42Mark Giordano
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Mark Giordano

There’s a pretty good chance that Mark Giordano will win the James Norris Memorial Trophy this season, making him the National Hockey League’s best defenseman for the 2018-19 campaign. Given that, it probably goes without saying that he had a good season. But considering his age, it’s really impressive just how well his season went.

2018-19 season summary

Most NHLers don’t improve after age 30. Heck, most of them don’t stay as good as they were after age 30. But Giordano is some kind of freak of nature and, at age 35, he had his best season statistically in his 13-year NHL career.

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Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
78 17 57 74 24:14 57.34 +5.17 48.73 1.019

From opening puck drop until the end of the regular season, Giordano was one of the most consistent performers on the Flames. He missed four games during his season: two due to a suspension for a knee on knee hit on Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu, and two as a healthy scratch late in the season after the Flames clinched top spot in the Western Conference.

Giordano spent the entire season on the top defensive pairing, playing with either TJ Brodie or Rasmus Andersson. He had the lowest offensive zone start percentage of any defenseman on the team – only Derek Ryan was even close to him among forwards. He played primarily against the top players on the other team. Despite these handicaps, he had the best possession numbers on the team and was among the NHL’s best in that area. Again, he did this as a 35 year old.

The Flames captain was top three among regular defensemen across the board in shot generation rates – shots, shot attempts, scoring chances and high danger chances – with one or both of Travis Hamonic or Noah Hanifin in his ballpark. He was similarly top three in shot suppression across the board, usually mixed up with one of Brodie or Andersson. He led the team in power play ice time per game and was second in shorthanded time per game, but he was fourth in five-on-five time per game – the Hamonic and Hanifin pairing got more even strength time than Giordano and Brodie, presumably with an eye towards keeping the top pair fresh for power plays.

Giordano tied his career high for even strength goal-scoring and set career highs in even strength points, shots, shot attempts, scoring chances, high danger chances generated. He was a possession beast, a strong defensive player, and managed to score a ton in key situations.

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Again, he did this as the Flames’ oldest skater. According to Hockey Reference, just 63 skaters (including Giordano) have amassed 74+ points at his age (or older) in NHL history and just three defensemen. This was a unicorn of a season for Giordano.

Compared to last season

Giordano came two points shy of doubling his production from 2017-18 – the team was fighting it that much offensively last season and was feeling it that much this season. His possession stats were pretty similar this season compared to last, except his offensive and defensive rates were both down a little bit – his game was a little bit less high event at both ends of the ice, but it led to more goals for the Flames in general.

As noted in the prior section, Giordano was used a little bit less at even strength than in 2017-18 and the aim seemed to be keeping him fresh for power plays. He was used a little bit less on the penalty kill on average than in the prior season, but that’s also a product of the Flames giving their opponents fewer power plays.

What about next season?

It’s completely natural to see Giordano have a career year at age 35 and get a bit anxious worrying about if he’ll crash back to earth next season.

Age 35 Age 36
Pierre Pilotte 52 points (1966-67) 37 points (1967-68)
Brad Park 58 points (1983-84) 43 points (1984-85)
Larry Robinson 50 points (1986-87) 40 points (1987-88)
Ray Bourque 82 points (1995-96) 50 points (1996-97)
Al MacInnis 62 points (1998-99) 39 points (1999-00)
Phil Housley 55 points (1999-00) 34 points (2000-01)
Brian Leetch 51 points (2003-04) n/a (lockout)
Sergei Zubov 71 points (2005-06) 54 points (2006-07)
Nicklas Lidstrom 80 points (2005-06) 62 points (2006-07)
Brian Rafalski 59 points (2008-09) 42 points (2009-10)
Scott Niedermayer 59 points (2008-09) 48 points (2009-10)
Chris Pronger 55 points (2009-10) 25 points (2010-11)
Sergei Gonchar 50 points (2009-10) 27 points (2010-11)

13 blueliners have had 50+ points in their 35-year-old season. Aside from Leetch, who didn’t get a chance to follow up due to a lockout, every single one had a points decline in their 36-year-old season. It seems inevitable that Giordano will, eventually, decline, but it’s incredibly difficult to project when that decline will happen and how pronounced it will be. (We’ll dig into this in more detail later this off-season, particularly comparing Giordano to other 35+ defenders in the Pretty Good Data Era.)

