0Mark Giordano
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports

What are reasonable expectations for 36-year-old Mark Giordano?

This past June, 35-year-old Mark Giordano won the Norris Trophy. Not only did he finish first in the balloting done by the Professional Hockey Writers Association – disclosure: I did not vote – he won the award in a landslide.

But now the Calgary Flames are entering a season where their oldest player, best player and on-ice leader will be 36 years old. He may say he’s young and fresh, but what are reasonable expectations for a player of his style and age?

We dug into the numbers – data via Natural Stat Trick – and took a look at all defensemen that scored 50+ points in a season from ages 35+ in what’s known as the Better Data Era (2007-08 to present). 50+ point years are indicated with an asterix beside the season.

Spoilers: Giordano is kind of a unicorn.

Mark Giordano

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2018-19* 35 6.6 1.019 65.32 48.59 +5.17%

Giordano’s monster year came when he was 35. As you can see, he shot nearly 7% at even-strength. That’s pretty crazy, and likely to drop because of how crazy-high it is (as is his PDO). That said, he was a very strong possession player and that doesn’t disappear overnight.

Sergei Gonchar

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2009-10* 35 7.6 0.984 59.78 52.99 +0.41%
2010-11 36 1.7 0.979 52.33 52.92 -1.11%
2011-12 37 2.6 0.993 57.66 55.57 -1.53%
2012-13 38 1.9 1.005 62.47 54.71 -0.45%

Like Giordano’s, Gonchar’s big offensive year was seemingly powered by a big spike in his shooting percentage. He wasn’t a possession monster offensively or defensively, but he was pretty representative of the team he was on. His defensive numbers eroded a bit over time, but aside from a dip in his 36-year-old season his offensive rates didn’t collapse.

Nicklas Lidstrom

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2007-08* 37 4.8 1.035 60.96 40.77 +1.70%
2008-09* 38 4.8 1.011 62.51 44.37 +1.93%
2009-10 39 3.0 0.996 63.79 48.06 +4.88%
2010-11* 40 4.4 1.003 58.29 55.54 -3.03%

Lidstrom’s another unicorn. He entered the Better Data Era as a 37-year-old and posted sub-50 Corsi Against rates for three seasons, along with Corsi For rates north of 60. Heck, he ended his career with another insane year. Lidstrom’s a freak of nature.

Scott Niedermayer

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2008-09* 35 2.3 0.999 48.62 47.88 -0.94%
2009-10 36 4.8 0.994 53.93 54.23 +3.75%

Niedermayer’s underlyings were pretty tidy during his big year, not even being drive by a shooting spike. But his entire game became a bit sloppier and more high-event the following season.

Chris Pronger

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2009-10* 35 5.3 1.007 58.30 51.16 +3.70%
2010-11 36 1.6 1.009 60.24 59.20 +0.20%
2011-12 37 0.0 1.039 56.68 53.33 +4.16%

Pronger’s 35-year-old season was his last full season, then injuries hit him and his shooting percentage imploded (in the few games he did play).

Brian Rafalski

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2008-09* 35 6.1 1.003 61.32 43.45 +2.19%
2009-10 36 1.3 1.002 62.55 48.46 +3.60%
2010-11 37 6.7 1.004 62.24 47.13 +4.88%

Rafalski’s final three seasons were all pretty tidy – Corsi For rate north of 60 and Corsi Against below 50.

Andrei Markov

Age S% PDO CF/60 CA/60 CorsiRel
2013-14 35 3.8 1.013 57.94 59.25 +4.34%
2014-15* 36 4.2 1.026 59.03 57.26 +3.65%
2015-16 37 1.4 1.008 57.49 55.89 -1.30%
2016-17 38 6.4 1.025 62.17 53.60 +1.84%

Markov’s a bit of an outlier in this group because he was always pretty high-event in his post-35 seasons. A PDO spike likely contributed to his strong 2014-15 offensive season.

Our best guess

Generally-speaking, defenders lose their speed past the age of 35. Because of that, their defensive rates get higher (they allow more chances and better chances) and generally they become more high-event players. Rather than use their mobility to dictate the game’s pace, they’re more frenetic and reactive.

Right now, it doesn’t seem like Giordano’s speed is going to fall off a cliff… yet. Given that, his possession stats probably won’t change a ton – though his Corsi Against rate likely won’t be sub-50 again. His shooting percentage is bound to drop and his PDO will likely normalize a bit, so he won’t get the bounces as often – all things being equal.

In short? Giordano likely won’t have another 70 point season. But unless his underlyings completely fall off a cliff, a 50 or 60 point year isn’t unreasonable to expect.