There’s good reason Mark Giordano’s name has been in the Norris conversation the past few seasons. Not so much in 2015-16 – a slow start effectively removed him from the discussion this past season – but it’s hard to deny he’s still one of the top defencemen in the NHL.
The only real downside to Giordano is that he’s older than the rest of the Flames’ core. He’s the only player of note over 30 years old, and with his cap hit going up to $6.75 million for the next six seasons, the hope is that he can continue defying the natural decline that often comes with age.
This past season did provide some fuel for that hope, though.
Giordano was one of just three Flames to play all 82 games of the season. Over that time, he set new career highs with 21 goals (first time he broke the 20-goal mark) and 56 points (first time he broke the 50-point mark). He was third in overall Flames scoring, behind just Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan; and he was sixth in defencemen scoring throughout the NHL (behind Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Kris Letang, Roman Josi, and John Klingberg).
Giordano can certainly put up points – and his 212 shots throughout the season, second only to Gaudreau, points in favour of that. While he had a shooting percentage of 9.9 – above his career average of 7.6 – this past season was also the first time he eclipsed the 200-shot mark, so if he simply stays at the level he’s at right now, it’s still reasonable to expect him to remain an offensive force.
He’s strong defensively as well. Giordano averaged 24:47 a game, second on the Flames. The 30.5 shifts a game he averaged were also second on his team. The Flames’ Captain is a guy who played in all situations: 261:44 on the power play (third, behind Gaudreau and Monahan) with 19 points (third); 197:20 on the penalty kill (first) with a shorthanded goal and two shorthanded assists (third on the Flames in shorthanded points).
Via OwnThePuck, we can see that over the past three seasons, Giordano has been as elite as a defenceman can be. He excels at every single aspect of the game: he’s one of the best in terms of both generating offence and preventing shot attempts against his own net, all the while playing big, big minutes.
The start to the 2015-16 season was a cause for some worry. Coming off of a torn bicep injury and playing with a partner new to the team in Dougie Hamilton, Giordano didn’t look at all like the defenceman who maybe should have won a Norris or two by now. As the season went on, though, he rounded back into form, giving no reason at all to doubt him and his abilities.
At this rate, he might just get back into that Norris conversation next season.
Impact on team
Top left has players in most difficult circumstances: more defensive zone starts and tougher competition. Bottom right has players in easiest circumstances: a lot of offensive zone starts and weak competition. The bigger a player’s circle, the more he plays. The bluer, the greater his possession relative to his teammates; the redder, the worse. Click on image for full-sized chart from Corsica.
Nobody on the Flames played tougher minutes than Giordano throughout the 2015-16 season. His partner, T.J. Brodie, came close; but ultimately, it was Giordano who excelled.
He was one of just four Flames regulars to be a positive possession player at 5v5 with a CF of 50.24%, behind just Jakub Nakladal (who was much more sheltered), Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik. His 5v5 CF60 was 55.81, fifth out of all Flames regulars (behind Frolik, Backlund, Dougie Hamilton, and Nakladal); his 5v5 CA60 was 55.28, fifth out of all Flames regulars (behind Nakladal, Jyrki Jokipakka, Backlund, and the departed Jiri Hudler).
Giordano can be used in virtually any situation for the Flames, and he’ll come out on top.
Among the top 10 players Giordano played with, there wasn’t a single Flame who didn’t benefit from his presence. Combining Giordano with any of Backlund, Frolik, or Gaudreau in particular yielded impressive results that saw the Flames at some of their very best, as both players excelled together.
Matt Stajan once again finds himself at the bottom of the barrel as someone Giordano was significantly better when separated from. Giordano also appears to have been better away from Joe Colborne, and marginally so apart from Brodie – but by that point we’re talking about 49.94% 5v5 CF with and 50.69% without, so that’s really splitting hairs territory.
Fact is, the Flames are simply that much better when Giordano is on the ice.
What comes next?
Giordano will be 33 years old to start next season. He’s not so old that we have to worry about his legs falling out from under him and becoming a burden to the team; really, he should still be one of the very best Flames through the 2016-17 season. Another 50-point season should be expected – maybe even 60 points this time, since he won’t be coming back from injury – as he should continue to lead the Flames in all facets: scoring, all situations, and defending in the most difficult circumstances there are.
This is an elite late bloomer we’re talking about. Hopefully Giordano’s later rise means the probable inevitable fall will come that much later, but as far as next season goes, Giordano is still going to be a top player on this team – and potentially throughout the entire NHL, as well.