If Giordano’s underlyings decline gradually, he’ll still be one of the more useful defensemen on the Flames roster for at least another season or two.

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2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson

  • freethe flames

    The captain has a very good chance of winning the Norris at 35; enough said about his regular season. He makes his partners look better. The good thing for the Flames is that even if the decline begins next year the Flames have 4 solid young defencemen who could move up in the pairings by the time he declines too much. Hanifin, Valimaki and Kylington are all LHD who should at some point in their careers one of them could very well be a top pairing guy.

  • cjc

    That was a helluva year – but that table is depressing no matter how you slice it and the team is going to need others to step up offensively on the back end. Luckily we can probably expect Andersson and Valimaki’s contributions to offset any declines from Giordano.

  • Sterls

    Completely different topic, But is anyone else hoping for an all wildcard Eastern and Western conference finals? I’d love to see that followed up by a Colorado-Columbus final with the Blue Jackets pulling it out, just for the sheer lunacy of it all.

  • SydScout

    Gio just deserves the Norris. I for one don’t care about whether he projects to fall off a cliff next season. He’s the best example, league wide, to our young stars. Especially the defencemen. Would love to see that quantified… We are so lucky to have him.

    • Kevin R

      I know there are some that are in the camp of trading him while his value is high. I think Gio’s regression will be from Norris candidate down to a decent #2, then to a reliable 2nd pairing. We should be keeping him to mentor our young guys & we have some pretty decent young D coming up & cracking our lineup. The transition will happen & it starts with Andersson being paired with Gio this year.

    • freethe flames

      On D it depends on the progress of the young guys especially Valimaki. Leadership in the dressing room is something completely different and many speculate on it being Tkachuk but I don’t know the chemistry in the locker room enough to comment. One guy who shows some of those leadership skills is young Ras.

  • moodyblue2

    Been watching the Western teams still hanging in and find it incredible the Flames finished first in the west! How the heck did we manage that? Tre has his job cut out for him to get anywhere near the top next year with our current roster. Way too soft and lack of intensity in our current team. Need a total buy-in from EVERY player to succeed in this league. Way too many floaters on the current team. Mony, Backs, TJ, Janks,Frolik, to name a few.

    • freethe flames

      Part of the problem is that they are coached soft. I watched the first couple of practices of the season and the system being used was a skating forecheck and not a hitting forecheck and for the most part that worked for the season but when the hitting intensity went up the team basically stayed the same. If the system was more physical from the start of the season it would be much easier to ramp up come playoffs.

    • Jimmyhaggis

      I’ve noticed, you should build your team not for the regular season but the playoffs. Most GM have it all wrong, so trade your soft players, and the Flames have plenty of those, and bring in guys with skill and grit.
      Gaudreau, Monahan, Ryan, Frolik could get you those types of players.

  • Luter 1

    Can’t believe how quick people forget the intensity of playoff hockey, I said from the beginning of the season this team was too soft (Brodie, Frolik, Monahan, etc) but got lots of thumbs down as we won during the regular season. It’s pretty obvious now this team needs to be bigger, tougher and more intense to win playoff hockey so let’s start thinning the herd of soft players. Gio had a great season but he obviously isn’t carrying this team on his back as was shown in this playoffs. Start looking for that next true leader because I don’t see one right now.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Given the garbage hockey Flames fans have had to endure for decades and the long, cold prairie winters, top priority goes to having a great regular season. I’d rather watch almost 7 months of fuen, entertaining hockey and who cares what the team does in the playoffs than half a year of bad hockey and no playoffs.

      Playoff hockey is overrated. Just look at the teams still standing. By and large playoffs are a crapshoot where luck more than finesse determines the champ. I don’t know about you but in the spring I am way too busy to pay much attention to playoff hockey, so I only give it a passing glance.

      Playoff hockey is also BS. Tell me what other pro sport has two sets of rule books: one for the regular season and one for the playoffs? The NHL with its seasonal rule books looks way too much like WWE than a credible professional sports league.

