25Mark Giordano Norris
Photo Credit: Aidan Wong/FlamesNation

For Your Consideration: Mark Giordano for the James Norris Memorial Trophy

Mark Giordano isn’t just having what will likely shape up as the best season of his career to date – he’s also having arguably the best season of any defenceman in the NHL. A player who was already vying for the Norris before a bicep tear shortened his 2014-15, one would have to think – knocking on wood that a similar fate doesn’t befall him – this is the year Giordano finally gets recognized on the main stage.

The award

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is given to the defenceman who “demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.” It’s named after Norris, who owned the Detroit Red Wings from 1932 until his death in 1952.

The trophy is awarded via a vote by the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season.

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Recent winners

  • 2017-18: Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay)
  • 2016-17: Brent Burns (San Jose)
  • 2015-16: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles)

Last year’s voting leaders

(Voting points awarded on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis.)

Player Voting
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Pts
Victor Hedman (TBL) 1385 94 57 6 5 1 63
Drew Doughty (LAK) 1164 52 68 28 8 4 60
PK Subban (NSH) 565 11 14 50 30 17 59
Seth Jones (CBJ) 406 2 9 38 33 34 57
John Carlson (WSH) 311 3 6 19 38 30 68

The Norris is something of a reputation award. Being a high-scoring defenceman tends to get one noticed, but that isn’t necessarily an indication of who’s going to win.

Hedman last season, though, was top five in the NHL in ice time per game while playing for one of the top teams in the league. Throw in his scoring numbers – the most out of those in the top five in ice time, and the most among major minute-eaters among the very best teams – and he was definitely a worthy pick, demonstrating an ability to play at the position’s highest level throughout the season – exactly who the award is meant for.

Handicapping Giordano’s candidacy

This honestly shouldn’t even be a contest.

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Sports can’t resist a good narrative, and I’m not sure there’s a better one out there than Giordano’s. We’re talking about someone who was undrafted in the OHL, undrafted in the NHL, and played a season in Russia because he believed in himself more than his team did, who has gone on to be one of the top defencemen in the game. He didn’t fully break out until he was 30. Now, at age 35, he’s proving himself the best of the best – and has a legitimate chance at having the highest-scoring season by any defenceman 35 years old or over ever. (Ray Bourque scored 82 points in 82 games as a 35-year-old during the 1995-96 season; Giordano is on pace for 85 points in 80 games this season.) If Giordano keeps this up, he should be the biggest story in the NHL, bar none. Nobody else can even compare, possibly literally.

But, of course, it isn’t just points. Giordano is averaging 24:45 a game in ice time, putting him in the top 15 league-wide. The Flames don’t need him to eat as many minutes as other teams do – when healthy, they have like, eight functional defencemen – but he’s still being counted on to play a full three minutes more than anyone else on the team, ahead of his defence partner, TJ Brodie (21:45). He also leads the Flames in shorthanded ice time by a fair bit, and is fourth in powerplay time. And let’s remember, this is the Flames: presently the second best team in the NHL, also by a pretty decent margin.

Then, there’s the underlying stats. Assuming that Giordano’s main competition for the award will be Morgan Rielly and Brent Burns, we can understand why they’re in the running, but also acknowledge that Giordano is just plain posting better numbers:

Defenceman 5v5 CF% 5v5 OZS%
Giordano 55.66 47.88
Rielly 50.08 50.17
Burns 57.46 68.57

Giordano’s corsi is just a little lower than Burns’, but his zone starts are also significantly worse. Like, hilariously so. They’re currently scoring at about the same rate, but Burns is being put in a position to score. Giordano is being put in a position to do everything for his team – which is kind of exactly what the award is meant for.

You can make a solid argument for several Flames for several different awards, but you could make just as solid an argument for some of their competition as well. Assuming the season carries on as it has been, though, then the exception is the Norris. You can make an argument for Giordano – but it’s flat out impossible to make an argument for anybody other than him.

This is it. This is the individual award. Giordano has absolutely everything working in his favour to win it this year, and not a single thing against him. He’s the captain of one of the top teams in the NHL, playing the most minutes for them, in all situations, from a disadvantaged standing point, and has a realistic shot at having the best season by a defenceman 35 years old and over of all time – all while coming from truly humble beginnings in the high-level hockey-playing world.

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Giordano is presently the best defenceman in the world, so he should get the hardware to match.

  • Manginasal

    It all depends on how he finishes the season.
    Up until now he’s been a point per game player but if he tail’s off in this last quarter he might not win it.

    • Bawcos

      Agreed. He’s been up there in the past, but didn’t finish (or start) the season. His best season to date? Yes. 30 more games will determine if he finally gets that Norris. Clearly the front-runner. Let’s hope he never looks back!

  • Fat Tony

    Of all the “for your consideration” articles posted to date, this one is legit. Bill Peters may actually have a shot at the Jack Adams but the others I can say that Would be surprised if they won, whereas, I would be surprised if Gio didn’t win. He has stepped up in a high way and needs to be rewarded.

    • Hockeysense9393

      I’m with a lot of post(er)s here and say that I would be happy with Peters getting a very close 2nd. If Gio doesn’t win something after the All-Star snub, then there is definitely a conspiracy going on. The real conspiracy is that the NHL wanted to give him the time off, so he can come back fresh and win this thing hands down. They want to give it to him (see…even convincing myself). Anyways…the NHL may not have a choice in the matter.
      Even over their obvious “political” pick in Reilly. What other leader would be considered for the Messier?

      What better leader would be considered for the Hart? I don’t think he will win it…
      …but respectable votes would be beautiful.

  • Off the wall

    Even the PHWA has recognized our Captain. Mid season votes show the following:

    Norris Trophy voting-

    1. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
    2. Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
    3. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

    Yeah, he’s that good!

    • Off the wall

      No Defenceman for the Flames has ever won the Norris. Not even Al McInnis!

      Gary Suter won the Calder in 85-86

      McInnis won the MVP ( Conn Smyth) award in 88-89

      Brad McCrimmon won plus minus award in 87-88

      Giordano has won the NHL Foundation Award in 15-16

      This would be the FIRST Norris in Flames history!

      • Albertabeef

        Bourque, Chelios, Coffey, and Lidstrom count for 18 wins. It is hard to say :”not even Al McInnis” when Al MacInnis won it in 98-99. Sure he was with StL at the time but that is a Flames developed defenseman right there. 13 seasons and 803 games as a start to his NHL career in Calgary. It just took him a little longer to be recognized for his achievements.

  • Hockeysense9393

    Good article!! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Gio has put in his time for this award so far in his career…I can’t see a couple months left really stopping that. He has the Sports Writers talking and the hockey community buzzing. Norris as the cake with the Messier as the icing. I don’t want to really get into what the cherry could be, I’m just having fun watching my favourite team do so well.

  • FlamesFan27

    The Norris would be great, and he deserves it. But the Conn Smythe would be even more awesome, since it almost always goes to a member of the Stanley Cup champions!

    • Albertabeef

      Actually it rarely goes to the cup winner. Winning the cup and winning the Norris have nothing to do with the other. Norris voting is done before the playoffs. Leetch won it twice, but not in a year of winning the cup. Bourque and Chelios with 3 Norris each were the same thing, as Boston and Chicago never won the cup with them . Lidstrom won the Norris 7 times but I think only one coincided with winning the cup. Karlsson and Burns both have Norris trophies but no cups. These are known without having to do extreme research, and I could probably go on. So I think you are wrong.