Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Where does Mark Giordano rank among Calgary Flames captains?
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
On Thursday night, an old friend returns to the Scotiabank Saddledome to face the Calgary Flames. Former Fames captain Mark Giordano will appear in the ‘Dome for just the third time as a member of the visiting team, this time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Now that Giordano has been away from the Flames for the better part of three seasons, let’s examine where he fits within the pantheon of Flames captains.
In terms of being a great story, Giordano is among the best in the franchise’s history. Originally signed out of the Ontario Hockey League during the 2004 off-season as filler for the Flames’ minor league affiliate – he had actually signed up for accounting courses at York University when the Flames came calling – he took advantage of the opportunity.
First Giordano became a really good AHLer. Then an NHL depth call-up. Then an everyday NHLer. Then a pretty good player in the old Russian Superleague – the precursor to the Kontinental Hockey League – while mired in a contract dispute with then-Flames general manager Darryl Sutter. When he returned to the NHL, Giordano kept improving. After being named captain of the Flames in 2013, he found yet another level. He became the first Flames blueliner to ever win the Norris Trophy in 2018-19.
Not only was Giordano a great story as captain, he was one of the NHL’s top defencemen during his tenure. His Norris win was the sixth consecutive season as captain that Giordano received votes for the Norris Trophy, all of which occurred after the age of 30. Being a captain in the NHL can be challenging, adding a level of complexity and distractions that most players don’t have to deal with. Rather than allow those complications to hinder his performance, Giordano found another level to his age. Among Flames captains, only Jarome Iginla had a more impressive trophy case while wearing the C.
Speaking of Iginla, Giordano ranks second only to him in terms of longevity as Flames captain. Giordano was captain for eight seasons, Iginla for nine seasons over 10 years. Giordano lost a chunk of time due to injury and the schedule impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Iginla lost an entire season to the 2004-05 lockout, plus half of the 2012-13 season to another lockout.
Where Giordano’s ranking suffers a bit is team excellence, which we’ll measure looking at playoff series wins. Simply put, the Flames didn’t have a ton of it while Giordano wore the C: the Flames won a single round during his run, and he wasn’t around for it – the Flames beat Vancouver in 2015, but Giordano was sidelined with a torn bicep at the time.
When look look at past Flames captains, five different captains or co-captains won more than one round: Lanny McDonald (9), Jim Peplinski (8), Doug Risebrough (4), Iginla (3) and Brad Marsh (2). And yeah, if you want to argue that comparing team performances across eras is a bit unfair – building a team in the salary cap era is much different than in the ’80s – that’s a good argument to make. And yeah, the Flames teams in the 1980s were, quite simply, deep teams built for playoff success. But while Giordano wore the C, whether the team was built for it or not, the Flames just couldn’t translate playoff appearances into long playoff runs the way previous versions had under other captains.
Giordano’s captaincy wasn’t an across-the-board runaway success. But the Flames had regular season success under his leadership and he had a few really, really good seasons in terms of individual performances. He’s not the best Flames captain of all-time – that’s likely Iginla’s crown to wear – but he’s definitely among the top tier of franchise leaders.
Where do you think Giordano fits within the best Flames captains of all-time? Let us know in the comments!
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