Claude Giroux's first year as the Flyers' captain will not be remembered fondly. It's not that the slick-passing, 25-year-old center played poorly - it's that his team, for a variety of reasons, never clicked until they were eliminated from the playoffs and the pressure had been removed. Eight Eastern Conference teams are competing in the theatrical Stanley Cup playoffs, arguably the toughest two-month stretch in any sport. The Flyers are not one of them. "We can't blame anybody but ourselves," Giroux said. The Flyers finished fourth in the five-team Atlantic Division and 10th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons. "It was a tough year for a first-year captain, and I think he did a really good job," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He has terrific leadership qualities. He's driven. He is an excellent teammate. I think sometimes when you're not successful - or not as successful as you'd like to be - you . . . really get to see what kind of a leader he is and what kind of a person he is. And I think he did an excellent job in his first year as the captain." Though he denies it, the captaincy seemed to weigh on Giroux at times, especially early in the season. There were more responsibilities he had to fill with his teammates and added duties with the media. Giroux had just three goals in the first 16 games - Laviolette suggested his ultra-intense captain was trying too hard - as the Flyers got off to a 6-9-1 start. "You can't really put a lot of pressure on yourself," Giroux said when asked what he learned about his first year as captain. "Obviously there's more responsibility - but you've got to go out there and play, just play your game. That's pretty much it."