How good is Mark Giordano?

Few NHL players have taken a longer and more winding road than Mark Giordano. The Flames captain was undrafted in junior, undrafted in the NHL and played a year in Russia as a 25-year-old. That’s the resume of untold numbers of failed pro hockey players – guys who dominated their house and high school leagues but could never quite make it over the hump. Indeed when Gio fled for Europe during his contract dispute, many figured it was the last any of us would see of him on NHL ice.

Not so much. 

The Gio contract kerfuffle was one of the first indications back in the day that Darryl Sutter wasn’t some sort of omniscient hockey savant in the front office. The erstwhile Flames coach had built himself a cult of personality in town after guiding the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final and pulling off a series of lopsided trades (Kiprusoff for a second round pick, Langkow for Saprykin, Huselius for Montador).

In the summer of 2007, Sutter offered Giordano (then a sophomore coming off seven goals and 15 points in a 48-game rookie season) a two-way contract. He also signed veteran defender Anders Eriksson to an already crowded Calgary blueline, clearly indicating that Giordano would be starting his season in the minors. 

GIo balked and signed a one-year deal with Dynamo Moscow instead. The Flames blueline tottered along that year with the likes of Rhett Warrener, David Hale, Jim Vandermeer, Cory Sarich and the aforementioned Eriksson (who was terrible at double the price of Giordano). 

Gio flourished overseas, becoming one of Dynamo’s top defenders. He also represented Canada in a couple of international tournaments., including the Allan Cup and World Championships. To Sutter’s credit, he realized his error and brought Giordano back for the 2008-09 season.  

It would be easy to say “the rest is history”, but in fact Giordano’s climb up the Flames depth chart was relatively gradual and incremental from there. It wasn’t until the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, when the team was pushed face first into their current rebuild, that Gio began to truly establish himself as the club’s top defender. 

The trades of Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and Jay Boumeester over the years cleared a path to the club’s top defense pairing, where Giordano ultimately flourished (with the help of upstart youngster T.J. Brodie). Since 2013, Giordano has been ensconced in the conversation as one of the league’s most dangerous offensive defenders, if not one of best blue liners overall.

At 31 years old this year, Gio scored a career high 21 goals and 56 points this season. He was the Flames’ third leading scorer behind just Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and one of only three Flames to score over 20 goals.  

So just how good is Giordano anyways? Let’s put his performance in context:

Mark Giordano’s Badasssss Stats

– Giordano was sixth amongst NHL defensemen in overall scoring this year. Amongst those top six, he was the least reliant on PP points (just 19 of 56). He is one of only two top-10 defenders with fewer than 20 points with the man advantage. Imagine if the Flames PP hadn’t been terrible most of the year?

– This year, Giordano became only one of 12 defenders to score 20 or more goals in a single season over the last decade.

– Giordano is fourth amongst all defenders in terms of PPG pace over the last three seasons at 0.73. The only guys ahead of him are Erik Karlsson (1.0), Brent Burns (0.82) and Kris Letang (0.81). Keep in mind, Burns has seen some time at forward over that time period. Some guys he is ahead of? PK Subban (0.71), Duncan Keith (0.66), Shea Weber (0.65) and Dustin Byfuglien (0.68), to name a few.

– In fact, Giordano is top 10 in almost any offensive category you care to name over the last three years amongst defenders.

– Giordano scored at such a high pace despite playing some of the toughest minutes in the entire league. Observe: 

GioMins

This chart shows the ration of offensive zone starts (X-axis) and quality of competition (Y-axis) as well as each player’s relative possession (colour of circle). Defenders to the right start more often in the offensive zone and guys near the top play tougher competition. Guys in blue have better possession rates relative to their teammates, while guys in red are worse. 

As you can see, over the last three seasons Giordano has played in arguably the toughest circumstances amongst the various Norris candidates listed here. He also boasts one of the best relative corsi rates. Even Chara and Weber, who are the only guys in Giordano’s ballpark in terms of ice time difficulty, can’t handle these circumstances and still effectively drive play.

– Giordano is now fourth all time amongst Flames defenders in terms of points with 301. Only MacInnis (822), Suter (564) and Reinhart (445) are ahead of him.

**Stats from Hockey Reference and Corsica Hockey

Conclusion

Mark Giordano is not only one of the best players on the Flames currently, he’ll likely go down as one of the best defenders this franchise has ever seen. His level of play, professionalism and inspiring story also make him one of the most deserving players to ever don the Captain’s “C” for this organization. 

How Good is…?

Mark Giordano

Johnny Gaudreau

    • SmellOfVictory

      If I recall correctly, they chose the initial roster largely based on who was on a playoff team. The idea being that candidates on non-playoff teams would be more likely to play the World Championships in order to secure a spot on the final roster.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      No hockey player, especially a pro, goes unnoticed in today’s digital, interconnected world. If Gio isn’t getting the love from those who are picking Canada’s finest, it means they don’t deem him good enough. They’d pick ol’ Satan to play if it meant defeating the Yanks for the gold. As the tournament is being played in TO, they hardly need to choose bigger names than Gio to sell tickets. Ditto for attracting a TV audience. Don’t let your local bias get the better of you. Those in the know might not rate Gio or Brodie as among Canada’s elite, and you have to respect them for that because while it might be your pride at stake,it is their tails that are on the line.

  • freethe flames

    Is he ready to mentor Andersson?

    Gio is great as all the metrics suggest but what happens when he away from TJ? Are they just a great pairing or does one help the other more? I don’t know.

