Considering just how poorly the Flames’ 2017-18 season played out, there are a lot of questions they’ll have to field as they prepare for the next year. One of those questions, however, will not be the on-ice performance of their captain and all around best defenceman, Mark Giordano. He may be 34 years old, but he’s shown absolutely no signs of slowing down.
2017-18 season summary
Giordano, once again, led the team. He was the Flames’ most relied-upon player, averaging the most ice team throughout the year, playing by far the most minutes on the penalty kill, and playing the most minutes out of all defencemen on the powerplay. Just about any time the Flames needed someone to take the other team to task, they turned to Giordano, and he lived up to his billing as the Flames’ top defender.
|Games played||Goals||Assists||Points||TOI/GP||5v5 CF%||5v5 CF% rel||OZS%||PDO|
This was only the fourth time in his career Giordano has played in all 82 games of the season, one of five Flames to do so this year. He was tied for 12th league-wide amongst all defencemen in ice time per game, and 31st for points. His 214 shots throughout the year also had him 10th in defensive shots across the NHL.
Giordano played almost exclusively alongside Dougie Hamilton. The pairing played 1,261 5v5 minutes together; his next most common defence partner was Travis Hamonic, whom he played all of 66 minutes with. Giordano and Hamilton clearly worked well together, though – their 58.25% 5v5 CF speaks to that. They were both 53.33% away from one another, albeit in limited minutes, suggesting that there wasn’t a passenger on the pairing: both benefited from playing with the other, while both were still rather good in their own rights.
The most common forwards Giordano played with were Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Micheal Ferland, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, and Michael Frolik, further suggesting that Giordano’s primary role this past year was to be a top player, playing alongside other top players.
In short, the Flames’ defensive depth takes a strong hit without Giordano, and they were much better off whenever he was on the ice.
Compared to last season
Giordano’s offence was about in line with his 2016-17 season: he scored one more goal, but registered two fewer assists. He did, however, average more than a full additional minute of ice time per game this season, jumping up from 23:35, though he was tied for the Flames’ lead in ice time in 2016-17, as well, with TJ Brodie.
Giordano had a higher corsi for rating this season, but he still clocked in at a rather good 54.06% in 2016-17. Perhaps more interesting is that his offensive zone start ratio was below 50% in 2016-17; his 53.50% in 2017-18 was actually the most offensive zone starts he’s had to work with since the 2008-09 season. Considering how the increased offensive zone time didn’t seem to make too much of a difference this season, perhaps the Flames may look into having him take more defensive zone starts in the future.
Although there’s also something to say for Giordano perhaps being unlucky. He had a 1.015 PDO in 2016-17 and, more pressing to him specifically, he had 63 more shots on net this season than the year prior, but his shooting percentage fell from 7.9% to 6.1%. Giordano’s been putting up offensive numbers ranging from respectable to awesome since he was elevated to number one defenceman status, and he may still yet have more of that in him.
What about next season?
Age doesn’t seem to have caught up to Giordano yet, though he’ll be 35 by the time the 2018-19 season starts. The biggest drop we’ve seen from him in recent years, however, has been going from 56 points in 2015-16 to the high-30s the past two seasons, and all that’s really meant is he’s gone from being one of the highest-scoring defencemen in the NHL to having one of those as his partner while still contributing a fair amount.
It’s to be seen how the Flames will shape up for next season, but they could do worse than going status quo with this guy. He seems ageless; there’s been no visible falters to his game. He has a top scoring partner to work with, and their new coach seems to recognize that.
Honestly, it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Giordano outperform this season next year: still playing top minutes, still a guy the team can rely on to both score and defend with and against top teammates and competitors, and maybe even put more on the board.
Two seasons into Giordano’s team-leading cap hit, and his play continues to justify the number. It’d be a surprise if the third didn’t follow suit.