Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano will hit a fairly major milestone tonight when he suits up against the Arizona Coyotes. It will be Giordano’s 800th regular season game in the National Hockey League. As we look forward to his big game, we take a look back at some past milestones and just what he’s meant to the Flames franchise.
First NHL game: Jan. 30, 2006 in St. Louis
In the midst of his second American Hockey League season with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, Giordano had established himself as one of the most reliable two-way players on the farm. With Roman Hamrlik on the shelf, Giordano got the call. Wearing #46, he played 14:01 in a shootout loss to the Blues.
Giordano and Richie Regehr were rotated through the open roster spot (with Giordano playing twice), but the rotation stopped when Bryan Marchment got healthy and Giordano returned to the farm.
First NHL point: Apr. 8, 2006 in Vancouver
Giordano came back to the NHL in April when the Flames had injuries to Rhett Warrener and Jordan Leopold. In his second game back up, he hit the scoresheet. With the Flames down 2-0, Giordano’s point shot on the power play eluded Canucks goaltender Alex Auld. Giordano was initially credited with his first NHL goal – but after the fact it was credited to Jarome Iginla for a redirection. The goal sparked a comeback, but the Flames lost in overtime.
Giordano stuck around for the playoffs as a black ace, but didn’t dress for any playoff games.
First NHL goal: Oct. 14, 2006 in Toronto
A Toronto product, Giordano played a pro game in his hometown in 2005-06 when Omaha visited the Marlies. But there was something special about the second Hockey Night in Canada of the season. Playing his first ever game at the Air Canada Centre and wearing #5 after making the team out of camp, Giordano scored twice as part of a second period Flames rally.
The Flames ended up losing in overtime, but it was the first indication that maybe this depth defender had something more in his game.
Cementing a roster spot
Giordano initially played everyday due to an injury to Warrener, but his return led to a rotation in and out of the lineup for awhile. Eventually he was floated back and forth from the AHL for a three week stretch from mid-November until early December as the Flames tried to keep him active with some AHL duty – he played five minor league games in that span.
Eventually Giordano’s on-ice performance, coupled with a mix of injuries and inconsistency from Warrener and Andrei Zyuzin cemented his spot on the roster. He hasn’t been back to the AHL since.
First NHL playoff game: Apr. 12, 2007 in Detroit
Having cemented his spot in the NHL, Giordano suited up for the playoffs, playing four of the six games after being a scratch for Games 1 and 2 in Detroit. The Flames were eliminated in double overtime in Game 6 on April 21. It would be the last playoff game Giordano would play for another decade.
A Russian interlude
Following the 2007 playoffs, Giordano’s entry-level contract expired. After playing 48 games in the NHL that season and playing four of six playoff games, he and his agent were pretty convinced that he was an NHL player. General manager Darryl Sutter was less convinced. Not wanting to settle for a sub-par deal, the restricted free agent took a job in the Russian Super League with Dynamo Moscow.
Giordano had a solid year in Russia, playing big minutes and even representing Canada at the Spengler Cup. He and Sutter mended fences, with Giordano signing a three-year deal and then getting to work on building his NHL resume.
A late bloomer
Giordano was named alternate captain to begin the 2011-12 season after an offseason trade that sent Robyn Regehr to Buffalo. He served as alternate until the beginning of the 2013-14 season, when he was named captain to begin that year after Jarome Iginla was traded to Pittsburgh.
Giordano served as captain through the Flames’ rebuilding years and simultaneously, after his 30th birthday, had the five most productive seasons of his career. He’s finished 16th or higher in the Norris Trophy voting in each of the past five seasons – peaking at sixth in 2014-15. He’s considered one of the front-runners in the 2018-19 Norris race.
The right guy at the right time
Over the years, the Flames teams have been defined by (and taken on many of the qualities) of their leaders. The 1990s had Theo Fleury: exciting, flashy, but in need of some consistency. The 2000s had Jarome Iginla: an offensively talented presence, but not one that played a strong 200-foot game.
During a crucial rebuild in the early 2010s, the Flames took on many of the qualities of Giordano – a guy that was defined by his work ethic for much of his NHL career before his talents began to blossom. Giordano was able to play a ton in Calgary and that definitely contributed to his development as an elite defenseman, but he was also to set the standard for the team’s younger players during a time in the rebuild where a standard desperately needed to be set.
Congratulations to Giordano on 800 games.