Nazem Kadri, meet Mark Giordano pic.twitter.com/oVUKQtL2JC
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) February 10, 2016
Mark Giordano already has a ton of weight on his shoulders. He’s the longest tenured Calgary Flame, the captain of the franchise, and the de facto #1 defenceman on one of the league’s best defensive units.
This upcoming season, there will be another bar set. Gio will also be the highest paid (as of this writing, but hopefully not for long) player on the roster. Regardless of what happens with Johnny Gaudreau’s extension, Giordano will be making $2.75M more than he was making last year, and should be within a million dollars of the highest paid player on the team.
With that comes a new set of expectations. The franchise obviously wanted to reward Gio for his service with his extension, but you don’t give out that much money to someone who doesn’t deserve it. What does Gio have to do to justify his price tag?
The year before
In his first full 82 game campaign since 2010-11, Giordano was probably the Flames’ all around best player. He logged the most time on the penalty kill, the second most time on the powerplay, and the most time overall. By at least 300 minutes. He also scored 20 goals for the first time in his life, and was third in the team on scoring.
Detractors would be quick to point out that Giordano, by a PPG metric, posted his worst year in production since the lockout year. In 2015-16, he posted eight more points than the year previous, but also played 21 more games. This could be a cause for concern, however Gio maintained his 5v5 P/60 rate, going from 1.19 P/60 in 2014-15 to 1.15 in 2015-16. To offer some more optimism, his 5v5 primary points per game jumped up to 0.9/60. Of course, that’s not the only thing he’s great at.
That chart doesn’t tell you anything new about Gio that you didn’t already know. He’s a scorin’, corsi creatin’, shot suppressin’ elite defender. Last season, he played the toughest opponents, yet remained one of four players that had a >50CF% . The guy pretty much does it all, and he has been doing it all since he’s been handed the captaincy.
Gio is great, but the key is remaining $6.75M great.
His cap hit ranks him 10th among NHL defencemen, sandwiched between Erik Karlsson and Brent Seabrook (hahahahaha). The average number of points scored by the top 10 is 53, so Gio should easily exceed that number. Among those top 10, here’s how Gio performs in usage terms:
Even with a $6.75M cap hit, Gio still has some very good value relative to other expensive defencemen. He gets tough minutes, tough zone starts, and consistently pushes play north. This is a part of his game that hasn’t changed over the past two years, and we should be able to expect more of the same this season.
The only areas of concern I have for Giordano is age, but age has never slowed him down in the past (quite the contrary, in fact), and it shouldn’t in 2016-17. He’s still among the best of the best NHL defenceman, and should score like them. Gio should be good for 50-55 points and some heavy Norris contention. With a possession-minded coach and a solid top nine, 60+ could very well be a possibility, but let’s temper our expectations. Basically, he’s really really good.