1. Heaping praise on Giordano
I mentioned this on Puck Daddy yesterday but wanted to get a little more in-depth here: What TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano continue to do on the Flames blue line is nothing short of mind-bending.
Giordano was named the league’s Player of the Month for November, and rightfully so. The latest GVT stats (which can be extremely hit-or-miss in terms of assessing value) currently rate him as being the No. 2 player in the league behind only Sidney Crosby, which is a crazy stat that I cannot actually believe.
That is to say that, to this point in the season, no player has both contributed more goals to his team’s cause and also saved as many for his opponents’ than Giordano. It’s really remarkable how good he’s become basically out of nowhere in the last two seasons; he was kind of not even really all that much of a No. 1 guy in the lockout-shortened year (47.5 CF% in 2013, and 47.8 CF in 2011-12), but in the 100-plus games since then, he’s ground top opponents from every team into the league into a pulp.
Obviously he got a lot of Norris talk last season and probably would have done a lot better in the voting, if not won the damn thing outright and walking away, if he’d not been hurt. But he was so that’s a moot point. This year, if he stays healthy, he once again looks like he should be in that conversation. Right now I’d have to say he’s at the top of the ballot.
If you want to say the Flames have been successful this season, he’s basically one of three or four reasons why.
2. …And Brodie
But I wonder how much of that success Giordano has had in the last two seasons is a direct result of him being paired with Brodie. Which he wasn’t until last season.
Even after the lockout, his primary pairing partners were Jay Bouwmeester and Dennis Wideman (both for 300-plus minutes) and he didn’t succeed with either of them. For the entirety of his pre-Brodie career, his numbers are still very good (53.5 CF%), but it was in relatively limited minutes and against relatively soft competition. He got promoted to heavier duty with Bouwmeester and Wideman and basically drowned. Which you could have expected, to some extent, but certainly his wasn’t a career that screamed, “Future best defenseman in the NHL.”
In comes TJ Brodie getting significant top-pairing minutes with Giordano, and when they were on the ice together, their CF% broke 56. That’s a ludicrous number for anyone, especially a guy who hadn’t had much career success in driving the puck against toughs. That stretch of success has obviously continued to this day.
But how about this for a stat: In the past two seasons, Giordano and Brodie have combined for a 53.6 CF% when on the ice together. When apart, Giordano is just 47.2 percent. Brodie is 48.5 percent. It’s tough to say for sure, but I’d guess part of that is Brodie gets the slightly easier assignments of the two, but there’s no question that their styles complement each other perfectly.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in the aforementioned GVT stat, which again measures goals produced and saved simultaneously, Brodie is currently No. 5 in the league behind Jake Voracek (who’s having some kind of season let me tell you) and Tyler Seguin (basically a freak of nature talent).
Apart from “they have been extremely lucky,” these two guys are the only reason Calgary is any good at all. They both deserve Norris consideration. I’d vote them Nos. 1 and 2 right now, with little to no preference between the two of them, in fact. I’m not sure that there’s even a close No. 3.
3. Judge Jooris: Executioner
I want to also talk really quickly about Josh Jooris, who continues to be very effective at putting the puck in the net. Tuesday night, he had a hat trick against Phoenix, running his goal total to eight for the season in just 19 games. Pretty impressive stuff from the rookie (who’s 24 already).
He was a free agent signing by the team out of a very good Union College NCAA program, for which he scored 12 goals in his final season before making the jump to the pros. Likewise, he had 11 goals for Abbotsford last season, in 73 games.
So the question is, “Why is this guy closing in on the highest goal total since playing in a Junior A league about a third of the way through his first NHL season?” He was only 51st in AHL rookie scoring last season, which doesn’t exactly suggest a guy who’s on a 20-goal pace. He also didn’t shoot a lot at the AHL level (138 in 73 games is less than two shots a game).
