This coming May is the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary. To commemorate this occasion, we’re counting down the Top 40 Calgary Flames in history.
#3 on our list is Mark Giordano.
Giordano may be one of the most improbable success stories in NHL history. Undrafted in the OHL and NHL, he was signed as AHL depth a month after Flames lost the 2004 Stanley Cup Final to Tampa Bay. He’d already signed up for university courses, that’s how little he thought of his pro hockey chances.
From there, Giordano got to work and started climbing. He established himself as a strong AHL player and earned some NHL spot duty. He turned his NHL spot duty into pushing for a full-time gig. He landed a full-time gig on the third pairing and worked on moving up the rotation. And when general manager Darryl Sutter balked at rewarding Giordano with a one-way deal, Giordano bet on himself and went to Russia for a year to play for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Superleague (a precursor to the KHL).
Giordano played more or less the same way as a full-time NHLer as he did as a call-up – there’s a certain amount of desperation in his game where you get a sense that he thinks he could be sent down to the minors at any minute. That level of commitment to the details earned him increasing responsibility.
As an incumbent alternate, Giordano was named captain in 2013-14 after Jarome Iginla’s departure. Taking over for a player that was, even then, seen as a future first ballot Hall of Famer can really mess with a player’s mojo. Giordano changed nothing, and somehow found another gear in his game. At the tender age of 30, Giordano became one of the top defenders in the NHL – he received Norris votes in each of the first six seasons he served as captain, leading to his win in 2018-19.
Giordano set the culture for the Flames as they went into their rebuild, and came back out of it. He did a ton of off-ice work in the community and set the tone for them on the ice – he’s received the NHL Foundation Player Award and received perpetual consideration for the league’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy and Mark Messier Leadership Award.
For a team in transition, Giordano was the right player at the right time to guide the Flames. He’s had longevity, importance, and excellence during his stint. He’s #3 on the all-time list.
Arrival: Signed as a free agent (July 6, 2004)
Awards: 2018-19 Norris Trophy winner; 2018-19 First Team All-Star; 2015-16 NHL Foundation Player Award winner
Top 40 Calgary Flames: HM Martin Gelinas | HM Al Coates | HM Bob Johnson | HM Darryl Sutter | HM Cliff Fletcher | #40 Brad Marsh | #39 Matt Stajan | #38 Jiri Hudler | #37 Dion Phaneuf | #36 Guy Chouinard | #35 Phil Housley | #34 Matthew Tkachuk | #33 Cory Stillman | #32 Curtis Glencross | #31 Jamie Macoun | #30 Carey Wilson | #29 Reggie Lemelin | #28 TJ Brodie | #27 Alex Tanguay | #26 Daymond Langkow | #25 Sergei Makarov | #24 Craig Conroy | #23 Robert Reichel | #22 Paul Reinhart | #21 Doug Gilmour | #20 Mikael Backlund | #19 Jim Peplinski | #18 Joel Otto | #17 Tim Hunter | #16 Joe Mullen | #15 Sean Monahan | #14 Robyn Regehr | #13 Mike Vernon | #12 Kent Nilsson | #11 Hakan Loob | #10 Lanny McDonald | #9 Johnny Gaudreau | #8 Gary Roberts | #7 Gary Suter | #6 Miikka Kiprusoff | #5 Joe Nieuwendyk | #4 Theoren Fleury