Realistic Expectations: Mark Giordano

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. 

Expectations

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.

      • al rain

        Yeah, that dude is a piece of work. Only guy I’ve ever seen pull a cheap shot on a smaller guy, dive to draw a penalty and turtle in a fight – all in the same play. I expect he’d have thrown a can of beer at another player if he had one.

          • al rain

            I watched it slower and I’m going to take that back. The Kadri hit on Gaudreau was hard but clean. My bias against a guy I don’t like.

            Thanks for calling me on it.

          • Greatsave

            Kudos to you for changing your mind. 🙂

            I looked back at the post-game thread from that game and most of the discussion centered on Kadri diving/embellishing on Gaudreau’s retaliatory slash, when in actual fact (if you watch replays in slow-mo) one can see that it was Jooris who delivered the slash first (and a harder one than Gaudreau’s “Hey I’m still here and I know what you did” tap around the ankle). Kadri had started going down already, before Gaudreau’s tap made contact.

  • brodiegio4life

    I think he’ll play at a high level longer than most dmen, he really didn’t get started in the NHL until he was already 25. A lot less wear and tear.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I’ve heard that argument from time to time but I’m not sure I buy it.

      It’s not like he wasn’t playing hockey while he waited to make the NHL.

      Age can be a cruel mistress. I hope you’re right but even if Gio avoids the decline beyond normal expectations, I’m not sure we can attribute it to him making the NHL later than most.

  • SickFloBro

    /triggered

    I’m sure TML fans might have a different opinion, and my sample size is small… but Nazem Kadri just seems like such a brat. He’s one of the only players in the NHL I actively dislike. Personally, I see him as being a very selfish player with an unjustifiably arrogant demeanor. Plus, his patented big mouth/crybaby combo is infuriating at the best of times.

    …point being that I love that clip of Gio sitting Kadri down.

    Also, Gio is a boss.

  • Brodano12

    Best overall dman in the league. Top 3 in all offensive and defensive stats on a per game basis since 2013/2014. No dman is as good at both ends of the rink as he is right now.

  • freethe flames

    My expectations for Gio depends on how GG uses him. Gio is a very good defender and generally helps others around him be better but there are ways he can be maximized(allowing him to have a longer effective career) and ways to misuse him. We all know that the TJ/Gio pairing is one of the better NHL pairings and that when together they can log large minutes. It seems GG is attempting to try and use Dougie and Gio togther which had limited success last year for what ever reason, another option mentioned here has been Gio and Wides to try and boost Wides trade value but I’m not sure how that would help Gio. Hopefully one of the young guys steps up and is a top 4 defender that can play with Dougie and TJ/Gio can remain our top pairing.

    • The cool thing about Gio is that there is almost no wrong way to use him. Every defender (besides Engelland) works well with him. Statistically speaking, Wideman-Giordano is a really really good pairing (1/8th the sample size of Brodano, but worth consideration)

      • freethe flames

        Short term I would agree with you but I worry that long term exposure to Wideman’s defensive liabilities might both hurt Gio’s productivity and even wear on him physically.

        • The Last Big Bear

          Just need to make Wideman a top pairing guy for a few months leading up to the trade deadline.

          With even a pretty modest ice time push and offensive support, Wideman has the tools to be top-30 in defencemen scoring. That’ll bring back a nice return at the deadline.

        • Baalzamon

          Any combination of Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton makes an effective #1 pair. Of the three, Giordano is the most capable of elevating a sub-standard partner.

          There’s a better argument for separating Giordano and Brodie than there is for keeping them together, IMO. Oddly, Brodie – Hamilton hasn’t been tried this preseason, though.

          • freethe flames

            I think back to playoffs and TJ playing on one good ankle and making Eng’s an effective defender. The point is that the Gio/TJ pairing is excellent and I’m not sure who makes who better in the pairing or if it even matters. Personally even if they are split up for most of the season and on most shifts in any given game that they will play together when it really matters in a game unless one of the other defenders not named Hamilton really steps up.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      You gotta be kidding me . You are comparing the toughness of giordano to Lucic?
      Another thing Lucic is 27 and Gio will be 33. 6 years difference.
      People think Lucic has a bad deal at 27 as opposed to Gio at 33. Lucic has only missed 8 games in the last 6 years due to injury!!

      • Nick24

        It’s because of the style of play the two utilize.
        How many big, bruising players are effective past the age of 30?
        Giordano can mix it up, and sometimes he does, but he’s predominantly a player who relies on skating and passing.