That latter trend continues this year. In 19 games, he has just 29 shots (which is understandably fewer than his AHL shot production). And yet he has eight goals. That’s because he currently leads the league in shooting percentage, at 27.6 percent. Now, he did this kind of thing in his final year of college as well, scoring 12 times in 39 games on just 89 shots (that, too, is a pretty pathetic rate in the NCAA: 2.28 per). But it’s 13.5 percent.
You can attribute this to “He works hard,” and “He gets to the net,” and you’re right that these are both related and something that will lead to a lot of goals in theory. In actual practice, Jooris gets buried by soft competition and the team is better without him on the ice than on. One imagines that his scoring touch will magically disappear at some point in the relatively near future, and perhaps not return again any time soon.
4. Don’t laugh at Edmonton
Hilarious, I know, that the Oilers have lost so many games in a row.
But any Flames fan who would ridicule them for it is a pair of pursed lips and a hearse away from whistling past the graveyard. There but for the grace of the hockey gods goes Calgary, because where the Flames have gotten basically every bounce this season (2nd in the league in goals for, 28th in the league in shots for), Edmonton has gotten pretty much none.
They currently rank 27th in goals for despite all that talent up front generating the 19th-most shots per game, and their defense is allowing the third-most goals despite conceding the 17th-fewest shots. Basically, they have been supremely unlucky. Maybe you think they deserve it for all that tanking, but the numbers suggest that just as the Flames should be in the league’s basement, instead of near its penthouse, the Oilers should be somewhere around the middle of the building instead of the furnace room.
Things go sideways all the time for teams in this regard; the Devils of the past few seasons were extremely unlucky in a number of ways and missed the playoffs despite being one of the best possession teams in the league. Likewise teams will, about once a year, get every bounce for a large portion of the season (Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Toronto, Colorado again, Calgary) when they shouldn’t.
Things will almost certainly turn around for Edmonton if they stick with the process they’ve had for most of this season. Things will likewise almost certainly go south for Calgary by the same token. So in three months, or next season, when Calgary is back to being a losing team and drops eight of 10, or 12 of 15, or whatever, please understand that it’s just another example of what’s going around coming around.
5. A Providence update
You might recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned that Jon Gillies had come out of the gates a little slow this season.
Gillies allowed a total of 16 goals in just five games in October, as both he and his Friars were pretty much awful for the entirety of the month. That they earned just three points of 10 from those games, then, stands to reason. Gillies was an .888 goaltender.
But since then, he’s basically been the definition of a “lights-out goalie.” In November, Providence won six of its eight games, with Gillies starting all but one. In those seven appearances, he allowed just six goals, and has shutouts in three of his last four games. The only teams to which he lost are Merrimack (10-4-1) and Vermont (11-3-1) so he’s not exactly coughing up goals to the cupcakes, y’know? And in those two losses, the problem was more with the offense, because Gillies conceded a total of three goals on 65 shots. In those two games, his team scored a total of one goal.
For the entire month, Gillies went .973. You take that for sure. And to start his December off right, he stopped 26 of 27 against Northeastern (which to be fair is a team that is, frankly, terrible).
The story hasn’t been quite so good, I’m afraid, for Mark Jankowski, who isn’t building on the success he had toward the end of last year at all. You’ll recall that he was very hot down the stretch, putting up 17 points in his final 25 games, after an 8-in-14 start, and peppering goalies with 64 shots (2.56 per). I was expecting a strong season this time out.
But so far this year, he’s back to being that first-half-of-the-year player. He has eight points in 10 games, but only one goal. More worrisome, he has just nine shots in those appearances, indicating that he’s probably been a little lucky to even score once. As you can probably infer, the entire Providence attack is struggling, with just 29 goals in the first 14 games, but he’s the No. 1 center, and he’s playing with two very good NCAA players in Trevor Mingoia and Ross Mauermann. They’ve combined for 11 goals, but four of them came in last night’s game against Northeastern (so too did two of Jankowski’s assists).
He just hasn’t been good enough, and with this being his third year, his youth or inexperience is no longer an excuse. This should be a major point of concern for the organization.