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Looking back at 800 games of Mark Giordano

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.

  • I’ll admit I was surprised at the time when he was named captain but clearly he had already established himself with Flames brass as a respected leader on and off the ice. I hope 2019 is a spring where he leads the Flames deep into the 2019 playoffs & wins the Norris Trophy.

  • Off the wall

    I’d love to see Giordano make the 1,000 games in Flames silks.

    If there’s anyone deserving it’s him! Thanks Giordano, congratulations on 800. Here’s to 200 more!!

    • Zesty14

      If play can keep up I’m all for 1000 games played. To keep someone on the ice just for the sake (stajin) or Conroy at the end of his career. It was good they hit that milestone but oh boy were they ever a step behind.

  • RKD

    We are so lucky to have this guy and to think Darryl Sutter was a doofus and played hardball and Gio having to play in Russia for a year. He’ll go down as one of the greatest Flames d-man ever. Most guys only had one skillset either they defended really well or put up a lot of points. Gio can be physical, he can fight, he can hit, defends very well and has the offensive acumen. He’s an all round d-man which is super rare.

    • Cfan in Van

      I heard an interesting interview asking him about that situation, and the relationship with Darryl. Gio gave Dutter a tonne of credit for treating him really well over that period. Kind of caught me off guard, despite Gio usually demonstrating 100% class.

      • The Beej

        Funny enough that year in the KHL may have played a big role in developing Gio as a player.

        Could he have tipped the scales that year against the sharks. Maybe, it was a close series but also very early in his career as well. We will never know.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      I’m not ever interested in trading Gio unless Gio wants to be traded. Guys who pour their heart, blood and guts into a team like he has and become its face deserve something better than that. The Iginla disaster playout and the disgusting return on sealed that opinion. Leaving him unprotected for expansion is acceptable as it might mean losing an even more important proven piece … that is different than the lottery nature of drafting.

      Sorry …. not sorry.

      • Lazarus

        Well you can thank Iggy for the low return. Coming in at the 11th hour to tell Feaster actually he would only accept a trade to Pittsburgh instead of Pitts or Boston pretty much tied Jay’s hands

        • Lazarus

          That was a mark against him to me. You don’t say one thing and than say another at the last minute. I don’t care who you are. Sorry
          Did he have that right? Sure he did. Doesn’t make it right

          • The Beej

            @Lazarus

            Iggy was a loyal soldier for years and earned his contract. The Flames made the choice to give him that power.

            It doesnt matter at all what your opinion about it is and it is silly for you to blame Iginla for a choice that was entirely his to make.

            If there is fault to be found it lies with Flames mgmt who waited until the last possible second to trade him and officially start the rebuild.

          • The Beej

            And to remind everyone. The proposed return from Boston was a first + Bartkowski (a career fringe player) + Kokhlachev (never made it).

            So even if Iggy had accepted the trade to Boston it would have made absolutely zero difference in the big picture of our rebuild.

            If we got a bad return on Iggy Flames mgmt is to blame. Asset management is their job. It was not Iggys job and not his concern. Iggys concern was to make the best decision he could for his career and his family. Its easy to judge in hindsight about that but obviously playing with Cros in PIT in the playoffs was not something he could turn down.

            It was not his concern or responsibility whatsoever to help an organization he would no longer be a part of to get a good return in trade. To put blame on Iggy for this is just totally ridiculous.

          • Heeeeere’s Johnny

            @Beej I don’t think anyone is putting this on Iggy’s shoulders. The point is more about Gio and not going through this again. Iggy did deserve the respect of having a say and a Gio should get that respect as well. It will be different for Gio as our competitive window will be open still and we will not feel compelled to turn him into assets.

          • slapshot444

            I think if blame is placed anywhere its with Flames management. Feaster only got permission to trade at the last minute, he was never a good wheeler dealer and the other GMs knew that so he basically got screwed. It’s said that Ken King was playing GM during Feasters term and liked having his finger in the pie. When Jerome pulled the strings on refusing the Boston trade at the last minute his conversation was with Ken King who then told Feaster it was ok even though the trade to Boston was already made. Regardless, either team had peanuts to offer for Iggy’s skill level. Feaster / King should have done much better.

          • slapshot444

            FYI;That was all Sids’ doing. After years of playing in obscurity Sid convinced him to play with the Pens
            at the last minute. It was actually contract interference and Jerome was questioned live on CBC by Ron MacLean and partially admitted it was true. But Sid is Sid and the NHL is the NHL. Our return amounted to nothing and even the Bruins return would still would have amounted to nothing. Jerome played well for the Bruins and Colorado so the return should have been much better.
            https://flameforthought.com/2017/08/12/calgary-flames-jarome-iginla-trade-four-years-later/

        • supra steve

          The reported return from Boston was not a lot different than the return that Iggy fetched from Pittsburgh. Draft picks are all lotto tickets, the picks obtained for Iggy and JBo were both loosing tickets. Gaudeau’s selection was a winning ticket. You win some/lose some.

  • Cfan in Van

    Great summary of a great career. I’ve never realized until now, that I was at the Dome for Gio’s first playoff game. Game 3 against the Wings was my first ever attending a live NHL playoff game, and they went into that game down 2-0, seemingly impossible to come back from. They won that game and the next, tying the series at 2-2, and everyone thought the tide had turned. That game 3 was the craziest I’ve ever experienced, a truly legendary memory. Wings then went to shut them down at the Joe, for the 4-2 series win.

    It’s cool knowing that a game that was such a landmark for me, was an even bigger one for Gio. Here’s to a long playoff run for him this season.

  • freethe flames

    I think about our 3 NHL rookies and a young guy like Hanifin and I’m not sure they could have a better mentorship group of veterans. Gio with his overall game and sense of preparation for games, TJ about using your skating to get you out of trouble*great lessons for a guy like Kylington, and Hamonic about positions and a little physical play.

  • Dougiefred

    Remember Geo’s first 2 goals in Toronto. Was listening on my car radio as I returned home from Lethbridge. Thought it was nice that a guy from Toronto scored two in Toronto, as we all were back then no idea what was to come. 2006 seems like a long time ago, time flies.

  • Alberta Ice

    Gio is the Cal Ripken Jr. of the NHL. True iron man indeed. So sad he was injured when we had that playoff run four years ago. Got to love his work ethic, drive, skill level, and leadership by example. Congrats to Gio on this huge milestone of his career. Glad he plays D for us. KIGF.

  • freethe flames

    I was thinking; what makes Gio so good. Here’s my take on it character and work ethic; nothing given to him and he has earned everything he has gotten in the NHL. He’s a smart player who knows his own strengths and weaknesses and plays to his strengths and tries not to put himself in positions to show his weaknesses. He understands both the systems the team plays and knows the strengths and weaknesses of his partners. Look at the way he plays with TJ and the way he played with Hamilton. With Hamilton he took fewer risks b/c Hamilton was less responsible than TJ; with TJ he knows when to take risks and when to stay home. If TJ decides to go for a skate and he does Gio stays home and if Gio pinches he knows/trusts that TJ’s skating will give him time to recover. The same thing goes on the PK with him and Hammer; Hammer will go to wall and tie up the puck and will stay home when the puck sneaks out allowing Gio to join the PK rush. His work when he plays with Ras is also good; he knows that Ras has good gap control but lacks that first step if someone is turning the corner so he’s in position to help him. Smart player and a good teammate.