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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
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.