The “what ifs” could be overwhelming for Alexandre Giroux.
What if he could skate a bit faster?
What if he'd been more free about the way he played when he was younger?
What if he'd gotten more than a cup-of-coffee chance in the NHL?
But the Oklahoma City Barons winger is realistic.
At age 29, he's not old by many standards. But his days of being an NHL prospect are done.
Giroux, who will play in his fourth American Hockey League All-Star Game tonight in Hershey, Pa., isn't resentful.
“There's no bitterness,” Giroux said. “I wish maybe I did things differently back in the day or teams gave me a different kind of a shot or a different look.
“But I can't do anything about it now. I still believe this year that I can go to the NHL.”
Saturday night at the Cox Center, Giroux showed why he's been the top offensive player in the AHL. He recorded his second hat trick of the season and assisted on the Barons' two other goals in a 5-2 win over Chicago.
After a slow start to this season, Giroux has proved to be worthy of his selection as the Western Conference's captain for tonight's game.
He's second in the league in goals (25) and points (58), two shy of leader Corey Locke of Binghamton. Giroux is fourth in the league in assists (33).
Giroux's skill brings out the best in his Barons linemates. Center Brad Moran is tied for fourth in points, and Colin McDonald is third in scoring, nearly doubling his previous goal production in any season.
“I know he's a goal scorer, and I just try to create as much room as possible,” McDonald said of Giroux, a 1999 draft pick of the Ottawa Senators. “Because he scores so much, other teams are focused on him and that's allowed me to get more free space.”
The knock on Giroux's game has been his speed. He's been labeled a step too slow to play on a top line in the NHL. Although he's played in 31 NHL games over four seasons, Giroux has never had a sustained chance to prove himself at that level.
In 2008-09, he played 12 games for the Washington Capitals, the most he's played in any of his stints.
Most of his time, though, has been spent in the AHL, where he's collected 630 points and 333 goals, good for 10th in league history. The Quebec City, Quebec, native has 135 goals over the last 2½ seasons.
Barons defenseman Bryan Helmer knows what it takes to make it to the NHL. He has 146 games at the pro hockey's elite level.
Helmer has been a teammate of Giroux's in Hershey and now with the Barons.
“He's got to be a guy that plays on the first or second line,” Helmer said. “He can't be on the third or fourth. He's a pure goal scorer, and when you get him the puck, he pretty much gets it in the net.
“I think if he ever got a chance to show, more than a few games, I think he should stay up there. You look at what he's done here, and what more can he do?”
In the offseason, Giroux turned down more money to play in Europe and a return to the Capitals organization. He signed a one-way contract with the Edmonton Oilers that offered more of a chance to get to the NHL.
But the Oilers kept rookies such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi over Giroux at the end of training camp.
When the Oilers needed a winger earlier this season, they called up another rookie, Linus Omark, from Oklahoma City.
Giroux looks at Omark and wonders, “What if?”
“He's himself,” Giroux said. “He always plays the same way no matter where he is. I wish I would've used my hands and my skills when I was younger and not played just to not make any mistakes.
“When you go to training camp, you try to impress instead of just being yourself. The last couple of years, I've learned that. If I would've done this training camp five years ago, maybe it would've changed how my career has gone.”
Giroux is, at least outwardly, enjoying his time in Oklahoma City while still holding out hope for another shot in the NHL.
“You don't play in this league just to play in this league,” he said of the AHL. “I'm here now, and my goal is to move up. As long as I'm here, that's the goal. I'm not going to give up on that.”
American Hockey League All-Star Game *When: 6 Monday night *Where: Giant Center, Hershey, Pa. *Television: Fox Sports Southwest *Skills competition: The Barons' All-Stars, Alexandre Giroux and Colin McDonald, competed in the skills competition Sunday for the Western Conference. Giroux competed in the rapid fire, pass and score and breakaway relay events. McDonald competed in the hardest shot and breakaway relays. The Eastern Conference won the event, 19-7. *Scouting report: Giroux will serve as the captain for the Western Conference. ... Giroux is playing in his fourth AHL All-Star Game. ... McDonald is in his first.