Why Mark Giordano is (still) not going to the World Cup

On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith won’t suit up for Team Canada at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey due to an injury. His replacement? Surprisingly to many, St. Louis Blues (and former Calgary Flames) blueliner Jay Bouwmeester.

Hockey Twitter threw up their hands and shrugged collectively. Many pointed to other left-shot defenders that could have taken the spot instead, notably Flames captain Mark Giordano.

So how come Team Canada tapped Bouwmeester instead of Giordano? The answer may reside in a single word: familiarity.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Giordano is a really good defenseman. Over the past three seasons he has been great for the Flames, putting up 151 points over 207 games – he’s 8th in NHL scoring among defenders over the time period, and everyone above him has played 20+ more games than he has. Bouwmeester is 73rd in defensive scoring over the last three seasons with 69 points.

If you want to talk possession, Giordano’s a 50.59% Corsi For player (on a bad possession team that’s rebuilding) and Bouwmeester is a 51.42% Corsi For player (on a good possession team). I don’t think it’s unfair to think that Giordano’s offensive tendencies make him really attractive to teams during a short, best-on-best tournament – and make up for any minor shortfalls his possession game may have.

But three kinds of familiarity tilt things in Bouwmeester’s favour.

One, Alex Pietrangelo. A right-shooting defender slated for Team Canada, Bouwmeester’s familiarity with his erstwhile defensive partner is massive – which comes in handy because Keith’s injury comes at relatively short notice for Team Canada’s staff, who have probably already worked out lines, pairings and schemes for the event. Bouwmeester has played 1,277 even-strength minutes with him over the past three years, equating to 89% of Bouwmeester’s ice-time. That’s crazy, and it also provides Team Canada management with a good example of what he can bring to the World Cup team.

Second, Mike Babcock. Bouwmeester has twice played under Babcock – at the 2004 World Championship and the 2014 Olympics. Both times he played a lot. Both times he played gold. Babcock has reason to trust him.

Finally, Hockey Canada brass knows Bouwmeester really, really well. He’s suited up for his country 10 times since 2000 – three World Juniors, four World Championships, a World Cup and two Olympics. He’s brought home eight medals in those competitions.

Giordano has never played with Pietrangelo (or with anybody on Team Canada’s blueline). He’s never played for Babcock. He’s got much less experience with Hockey Canada than Bouwmeester, with just a single World Championship (and a Spengler Cup) to his credit. With a decision that had to be made quickly, I can understand Bouwmeester looking good to a bunch of decision-makers that aren’t very familiar with Giordano.

It’s not a very smart decision, mind you, but it makes some sense.

There’s a silver lining, though: at least now Giordano will be rested up for the start of the NHL season on October 12.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Babcock is the number one reason why Gio wasn’t called. As you rightly say familiarity favors JBo. However, I think the top reason for JBo’s selection was Pietrangelo.

    As long as Babcock has a say TJ Brodie also will never play for team Canada. By his own admission, Babcock says he prefers a right shooting defenseman to play on the RD.

    Oh well!

    • T&A4Flames

      Whether this is true or not, I think it would be wise for Hockey Canada to consider taking more guys who can play on both sides. Having a guy like Brodie who regularly plays right D but can also play his natural side on the left, ultimately makes it easier and less problematic in case of injury, does it not?

  • reidja

    Maybe Gio has declined and the NHL doesn’t want to out their players who put higher priority on their club team thank this contrived marketing venture of a tournament.

    If Gio wanted to be on the team, he would be.

  • FireScorpion

    As I always stated. Bo sucks. What a doofus, limpest shot from the point I’ve ever seen especially by a defenseman and his attitude was usually lackadaisical and didn’t care one way or the other about anything. Watch any interview.

    Oh but he sure could skate…

    Ps the next body check you see him throw will be his first.

  • BurningSensation

    This is a win-win

    – Bouwmeester is still a legit shutdown Dman and a great fit next to Pieterangelo

    – Giordano will have all summer to train like a lunatic so he can take the snub out on the league while everyone else recovers from the tourney.