      Finally, like the Millennials, I put much more stock in Olympic hockey than the Stanley Cup playoffs. The greatest thrill for most NHLers is to score the golden goal in the Olympics than the goal that clinches the Stanley Cup. Think about it. A player with a 12-year NHL career could go to 12 NHL playoffs. How many Olympics can he go to? At most 4, which assumes he is both a remarkable rookie and a super senior. Way toughr to win an Olympic gold than a Stanley Cup

      • calgaryfan

        You should watch the games, way better than the 82 game schedule. The intensity and give a crap level is so much better. The Flames need players (big or small) that can play with intensity and up their game, Treliving needs to figure out which players can, and ship out the ones who can’t.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          So you would take a couple of months of the Flames playing winning playoff hockey over 7 months of outstanding hockey? Okay. You’re entitled. Brad and I see it differently. The regular season is of the utmost importance. The playoffs are a bonus. Win the cup and its great but most fans of a club would prefer a decade of having a very competitive team year after year than a yo-yo club that over the same span doesn’t make the playoffs for 7 years and then finds lightning in a bottle in one of the playoff years and wins the cup. The latter model is not a model for long term success.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Bull! To get a shot at Olympic gold a player in Canada has to first get invited to training camp and then must win a roster spot against the best of the best.

          Journeymen wear Stanley Cup bling, but only elite Canadians own Olympic gold.

          • PlayitagainSam

            Bullship the Stanley cup playoffs are a way harder grind than Olympics. Less chance to get there. Physically it’s the hardest championship to win!!

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Seems we are arguing apples and oranges. Sure 2 months of best of seven playoff hockey is a tougher grind than two weeks of round robin play. You’re right.

            My point is that for a player from Canada to even make the Olympic team is one titanic achievement. (Take a look at the guys who didn’t make Team Canada in ’14. You’ll see a lot more future HOFers there than on any cup winner.) Then there are the Olympics. Every 4 years. As well as being good enough to make the team, you had better not be injured because if you are, you have a 4-year wait. The world is watching the Olympic stage whereas with the NHL, if you don’t give a damn about the two cup finalists are you even going to watch it with any interest, especially when in June, there are probably a lot of summer activities calling your name. Going evening waterskiing on Lake Hope will always take priority for me over watching the Caps and Sharks play Game 7. Finally, specific to the Olympic tournament, it’s Thunderdome. Win and you move on, and you only get one chance to do win. That is the opposite of how pro hockey players have been conditioned to think. The Caps screwed the pooch in the first to games against the Jackets last playoffs. Do that in the Olympics, and you gone!

            Stanley Cup is harder to win in that you have to play more games to get it, but you get a chance to win it every year even if your name is Joe Armpit and play 6 minutes on the 4th line.

            Olympic gold is far more prestigious than a cup ring in that a player will likely get no more than 4 chances in his lifetime to win it To play for a hockey elite nation, he must beat out some of the world’s best just to make the team. Then he must perform at his best with only a slim margin of error on a stage where the eyes of the world are watching. (Hell, when the Caps won the deciding game in last year’s final, weren’t there more people in hockey-mad Canada watching Dancing With the Stars than that game?)

    • FlamesFanFromMI

      Cause everyone’s wants to be right. I just read in this thread that we should trade Johnny to get the tough players. I am so glad our GM is not high. Everyone is looking at playoff hockey and how we need to change for playoffs while completely forgetting that you need to get into playoffs by playing in regular season. Yeah we sucked no doubt doesn’t mean trade everyone. To answer your question, they are all internet tough guys.

  • MontanaMan

    The era of teams staying together for ten years are over. Gio had a great year both personally and leading the team during an excellent regular season. He deserves the Norris. Having said that, he’s not getting younger and he won’t be better in remaining years of his contract. In this world of the CBA and salary cap, the bold GM will move players who have peaked but may have one or two years of peak performance ahead of them. The key is succession planning (particularly leadership) within the young players and moving players before they become a liability. This is not an exact science but the GM who gets high end youngsters and/or draft picks for aging veterans will build competitive teams every year. The GM who sticks with the same roster will be left behind. Be bold Tre.

