Is Mark Giordano a Norris Candidate?

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It’s not secret now, but Mark Giordano is having a hell of a season.

There were a few whispers that the Flames captain was in consideration as a 7th defenseman for Team Canada before the Olympic team was finalized. He didn’t make the cut, however since the Olympic break Giordano is actually the hottest scoring defender in the league with two goals and 11 points in 10 games.

That outburst has him at 39 points in 50 games, for a career high point-per-game pace of 0.78. Over a full season, that projects to almost 64 points. 0.78 is also the second best PPG rate of any defender in the league behind Erik Karlsson.

Them be Norris-type numbers.

The Circumstances

Giordano is also second on the Flames in points, despite playing in only 50 games this year. On top of that, he has managed the second most shots on net on the team (147).

It’s not just offensive output that puts Giordano in the Norris conversation though. He ticks all the other boxes as well. Gio is currently top-10 in terms of average ice time per game in the league (25:22, 9th). He and TJ Brodie also face the toughest minutes on the team and perhaps some of the toughest in the league.

Observe:
Calgary Flames 2013-2014 player usage

The above is the player usage chart via Extra Skater. The further up the chart, the harder the competition a player faces. The further left he is and the more frequently he starts in the defensive end. The  colour of the circle indicates the player’s possession rate (%) and the size of the circle indicates his average ice time. 

As you can see, Giordano faces the toughest competition on the Flames, starts the second most often in the defensive end (zonestart = 42.8%) amongst the Flames blueliners (behind Brodie) and still has the best corsi on the team.

Make no mistake, these are extraordinary results.

Gio’s WOWY

The plaudits don’t stop there. Here is a graph of Giordano’s WOWY (with or without analysis), which shows how players fare while skating with and without the Flames captain this season:

GioWowy

The y-axis is each player’s possession ratio. Keep in mind that 50% is the league average and anything above about 52% is usually considered excellent. Anything near 55% is closing in on elite. Players included are the guys who have had at least 100 even strength minutes with Giordano this year.

As you can see, Gio’s effect is unequivocal: every single teammate benefits from his presence. For some, the difference between playing with Giordano and not is immense: Mike Cammalleri’s results jump from below average to elite (46% to 57%), for instance. In fact, Giordano drags nine of the 12 eligible line mates beyond that important 50% line.

Of course to some degree this chart also captures how much things drop off after the Giordano/Brodie pairing on Calgary’s back-end (because if you’re not on the ice with them, that means you’re playing with Wideman or Butler or Smid or O’Brien or…well, you get the picture). Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the team frequently outshoots like a contender when Calgary’s first pairing is on the ice*.

*(TJ Brodie definitely has something to do with this. In terms of driving play, he’s probably the best partner Gio has ever had in the NHL. Yes, that include Jay Bouwmeester)

Conclusion

Regular readers know I am not prone to fanboy-ish evaluations of Calgary Flames players. I’m generally known as a pessimist because of my tendency to praise slowly but criticize quickly. So this is not the analysis of a guy eager to worship at the club’s alter. Giordano has just been that good this year.

In reality, I doubt Gio will garner much Norris attention: the Flames lack of success and his limited number of games owing to injury will no doubt lower his stock. In addition, he doesn’t (yet) boast the cache to be mentioned with guys like Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty.  

That noted, We as Flames fans should at least recognize and celebrate the fact that the formerly undrafted defender-turned captain is doing something incredible this year.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Sincerely doubt he’ll end up a finalist without an absolutely mind-blowing end to the season, but hopefully he at least get enough votes to hover around the top 5 candidates.

  • mk

    If he was in a market like Toronto or New York, and having this type of season, I would say he is garnering alot more attention than he is now. Gio has always been a good player, but the amount he has stepped it up this year is mind bottling.

  • mk

    Crazy. It’s been obvious he’s having a great season – to the eye, he’s been one of the team’s best players. Nice to see that the numbers match the “watch the game” analysis. Go Gio!

  • WaIter White

    Kenny Agostino has been signed by the Flames. Flying out to Buffalo to join to team in tomorrow’s basement battle.

