Please don’t get hurt.
Please, please don’t get hurt.
So, here’s the thing with Mark Giordano: turns out, he’s a pretty good defenceman. Scratch that, he’s a pretty good player. In fact, he’s the best player on the Flames, and has been for the past few seasons now. And really, if he hadn’t gotten injured in two separate occasions over the past two seasons, it’s easy to picture him with at least one Norris Trophy – particularly after the 2014-15 season, when he was running away with the award until he was sidelined in late February.
Since returning from Russia and signing a three-year deal with the Flames, Giordano quickly proved himself a key member of the team: something that he got rewarded for with a five-year, $4.02 million AAV deal, in identical format to that of Robyn Regehr’s. He was coming off a 30 point season at the time, and immediately proved himself worth it by setting another career high, then with 43 points, the season he signed his new deal.
But while Giordano has generally been a valuable member of the Flames, it’s only over the past two seasons that contract has gone from being a pretty good one to a flat out discount. One does not expect Norris-caliber defencemen to be making just $4 million, and yet, that’s the price Giordano came at.
He still carries that price tag for 2015-16, but it’s the last year he’ll come that cheap. Of course, he’ll almost certainly prove himself worth it again.
Unfortunately, there is one small caveat to all the deserved hype surrounding Giordano: he’ll be 32 years old to start this upcoming season. He’s a player he bloomed late in his career, but that doesn’t mean it’s any guarantee he’ll continue to play at the level he has further down the line.
For this upcoming season, though? Maybe the third time will be the charm in capturing that Norris.
For one thing, it’s entirely reasonable to expect Giordano to have a healthy season – or at least a season that doesn’t sideline him for 20 or so games, as the past two years have. His 2013-14 season was marred by a broken ankle sustained by blocking a shot, and caused him to miss 18 games: an injury that’s no longer a concern, particularly as it was due in part to it that the Flames must now all wear protective skate-caps.
Giordano’s 2014-15 ended prematurely thanks to a torn biceps tendon on a freak play at the end of a game while killing a penalty. He was defending a one-goal lead with less than a minute to go down a man: a high intensity situation that calls for a certain level of franticness and increased potential for things to go wrong.
The first injury was one that the team took steps towards preventing; the second was a total fluke that just so happened to befall him. There’s no reason to consider him injury prone or expect him to be unable to play a full season.
And based on recent history, the Flames will need him for that full season. For the past three seasons, Giordano has been placed in some of the most difficult game situations the Flames have to offer; for the past two seasons, he’s beyond excelled in his role.
Giordano was slowly gravitating towards difficult circumstances (top left: tough competition, and low offensive zone starts) as his career progressed, but it wasn’t until the lockout season he was truly thrust in that role. It was a role that, initially, seemed to overwhelm him.
It was as if a switch was flipped in 2013-14, one of his best seasons to date. His most common partner of 2013, Jay Bouwmeester, was gone; in his place was T.J. Brodie. Giordano had just been named captain, and the Flames were now officially his team with which to work.
This past season, he had some easier circumstances, but was still counted on to be the Flames’ number one defenceman, and he helped prove his 2013-14 breakout year was not a fluke. So here’s the second expectation for Giordano: continue to perform incredibly well in the face of the most difficult circumstances the Flames have to offer.
We’re already two seasons into proving he can do that, so this season should be no exception.
That just leaves Giordano’s scoring. He had a career year in 2013-14, scoring 47 points over 64 games. That prorates to 60 points over an 82-game season. In 2014-15, he had just enough time before getting injured to top that with a new career season, this time with 48 points over 61 games: a 65 point per game pace.
So one could reasonably expect that, if Giordano stays healthy, he manages to at least crack the 60 point mark.
Is it fair to prorate Giordano’s points totals, though? Would he have been able to keep up his pace from the past two seasons over a full year?
Over the past two seasons, Giordano’s scoring has not remained consistent on a month-to-month basis. And in 2014-15 in particular, aside from a fantastic November, his scoring rates were steadily declining (but still at a high level: all above half a point per game).
In that case, a 60 point season may seem a little much – in 2013-14, only Erik Karlsson and Duncan Keith reached the 60 point mark; in 2014-15, it was just Karlsson, Brent Burns, and P.K. Subban – but a 50 point season, at minimum, seems all but guaranteed. He was in the top five for Flames scoring this past season, and should, in all likelihood, be there once again this season.
In 2015-16, we can reasonably expect Giordano to be the Flames’ leader. He’ll be a leader on the scoreboard; he’ll lead by sheltering younger, less capable players from tough opponents and circumstances; and hopefully, this time, he can lead in games played, as well. The Flames will need him in order to replicate success.