When Mark Giordano decided to play with Moscow Dynamo of the then Russian Superleague for the 2007-08 season, many viewed it as a colossal gaffe from Calgary Flames management. After spending most of the prior season with the big club, Giordano and the Flames were unable to come to a contract agreement, prompting the young defenceman to try his hand overseas. The overall result was a positive one for both sides, and Giordano still believes the right decision was made…by both parties.
"I had played most of the season up, I was a healthy scratch a bunch of games, but I felt at the time that I can play," Giordano told me last month. "I wasn’t sure I was a full time, career NHLer and I sat down with my family, with my agent, and I had a good opportunity to go play in Russia and take care of myself financially as well, because I didn’t know if I was going to be an on the bubble guy for the rest of my career."
The snag in contract negotations came down to a one way contract versus a two way contract; at the time, GM Darryl Sutter wasn’t prepared to give Giordano a one way deal, with less than one full season under his NHL belt. Both sides have valid arguments.
On the one hand, Mark had played 55 NHL games prior to his contract coming up, so a case could be made he hadn’t done enough to earn his one way deal. On the flip side, there were select observers who saw big things from the then 23 year old. I have been too critical of Darryl on this particular topic, as I do understand the logic that says you have to earn a one way deal. Giordano understands the logic too.
"It was pretty simple," Giordano said. "Darryl basically talked through my agent to me and said ‘we have seven veteran guys on the blueline and we think Gio can play but we’re not willing to give him a one way contract.’ And he had every right to do so, he was probably right when you look back on it."
"From my end of things, I was looking at it from the other end of the spectrum," Giordano reflected. "I wasn’t an everyday NHLer, I thought I could be, I thought there was the opportunity there to become one, but I didn’t know for sure and I had a great opportunity to take care of myself…I know for a fact that I didn’t want to let that opportunity slide and then be and up and down guy for the rest of my career and regret it."
When talking to Mark about the experience, the jist of it is pretty clear: there is and never was hard feelings.
"There was no ill will, obviously everyone’s reaction is going to be, you know ‘Gio left and him and Darryl had this big dispute’ but it was pretty simple."
And that lack of ill will made it a whole lot easier for Giordano to return to the Calgary Flames the following season, where his ascension really began.
"I still always wanted to play in the NHL in the back of my mind and come back," Giordano told me. "I made the decision and stuck by it, I didn’t go back on anything and played the full year in Russia and then got sort of a break, I don’t know if it’s a break or what you would call it, but it was lucky."
Or was it? Hockey people, including those in the Flames organization, didn’t want to loss Giordano to Russia, and they had high hopes for him. When Mark’s season was done in Moscow, a good one at that, Calgary seemed pretty eager to get him locked up a little more longterm.
"I got a three year, one way after I had a pretty good year over there," Giordano said. "It worked out but it could have gone a lot of different ways, but I think the main thing is when you make a decision like that you just gotta stick by your beliefs."
It was a risk that paid off for both sides. The Flames got three productive years out of Giordano on his last contract, a contract that turned into one hell of a bargain in the final two years. Giordano now has a big contract, a deal he earned by his solid play, as he signed a five year pact worth $4.025 million per season. With that contract kicking in for the coming season, things are still pointed up for him.
"There’s a lot of players who have one good season and that’s it," said Giordano as he looked ahead to the coming year. "I don’t want to be one of those guys, I don’t want to be a player who just is around for a short while, now I have the confidence and I believe in myself and I think that I can play at a high leve in this league."
That he can, and that’s why he’s one of the most intriguing storylines of the coming year. In part three of our series, we’ll look ahead to his expectations for the coming year and how he’ll tackle his new rule: being a bonafide, top two defenceman for the first time in his NHL career.