    Source: His cousin’s twitter account

    WW

  • The Last Big Bear

    There is literally nothing Giordano could do to get a Norris this year. Absolutely nothing.

    When PK Subban wins over Weber, Suter, Kieth, etc, its time to just stop pretending that on-ice performance is how the award is decided.

    I guarantee you AT LEAST 50+% of the voters haven’t watched a single Flames game this season other than against their home market team. And probably 25% of them couldn’t name the captain of the Flames without checking.

    The NHL awards are a joke.

    “The James Norris Memorial Trophy will be awarded each year to the NHL defenceman who scores the most points while playing in games involving Original 6 teams.”

  • PrairieStew

    After the previous couple of years where Gio had digressed a bit, many thought partly due to injury, this is really nice to see, too bad it’s in year 1 of our rebuild. I think he’s one of the major reasons we have probably the most 1 goal games in the league & we are in so many games. So where is Wolf when you want him now? What to do? Does the being named Captain where off next year & he falls back to reality next year? Or are we about to see a number of years of Gio’s ceiling as he is just entering his prime? Do we parlay this into max value & get some huge rebuilding pieces, what kind of overpayment can we get for Gio? Do we even go there?

    On another note, there is a lot of chatter about Buffalo willing to part with the #1 overall this year for 2 top NHL ready prospects. Given this is year 1 of rebuild & we have lots of forward good prospects on the cusp, would a Sven + Granlund package for the #1 overall be worth doing to get a big Defensive piece like Ekblad & we would still have our #5 or 6 pick overall as well? Gotta give to get. Not many teams could cough up high level prospects like Sven & Granlund or Reinhart & still have several options coming in. Food for thought.

    • piscera.infada

      Agree with your first paragraph, and while I agree you could probably parlay him into something special, I think regardless of where you are as a franchise a team-stabilizing defencman on the back end is always something you need.

      On your second point, yes I would do that – assuming it’s Sven, Granlund/Reinhart straight up for the pick. Although I would assume the asking price would be higher, with Monahan being the starting point, and they’d probably want our first back – something I would definitely not do. Nothing against those players at all, but if you could get two picks in the top five that would be huge! Granlund definitely makes it less palatable so if you could get them to sniff at Reinhart, I’m all game for that.

      Also, did anyone else hear Elliotte Freidman on the Fan this morning? They’re talking about changing the draft lottery starting the upcoming draft where all picks in the top-3 or top-5 will be “lottery picks”, in an attempt to dissuade tanking.

      • piscera.infada

        I agree, I love Gio & what he does for this organization. I would have such a hard time trading him. But then the business side says sell high, & this could very well be it. Just great debate material.

        I don’t think you could get a better fit for 2 rebuilding clubs than Buffalo & Calgary to pull off a swap of high end prospects. They drafted future stud defensemen last year & we have 3 incredibly good young forwards. Monahan would not even be this equation, personally I think Monahan would be a top 3 pick & would probably go before wither Reinhart or Ekblad now that I have seen him play this year. So not to him being in any deal.

        Theoretically, Buffalo need NHL ready offensive players. Sven & Granlund (I don’t think Reinhart makes the equation fit for them) represent 2 offensive young players that would play for the Sabres next year. We may have to throw in a B prospect to round out the deal. Now what are we losing & can the Flames replace what we are giving away? I think Porrier, Klimchuk & JG can replace every bit of offense we lose in Sven & Granlund. We desperately need a future franchise blueliner in our organization & I don’t think Seiloff or Wetherspoon are it. No guarantee Kanzig will be our Chara either. This is about avoiding how the Oilers overlooked team need when they had their run of 1st overall’s & they drafted Nurse too late as he still needs a few years to season. Getting Ekblad & still having our 5th or 6th overall would be a huge step in speeding up our rebuild. I would only do this deal if we were assured Ekblad.

