The Calgary Flames continue to be one of the league’s hottest teams and a familiar figure is playing a vital role when it comes to their tremendous success so far this season. For the past several campaigns, the Flames’ blueline has been spearheaded by the steady presence of veteran warhorse Mark Giordano, and just like a fine wine, the captain appears to be getting better with age.
Giordano has taken his already impressive all-around game to another level this season and is finally starting to get the deserved recognition for truly being one of the game’s finest defencemen, including accolades from Hockey Night in Canada icon Don Cherry during the latest episode of Coach’s Corner.
The 35-year-old stalwart has always been greatly appreciated by his fellow teammates and fans alike for his true grit, leadership and community spirit. Now Giordano is in the process of putting up the types of numbers that could lead to his finest offensive season yet. The veteran has netted six goals and chipped in 29 assists in making his way into the upper echelon of D-man scoring. Giordano is currently tied for top spot with Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot with 35 points on the season.
Giordano Picking up Where He Left off
Giordano has been a man possessed since returning from an extremely rare two-game suspension for a kneeing incident that involved Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu in a game back on Dec. 6. Giordano contributed three points in the Flames’ thrilling 6-5 overtime home triumph against the Philadelphia Flyers in his first game back after watching his teammates go 1-1 during his absence. That production has continued on what’s been a strong road trip as Giordano added a goal in a 2-1 win over the Wild, while also getting involved in a scrap with rugged veteran Matt Hendricks.
In that contest, Giordano became the first defenceman in Flames franchise history to net shorthanded markers in back-to-back games. His most recent exploits featured a goal and a helper in a lopsided 7-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in a contest that was essentially all but decided after the visitors netted four goals in the opening frame.
Giordano is an athlete who never mails it in despite the grind of an 82-game season. His competitive fires are on full display not only on a nightly basis but a shift-by-shift basis as well. Giordano never shies away from physical contact, puts his body on the line with his wealth of shot blocks and eats up a ton of minutes per game. He’s near the top of the heap when it comes to total ice time for league blueliners clocking in at 24:28 per contest. Giordano has always been known as a fierce competitor who goes about his business in a hard-nosed yet clean way. The infraction against Koivu marked the first suspension-related offence of what has been a lengthy and distinguished nearly 800-game career.
Giordano’s resume speaks for itself but this appears to be the year that he could generate the greatest buzz yet when it comes to the Norris Trophy conversation as the league’s top rearguard. Not only has Giordano elevated his offensive credentials but he trends well in several other key categories and is an impressive plus-21 on the season.
Giordano Serves as Organizational Backbone
The reliable veteran is as fine a community representative that any organization could truly ask for when it comes to an on-ice presence and his off-ice generosity. His charitable exploits were reflected by Giordano receiving a Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the 2017 ESPY awards, which is truly a major feather in the cap of any athlete. Giordano is no longer flying under the radar and any player would speak to the drive and determination that he brings to the table game in and game out.
Giordano, despite playing the game hard, has managed to stay healthy for a good chunk of his career. He’s played all 82 regular season games on four separate occasions which is a testament to his physical conditioning and pain tolerance. He’s routinely matched against the top lines of the opposition, sees yeomen’s work on the special team front and plays a ton. Giordano knows just when to make that critical determination to join the rush, has a hard, accurate shot and has contributed either an assist or goal at critical moments. There’s a reason why top brass believes enough in his grit and skill to have him at the top of the pay scale at $6.75 million a season.
Interestingly enough, Giordano’s path to stardom has proven to be a profile in intestinal fortitude as the Toronto native was initially undrafted at the NHL level. There was also a time when it appeared his days as a Flame would be over when he opted to play in Russia with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL during the 2007-08 season. Fortunately, Giordano would return to the organization and make his way back to Calgary after a brief sabbatical by inking a new deal. It’s been win-win for both parties since then as he’s gone on to emerge as a true franchise cornerstone.
Giordano Makes Others Around Him Better
Giordano continues to lead by example and is a terrific role model and wealth of advice for younger players coming into the league. Take the example of defense partner T.J. Brodie, whose stock was on the decline last year. Since being reunited with Giordano, he’s managed to bring a greater sense of dependability to his game this season. Dougie Hamilton’s departure to the Carolina Hurricanes this off-season created an opportunity for the pair to be put back together, and, as a result, Brodie’s overall game has improved dramatically.
There’s no doubt that with Giordano anchoring a blue line that has gotten better as the season has progressed, that the Flames would appear to have all the ingredients to remain a formidable force in the Western Conference. The team, under new head coach Bill Peters, has shown itself to be a very resilient and successful group. They’ve compiled an impressive 22-10-2 record and are a red-hot 8-1 in their last nine outings.
This Flames team has shown they’re more than capable of winning 6-5 shootouts or able to come out on the positive end of grinding 2-1 contests. The high confidence level is evident along with the fact that this group seems to embody many of the attributes of their leader. Giordano is a proven fixture with his tenacity, dedication to his craft and talent and appears to be the perfect leader for a team that is embracing his example.