    It’s always sweeter if they dismiss you ahead of time and don’t see you coming.

  • Baalzamon

    I’m not surprised by this in the slightest. All you have to do is look at the inclusion of Shea Weber on the team to know that Hockey Canada is all about reputation rather than actual ability.

    What gets me, though, is that Bouwmeester has always been a mainstay on team Canada…. except when he played for the Flames.

      • Baalzamon

        ha ha ho hee ha ho. You’re so funny.

        Look at the facts. Bouwmeester played for team Canada exactly once with the Flames. In the World Championships. He was not selected for the 2010 Olympics. But he was selected for the Olympics, without fail, when he played for Florida or St. Louis. World Cup too.

        • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

          So “The Man ” is out to get the Flames? C’mon man. These guys are great d and maybe just maybe you are overvaluing your teams D again.

          • Baalzamon

            What are you talking about? Bouwmeester was a mainstay on team Canada when he played for any team but Calgary. It’s a documented fact.

            Are you trying to argue that he was bad for the Flames, but Elite otherwise? That’s just silly.

          • supra steve

            It was pretty widely believed that JBo was not world class when he was in Calgary…could that have something to do with him being passed over?

            I know a Penguin fan who is sure that Letang should have taken the open spot. There is no single best option here, several players could fill that spot. When unsure with some of the options, many hockey people will go with the most familiar option.

        • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

          Hall was snubbed again! Or maybe he is just below the top guys in the league. Doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player, just not quite good enough!

          • Baalzamon

            No, he’s saying Bouwmeester is overrated… do you know what overrated means? It means the popular opinion of his ability far exceeds his actual ability.

            I’ll use an example. Popular perception of Shea Weber is that he’s an elite all-around defenseman. That was true back in 2013, but Weber has declined, harshly, since. He isn’t even an average defenseman anymore.

          • MontanaMan

            He isn’t an “average” defence man any more? What are you smoking? His skills may have slightly decreased but to say he’s not an average defence man shows a lack of knowledge for the game. Weber is a top pairing defence man on most teams in the NHL, including Calgary.

          • Baalzamon

            Weber is a top pairing defence man on most teams in the NHL, including Calgary.

            He’d certainly be deployed as one. That doesn’t mean he is one though. That’s part of the whole perceived ability exceeding actual ability I mentioned earlier. The Blue Jackets utilize Jack Johnson as their #1 defenseman, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the worst regular defenders in the entire league.

            You and the others seem to think that I’ll be perturbed by the fact you disagree with me about Weber. If you agreed, he wouldn’t be overrated. That’s how overrated works.

            Weber is, at best, an average defenseman right now. Full stop. You don’t have to believe it, and you almost certainly don’t, but it’s the truth.

          • MontanaMan

            No that’s not the truth – it’s your opinion. I will take the Canadian management team and Coach Babcock’s opinion over yours. You are more than entitled to your opinion but don’t pass it off as truth.

          • Kevin R

            I don’t know, I usually agree with a lot of your posts but I agree Weber isn’t a perennial Norris contender like he used to be, but he is still one nasty solid SOB of a defence man. I would take him on the Flames all day long & twice on Sunday, not his contract mind you. I just think of names of what i would consider an average defence man in this league & Weber is still light years ahead of them. That saying, I would take Subban over Weber in a heart beat.

            Train, Hall + for Subban would have been a freaking steal for you guys & I would bet $$$$ that deal was probably on the table at the draft. So glad you guys didn’t get Subban.

          • Greatsave

            Full disclaimer: Have rarely watched Predators’ games or seen Weber in action.

            Curious as to how you reached your conclusion on Weber. You didn’t answer as to whether you actually watched him in action, so it’s not clear whether it’s the eye-test or analytics that your opinion is based on.

          • piscera.infada

            Honestly, by eye, Weber never looks as poor as his possession metrics seem to indicate he is. His biggest problem is that his foot speed has never been very good–over the last two years, it’s gotten worse. In the game today, that’s an issue. We know that to be true.