    • Franko J

      Quite true. Even though not the same sport, but I look at Hufnagel, why are the Stamps so successful? He cuts or moves veterans along and in return infuses the team with youth. Every sport played today is becoming more and more a younger person’s game. The two questions remain : If Giordano is traded, which one of the four young D is ready to step up and fill the void he leaves? Out there in the league which team is willing to trade youth for veteran leadership? The Senators asked for Valamaki for Stone and Calgary said no thank you. Realistically what is the true value of Giordano outside of this market? A second round pick? One of many questions probably running through the BrainTrust of the Calgary Flames these days? Many questions with no right answer right now.

    • The Lovely Kim Wexlar

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Gio turns out to be Chelios/Chara type specimen playing into his 40s. He may lose a step along the way but his work ethic and sky-high hockey IQ will always be valuable to the Flames. For years to come. I hope he retires a Flame. No Gio trade for me. Ever.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Interesting comment. Chelios was elite from the moment he stepped in the league. Chara took several years to find his A-game but when he did there was no looking back and that he still plays at a high level is quite frankly amazing.

        What I saw from Gio this season was also amazing and wonder as you do if he can maintain it for the duration of his contract. Time will tell.

  • Franko J

    I think Giordano will have a similar impact next year for the Flames, maybe not as many points, but just as effective. Now what would be even better I would like to see Hanifin and Valamaki actually cut into his playing time. As great as Giordano was this year, I want to see progression from young guys. Sort of how Andersson has forced the Flames brass to consider trading Brodie this off season.

  • PlayitagainSam

    Maybe not this year but Gio should be trade sooner than later.
    Do you really want to get nothing in return for him by hanging on too late like they did Iginla.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I have always been a fan of Ras. I have my concerns about his skating but am optimistic that his new found fitness regiment will lead him to hiring a elite skating coach to work on his explosiveness. This is completely attainable given his strong edge work. If he improves his skating he will be a future star.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Then he better pass on the name of that elite skating coach to Chucky. Chucky has been in the show for 3 full seasons and while his skating has improved over that time, it is not even close to where it needs to be to be to keep up with the good skaters let alone the elite skaters.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        The one thing I have noticed about Tkachuk and Monny is that there skating always looks much improved coming out of the summer of training, but it rarely stays at that improved level.

  • Joel Ottos Jock

    Gio was solid all year. I am in the camp that would like to see him traded while his value is high and get a return. I find it difficult to believe or for it to be realistic to believe he will have another year statistically significant as he did this past. I also question if Gio is the leader to be able to lead this group to the next level. So far, he has disappeared in all the playoff games I’ve seen. Great regular season warrior, not sure about the playoffs. Before I’m crucified, ponder this..moving Gio and Brodie..the Flames d could look something like this on opening day.

    Hannifan Andersson
    Valimakki Hamonic
    Kylington Fantenberg

    Trading Gio and Brodie not only opens cap space, but opens roster spots for guys that are ready. Also, by moving these two long tenured Flames, the flames could possibly package a deal to bring in a legitimate #1 c and a #1/#2 rw or picks.

    • Puck Head

      I can see where you’re coming from. It’s tough because Gio is probably my favourite player but from a business standpoint he will be a diminishing asset and it would be nice to get a return from him. I’m just not sure if any teams would give much, if anything, for an older defence man with a long contract. Also, seeing Hanifin on the first line makes me squeamish.

      If there’s one player on the roster who I would like to see retire as a Flame it’s him (and maybe Valimaki and Anderson too 🤞).

      • BlueMoonNigel

        What about Wexler’s postulation that Gio could be the next Chelios or Chara? That’s not at all out of the realm. Like those two, Gio is a fitness freak who thrives the more minutes he plays. Gio might just be built differently and wired differently than the average hockey player whose career has wound down or is winding down at 35. Maybe it won’t be until 40 before he starts acting his age.

        Plus with Valimaki and Anderrson poised for great things, Gio will not have to depended on to play top-pairing minutes as he ages gracefully. He might be in an ideal situation here, and the Flames, conversely, dan lucky to have him.

  • CowboyBob

    He’s a keeper, contract has diminishing value to club but he brings all the intrinsic stuff you can’t measure. Would like to know more about his leadership in dressing room, in particular, did he call out the 9 forwards who mailed it in for the playoffs.