March 16 2015 11:00AM
Last year Flames captain Mark Giordano entered the conversation as one of the league's premier defenders. Missing 18 games due to injury and being relatively new to the "best defenseman in the game" conversation limited his chances of serious Norris consideration, however.
This year Giordano picked up where he left off, rapidly proving to be the Flames best player while leading the league's defenders in scoring. He was perhaps the leading candidate to take home the Norris trophy until a torn bicep ended his season at 62 games.
The injury has seemingly taken Giordano out of the conversation, but it shouldn't - he's been one the league's best blueliners for 2 years running.
Giordano has played 125 games since the start of 2013. Over those games, he's scored 25 goals and 95 points (or a 0.76 point-per-game pace) which projects to 62 points over a full season. Of his peers, only Erik Karlsson has scored at a better pace over the same time frame.
Of course, offense isn't the only element in judging the league's best defenders. Giordano has also played some of the toughest minutes in the NHL since 2013 and had perhaps the best relative influence on possession amongst Norris candidates. Via War on ice.com:
The table shows results from 2013-2015. The further left a player, the more often he starts in the defensive zone vs the offensive zone. The further up the chart, the tougher his level competition. The darker blue the players' bubble, the better relative corsi (possession) rate.
As you can see, no Norris candidate in the NHL has started more often in the defensive end than Giordano over the last two seasons. In addition, he's consistently driven play despite his tough minutes, in fact boasting the best relative possession rate of any of the guys in question. On top of all of that, Only Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber have faced tougher opposition (once out of the two seasons in question each).
These are unquestioningly elite results and they've persisted over the last one hundred and twenty games. If a bulk of them had happened consecutively over a singular 82-game schedule, instead of interrupted by a summer and some trips to the infirmary, there's no question Giordano would be on the top of a lot of ballots.