            There are still things Weber does well, but I do think that the perception of him as an elite top-pairing defenseman has lagged behind reality. If I had to extrapolate the coming seasons for Weber, I would imagine he gets increasingly exposed defensively on a team that is nowhere near as complete as Nashville has been over the past several seasons.

          • Greatsave

            I understand that Weber has never been and will never be mistaken for a Karlsson, Doughty, Keith, or Burns. But I suspect that people who say “Weber is an average defenceman”–like the analytics guy (Pfeffer) who got fired by Montreal–aren’t quite seeing the full picture.

            The argument by Pfeffer was that, over the past several seasons, Weber didn’t move the needle either way when on the ice for Nashville. That was Pfeffer’s knock against Weber. He (presumably) based this on the fact that Nashville’s GF60 and GA60 at 5v5 is almost identical with and without Weber on the ice.

            But this conclusion seems simplistic. It doesn’t appear to take into account the fact that the Predators face *very* different skaters in *very* different circumstances with and without Weber on the ice. Weber faces the oppositions’ best scorers: his 5v5 OppGF60 from 2012-16 is 2.30, second only to Hjalmarsson (2.32). He takes almost half (48.3%) of his team’s D-zone faceoffs, highest among D-men. He eats up ice-time: he’s played 39.5% of his team’s 5v5 time, 4th only behind Suter, Karlsson, and Doughty.

            To face that level of opposition and take on that level of responsibility, and still basically come away unscathed (i.e. above 50% GF), makes me hesitant to come out and say “Weber is only average”. Sure, he’s not a high-risk, high-reward guy like Subban or Burns, but it can be argued that he did the heaviest lifting in Nashville, leaving the other pairings to make hay against weaker opposition.

            And this is without considering the combination of forwards that Weber played with: whether mostly scoring lines or mostly checking lines. Or the value he brings to special teams.

            Bottom line: Weber has his shortcomings, but his strengths have so far more than made up for them (e.g. positioning and stick-work to cover for lack of footspeed). And if wins and losses are the ultimate evaluators, FWIW the Predators were 10-13-1 (IIRC) without Weber in the lineup since 2008. So no, I can’t bring myself to call him “average” at this point.

    • Baalzamon

      I disagree. Any doubt I had over Babcock’s abilities as a coach were erased last season. With the roster Toronto had last season, they should have been almost the worst possession team of all time. Instead, they had a 50.74% CF at score close. Just behind Montreal and St. Louis, and ahead of Washington and Chicago.

  • The Fall

    The WC will be good for Johnny and Monahan, and bad for the older players.

    Do the Sedins really need an extra dozen games before the season actually starts: sure they do!

  • MontanaMan

    PS – all of these comments of “I’m glad he didn’t make the cut as I want him well rested” is garbage. Every Flame fan would rightly celebrate if Gio and/or Brodie were included on the team. It’s a significant accomplishment to play with the best in this tournament and I would have been proud to see the boys play. To say otherwise is just sour grapes.

    And Train, you were the mouthy kid that got punched out in the playground in grade school. I know your type and didn’t like them then either. Kindly go back to gushing over Connie on ON.

  • Joe Flames

    Gio’s lack of playoff experience certainly doesn’t help his case either. He has not played in very many meaningful games.

    Like it has been said a couple times, it is probably better for us that he doesn’t risk injury in this tournament anyway.

    It would be nice to see him get the recognition though.

  • The Sultan

    You mods seriously need to ban this guy. Just do it. He contributes nothing and takes away from every post. The only thing you need to know about the Oilers is that they suck, their GM is an idiot, and McDavid will be gone in two years. Sans any scoring trophy.

    Ban all versions of Train. Or at least allow me to berate him every time he posts which I do anyways.

  • MontanaMan

    Good conversation and at the end of the day, we’ll see how he does in Montreal which is a completely different system than Nashville. Interestingly, he was given an “A” for the Canadian team, so he also brings a high level of leadership with his “diminishing skills”.