    Personally I think all 3 of our top defenders ended the season on a high note and I’m excited to see them start at that level next year. But what will the pairings look like? Dougie and TJ look like the pairing of the future but TJ and Gio are just so good together. Could one of Nakdaddy(please resign) or JJ play in the top 4 ahead of Eng’s? Eng’s was way better this year but he is not a top 4 defender in this league if you want to be a playoff team. Or is a guy like Andersson earn a shot, RH two way rookie playing with Gio might be an option.

    In my ideal world I would like to see the Flames add a tough as nails big stay at home defender who could play the top 4. Eng’s is not that guy.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    BEAST…

    who will never get the recognition he deserves due to not being one of the ‘big names’. When you are undrafted and a late bloomer, it takes people (especially people in the East) to take notice.

  • brodiegio4life

    yet I bet he still won’t be on team canada, such a joke. Gio and Brodie get nowhere near the respect they deserve outside of Calgary. Both are top 15 dmen in the league.

  • OKG

    He’s good. Such a pity we don’t have an elite #1 center, we have so many good pieces, two #1D (Brodie/Giordano) a great #3D (Hamilton) two solid #2C (Backlund/Monahan), an elite #1W (Gaudreau). Just missing a piece to push us over the edge. Auston Matthews?

    • WildfireOne

      Agreed, but it’s two pieces:
      First, a goaltender who’s at least average (but better is indeed better)
      Second, a #1 center

      I really want to say elite goaltender, but the name “Chris Osgood” keeps popping into my head and then I have to shut my mouth.

      • OKG

        Karri Ramo is at least average. He posts average stats behind a team that’s well, well below average in scoring chance suppression.

        We’re one two-way piece away (#1 Center) and I agree that piece COULD be Sam Bennett or Mark Jankowski but more darts never hurt anyone’s chances so I will gladly accept Auston Matthews 😀

    • freethe flames

      He might be but based on the all the scouting agencies he is much lower the 8th which is lowest we will draft.

      10th Hockey prospects
      18 ISS
      13 Future Considerations
      15 McKeens
      16 NHL CS(NA skaters)

      I’m pretty sure if BT went that far of the board most people here would be howling mad. That does not mean that Jost is a bad choice but I think people would not be happy.

        • Baalzamon

          I was wondering when someone would start freaking out about a U18’s performance. Happens every year.

          Remember when a bunch of people wanted the Flames to draft Denis Guryanov last year? Kid fell flat on his face this year, which was not surprising in the slightest because of his completely underwhelming results over the course of most of the season.

          Jost is good. But the best statistical comparison for him is… Travis Zajac. Similar results, same league. Nothing to sneeze at, sure, but top 10 seems kind of early, no? Kind of hard to justify taking him ahead of Pierre-Luc Dubois or Alex Nylander, wouldn’t you say?

          You may be right about having him ahead of McLeod, but in my opinion that’s because McLeod is overrated, not because Jost is underrated.

          Worth noting also that Zajac led his team in scoring by about 30 points in his draft year (next was… Kris Chucko. Shudder). Jost is second in scoring on the Vees (first in PPG though), who have two 100 point scorers.

          • Burnward

            Haven’t seen a lot of Penticton Vee’s games. This is all I’ve been able to see of Jost and he’s fantastic.

            Guryanov was also a guy I fell in love with at this tournament.

            The way I look at it, in the playoffs is where you find out what a player has. Why dismiss one of their biggest events of the year as an outlier?

          • piscera.infada

            Why dismiss one of their biggest events of the year as an outlier?

            Sample size. When you have a much larger sample showing that the few games are, in fact, an outlier, that’s most likely what they are.

      • supra steve

        I hope, and believe the Flames are beyond caring what “all the scouting agencies” and “most people here” are thinking about who would be an acceptable selection with their first, or any other pick. They didn’t care when they took Jankowski, McDonald, Carroll, Smith, or Gaudreau; and they better not start caring now.

  • freethe flames

    Less than a week till the draft lottery, yahoo!! Then we can start really discussing who the Flames(and others) will likely draft. Then we have to wait and see where the second rounders fall as the playoffs unfold. Go Dallas.

    I really enjoy all the discussion about who we should add especially at the goaltending position. Some names that I had not thought of. While the big names: Anderson and Bishop I think the salary cap and the cost of acquiring them will be to high.

  • Styxx

    Gio’s story has been amazing, as has his play on the ice and his leadership in the dressing room.

    If he can maintain his performance over the next 3-4 years his “value” contract will be paid in full!

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If the Blues lose tomorrow, Hitch should be ditched within 24 hours.

    If that scenario plays out, should the Flames get the itch for Hitch? Should Hartley be heartlessly stitched in favour of Hitch? Or if the Flames get the Hitch itch, should they scratch the itch knowing Hitch isn’t a good match and that Hartley remains the better catch?

    All I know is that if the Blues lose Game 7, I would give my eye teeth to be sitting behind the Blues’ bench so I could pound on the glass behind Hitch to get his attention so I could grab my tie and give him my hanging man impression, which is exactly what Blues’ management should be thinking and doing at the same time.

  • Scarface

    Off topic, but I do firmly believe that FlamesNation has voice and the reach needed to rid this game of the scourge/plague, whatever you want to call it, known as the Edmonton Oilers. Petition their existence, unite with the other Nations. Let’s see that black hole disappear before the April 30 lottery. Let’s get the ball rolling!

    Seriously.