FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Mark Giordano

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.

Season summary

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).

MarkGiordanoHERO

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.

MarkGiordanoUsage

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. 

MarkGiordanoWOWY

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.

  • freethe flames

    Reading this and the comments about Nakdaddy I really hope we resign him and give him a chance to play with Gio I think they would really compliment each other.

    • beloch

      I don’t know if Nakladal is a first pairing guy, but he was hitting it out of the park on the third pair and should definitely be tried on the second pair. Signing Nakladal without finding a way to unload Smid, Wideman, or Engelland could produce problems, but they’re mostly the good kind of problems to have. Finding a way to keep Nakladal is on my short-list of keys to the off-season for Treliving.

      • freethe flames

        My point is that I think Nakdaddy is a better option playing with gio than Eng’s. If the this worked out in preseason I could see this pairing given more of the tough defensive minutes with TJ/Dougie getting the better offensive starts. I also wonder if Gio could be an effective mentor to young Andersson who they are very high on.

  • MattyFranchise

    So… uhhh… ownthepuck says that Gio is better than Doughty, Subban, Karlsson and Keith. Doughty is better than Suban, Karlsson, and Keith.

    Where the heck is Gio’s friggin Norris already?

  • freethe flames

    As the draft lottery approaches there have been articles on the Calgary Flames official website discussing the top prospects based on where the Flames end up. I have found it to be interesting. Based on all I have read there and other places and the little bit I have seen the top 3 remain the same but after that it gets a little murky; I would not be surprised to see Nylander drop the furthest of the top 5 forwards. If we drafted 8th I think I would be okay with drafting one of the top 3 defenders.

  • cjc

    Defensemen aren’t consigned to the dustbin once they turn 33. Brian Rafalski put up 50+ points in his 33, 34 and 35 year old seasons, and would have done so in his 37 year old season were it not for an injury. Yes he was playing on the powerhouse Red Wings, but that doesn’t mean that Gio doesn’t have skilled players to help up his totals.

    Rafalski strikes me as a good comparison to Gio, insofar as they were both late bloomers.

    While the last years of Gio’s deal will likely provide less than full value, I am very optimistic he’ll continue to produce at a high level for 4 more seasons.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Gio “could” fall away quickly because he is an effort skater, not a gliding wonder ala Brodie.

    Because Gio relies on power and strength to move around the ice this WILL be the first thing to go. Maybe he is that 1%’er who will retain his power and strength into and beyond his mid 30’s, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t.

    Glencross was a better skater than Gio is and it just left him in the space of a season. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to Gio…

    • wot96

      Gio is a fitness freak, like Iginla. Iginla is an effort skater too. It didn’t leave him in his mid-thirties.

      It might happen. It isn’t a certainty – provided he stays healthy.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Last season Giordano came back and had a fine year but history shows that a D man peaks at 29 years of age in the NHL. He will be 33 years old in October and next season is the first year of a 6 year deal @6.75/ season.
    592 games played is not a high number for his age ,but after a season or two I think the value of that contract decreases a lot. Not a lot of D play at the top of their game in their mid thirties.
    Here is an article that shows the peak years of NHL players.
    http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/when-nhl-players-peak-hockey-metrics-1.2646054