other way to be effective at any of them. You’re not supposed to be human.

But I’m pulling for them. All the way. I hope the Stanley Cup gets some sort of tangerine-y sepia toned coating, and I hope Claude Giroux gets to flash a toothless grin, just like the one Bobby Clarke’s now famous for.

Wouldn’t that be perfect?

Isn’t it already?