This 2018-19 National Hockey League season has been full of surprises for the Calgary Flames. From railroading the competition all the way to the top of the Western Conference, ranking No. 2 overall in the entire NHL, to overseeing multiple breakout seasons from its array of emerging players, this Calgary hockey club has been navigating unfamiliar territory in more ways than one. Case in point is the career season of team captain Mark Giordano, who, like so many of his teammates, has been blazing a trail among the best in the league.
At the age of 35, Giordano is defying popular expectation, putting up All-Star numbers, and making his case as a Norris Trophy contender for best defenceman in the league. The captain’s confident and unselfish play continues to make an immeasurable impact on the Flame’s on-ice dominance, bringing the team together as one cohesive unit focused solely on winning.
Whether through tangible achievements reflected by the numbers, or intangibles such as providing guidance and support for his teammates, Mark Giordano is proving himself to be an effective leader instrumental in the Flames’ success.
Giordano’s Contributions, By the Numbers
In the words of The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, Giordano is a “powerhouse… and one of the best possession defensemen in the league” this season. Thus far, Giordano holds 47 points in his first 45 games and is slated to crush his career-high of 56 points in a single season (attained in 2015-16). Considering there are still 37 games left in this 2018-19 campaign, many have fairly projected that Giordano will be beating his own career-best in points by a large margin.
Since coming back from the holiday break, the Flames have been on a winning tear, carving out a shiny 8-1-1 record in their last ten games. Not only has Calgary’s return to form quashed any questions of burnout or fluke, it has also helped them outlast their Western Conference rivals for the top position. In these recent contests, Giordano’s contributions can be found almost everywhere.
Gio has 47 points in 45 games this season.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 14, 2019
The latest and greatest example occurred on Jan. 13 against the Arizona Coyotes. In his milestone 800th career game, Giordano opened the Flames’ scoring by going top shelf over Arizona netminder Adin Hill in the first period. Calgary went on to obliterate the Coyotes 7-1 in that contest, with the Flames captain recording two goals and one assist on the night.
Against the Florida Panthers last Friday night, Jan. 11, Giordano popped a strong wrist shot past Panther goalie Roberto Luongo to help the Flames capture a 4-3 victory. Two nights earlier on Wednesday, Jan. 9, Giordano tallied three assists in the Flames’ 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. One of those assists was a deflection off Michael Frolik past Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, in what turned out to be the Flames’ game-winning goal.
Overall, Giordano has notched at least one point in eight of the last ten games. Without a doubt, the captain has made substantial scoring contributions to the red-hot Flames. His significance, however, reaches far beyond the measurable.
Giordano’s Impact, Beyond the Statistics
Along with his impressive numbers, Giordano has established a commanding team presence, instilling much confidence and energy in the rest of the squad. As the Flames captain, Giordano consistently leads by example, acting as a role model and source of wisdom for his teammates. His headship is fueling the Flames’ winning ways, and capturing the respect and admiration of his Flames’ club in the process.
After the victory over Arizona, Mike Smith had many kind words to say about his captain. From recent comments around the Flames locker room, it is clear Smith is not the only one.
“You learn something from him every day,” said Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson during last Friday’s morning skate. “He’s one of the best D in the league… His work ethic, how good he is every night. It’s not just every other night. It’s every night we play. He’s our leader; he’s our captain. Every person in here learns a lot from him.”
Fellow defenceman T.J. Brodie had similar thoughts, saying, “If you’ve seen him [Giordano] off ice, you know how hard he works… When he’s out there he makes everyone better… no matter who he plays with.”
Even breakout star goalie David Rittich provided testimony, proclaiming that Giordano is “One of the best players I’ve ever seen. One of the best leaders I’ve ever met.” Rittich describes Giordano’s ability to play both in the offensive and defensive zones, citing him as, “the guy who can do… everything.” Moreover, Rittich highlighted the captain’s tendency for blocking shots, a contribution that, for a goaltender, must mean a little more. “Every single game, he’s got five blocked shots.”
Echoing his fellow teammates, Flames forward Michael Frolik explains, “I’ve been playing with him for a few years now. He’s so consistent. He plays every game against the best lines. He’s unbelievable. He makes plays, he’s hard on pucks…” Frolik concludes, “He’s the leader here; he’s the captain. He’s one of the best I’ve ever met.”
By the numbers, and by the Flames’ testimony, it is clear that Mark Giordano has earned his stripes as team captain. On and off the ice, on the scoreboard and in the locker room, Giordano is the leader that the Flames need and deserve. From his myriad contributions and exceptional play, the Flames captain is set to shatter his own personal bests, and making a serious case for a Norris Trophy run.
On Giordano’s Norris Trophy contention, Rittich puts it succinctly: “He really deserves it.”