        • Yes I would also be open to a deal, but just two for one, Sven & Reinhart or similar, not Granlund. Or trade Grnlund for Sven…

          If the thinking is top-level Dmen are worth more than top-level forwards then is it safe to assume Buffalo is going to pick Ekblad first overall this year too unless they trade the pick? I think I’d do that also… harder to find top-level Dmen to me.

          Too bad Edmonton!

        • supra steve

          I can’t say that I honestly KNOW the value (in a trade) of Sven + Granlund, but I would be really surprised if they were enough to even get Buffalo to a negotiating table for their first. This happens pretty much every year, high pick is up for grabs for the right offer (meaning a big overpay offer), then no trade happens. Just my 2cents

        • piscera.infada

          I totally agree with you. Monahan is a non-starter for the Flames, Gio is an interesting debate (although, I don’t think I’d trade him unless the return in absurd), and I think Sven/Granlund’s offence could be recouped. I was just making the point that if that deal is to be done, our first is not in the mix at all.

          @suba steve

          I agree with that as well. They’re always tough deals to make as the optics are just horrible for the team giving up that first overall. If anything though, the amount of picks they have in the first couple rounds this year and next, probably makes it more palatable from a Buffalo perspective.

        • FlamesRule

          I don’t see Buffalo even listening to an offer of just SVEN and Granlund for first overall. Neither guy has played a full season in the NHL. If I was Tim Murray I’d probably tell Burke to take a hike.

          If the deal was SVEN, Granlund, and the Flames 1st, then I think BUFF is at least interested. I think it’s an intriguing proposal, but I think personally I wouldn’t make the deal. Granlund has been very good on the big club and by all reports SVEN seems to be picking his game up with Ward, which is a good sign. I think those 2 ARE going to be top-6 guys in the NHL someday, and the Flames first rounder itself is likely a top-5 pick. With so much (supposed) parity in this years draft between Bennett, Reinhart, Ekblad, Draisaitl, etc, is moving up a few spots worth shipping out 2 quality prospects?

          • piscera.infada

            It’s funny because I have had a lot of negative reaction to giving up on Sven & Granlund for a dman some scouts are saying isn’t that franchise defenseman. I guess when some don’t like the deal & others do, the deal isn’t that far off. Who is going to give up 2 front line developed NHL ready players for an unproven bluechip kid. I would never give those 2 players & our 1st round to move up 5 places. I would then just pick best available player & wish Buffalo well on their rebuild. Buffalo is not going to trade that pick for established NHLers & take themselves out of the MacDavid & Eichel sweepstakes. They want future top almost ready young forwards. Granlund & Sven would easily slot in their lineup next year. Again, not many teams have the type of decent young players we could give up & be able to replace those kids. I do agree we may have to add to those 2 but in the form of a 2nd or 3rd rounder or a B prospect like Hanowski. I think the fit is there for a deal to be done. It’s just fun to speculate. To be able to do this, I tip my hat to Feaster. They made some pretty astute later round picks & moves that have worked out well & put Calgary very nicely on the rebuild track.

          • piscera.infada

            “To be able to do this, I tip my hat to Feaster. They made some pretty astute later round picks & moves that have worked out well & put Calgary very nicely on the rebuild track.”

            Totally. I think that’s the fundamental lesson to be learned here. Yes, top-5 picks are huge (given they turn into “elite” players). However, the true ability to rebuild successfully often comes from having deep enough pockets to trade young players apart from just playoff rental vets – because that’s often where the real value lies. “Hockey trades” are going to give you the best value most often, it’s how you’re going to get the pieces you need.

      • McRib

        “They’re talking about changing the draft lottery starting the upcoming draft where all picks in the top-3 or top-5 will be “lottery picks”, in an attempt to dissuade tanking.”

        Agree, they already have lottery pick odds, but I think the odds of winning should be dispersed much more evenly between the Bottom 5 Teams (every team should get a 20% chance). Because lets face it Buffalo is tanking on purpose this season and they need to do something more dramatic to counter act this method or not have a lottery all together and just go off of finish. If they don’t make this more evenly balanced for next season you got to think 4 or 5 teams will just throw away their seasons in an attempt to get Connor McDavid.

        • EugeneV

          Correct, look at Colorado and TB this year.

          Colorado added Mackinnon, and now are a playoff certainty after being 29th last year.

          TB should technically be as bad or worse considering they added nothing and lost Lecavalier from last years team and finished 28th.

          What a joke.

    • EugeneV

      Definitely trade high on Gio. IF we could make a trade with whoever wins the lottery (unless it’s us?) to draft Ekblad, and also pick up another first and have a shot at Fleury.

      I have to believe that Gio is worth a kings ransom to the Pens, Rangers or Flyers.

  • I would say the Norris trophy these days is handed out more on basis on points and popularity instead of who is the best defenseman. Look at the Olympics, Subban who was last years Norris winner, couldn’t even win a regular spot on the team. If you want a good idea of who the best defenceman are, ask the coaches who try to get their top scorers away from being matched up against them.

  • EugeneV

    Justin, I wasn’t able to reply to your comment in the NHLE thread the other day, but you will probably see it now.

    I am just saying that the multiplier (.41) should be different for a Sophomore than it is for a Senior (jankowski vs Arnold).

    You have Arnold second on your NHLe list ahead of the likes of Monahan, Poirier and Granlund and I don’t believe he will ever score more than them.

    Let’s compare apples with apples though.

    Bill Arnold stats and league

    Year Team League GP G A pts NHLe
    2008-09 Nobles Prep USHS 29 28 27 55
    2009-10 USNTDP Jrs USHL 26 8 15 23 25
    2010-11 BC NCAA 39 10 10 20 17

    Mark Jankowski stats and league

    2011-12 Stanstead CAHS 41 31 26 57
    2012-13 Providence NCAA 34 7 11 18 17
    2013-14 Providence NCAA 36 12 12 24 23

    I could EASILY make the point that the 3 years above match up if you count Jankowski’s first year at NCAA level to be HIS USHL season which he didn’t play but Arnold did. If this is the case then I think you can actually say that Jankowski is AHEAD of Arnold in terms of scoring when you consider that his share of Providence team scoring was much higher than Arnolds at the same points in their development.

    In fact I believe that within the next year Mark will be safely on his way and even the FN team will be on board regarding his potential to be an above average NHL player.

    I’m not cutting Arnold up, just elevating Jankowski in terms of where he is REALLY at.

    He has been going very well lately.

  • PrairieStew

    To add:
    If you subscribe to the notion that an MVP is the one who is most valuable to his team then Gio wins hands down.

    Giordano leads the league in relative Corsi and relative shots for defencemen. By a huge amount in both cases. +9.9 % in shots (only 2 others over 7!), and 9.0 for corsi, with only 3 others over 7 (Brodie second at 7.3) He doesn’t show up in the data unless you correct for players who have played 50% of games. In the next 2 he will cross the 75% threshold.

    If you want production he is tied for 5th in points per 60 minutes among defencemen, on a team with the 26th ranked offense.

  • I believe we have exceptional players on our team and notwithstading that Mark Giordano had not been attributed for Team Canada, he is the gem of the Calgary Flames – and fans are proud to have him as the Captain of the team; for his accomplishments and for his hard work.

    Unlike many others, Mark Giordano is soft spoken and his professional qualities speak for themselves….he doesn’t have to brag about or earn a Norris trophy…..he already has the trophy in our hearts.

  • FlamesRule

    Gio should be who the back end is built around. He’s a “late-bloomer” and as such will be great into his late 30’s. Talk of trading him is foolish – as is talk of him not being deserving of consideration for the Norris and MVP. He’s in the top five of both those lists in my books.

  • FlamesRule

    I hear ya Kent, Gio has been a monster, and I don’t think there is a single team that relies on a guy as much as the Flames rely on Gio. IMO, he’s the most valuable guy TO HIS TEAM, but usually the Hart goes to the “BEST” player, not the most valuable.

    I think he gets some talk for the Norris, but with so many other dudes (Weber, Chara, Suter, Doughty, Keith, Karlsson, Subban, Vlasic, etc) who are so good, I don’t think he gets nominated.