It’s the question that never seems to go away. Mere moments after the Calgary Flames lost their captain to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft this past summer, fans started speculating how and when they could bring Mark Giordano back to the C of Red. The issue came to the forefront yet again this week after Giordano’s agent, Rich Winter, appeared on Sportsnet 960 and suggested that he can absolutely see his client being reunited with the team he suited up 949 times for.
Appearing on the Eric Francis Show, Winter neatly laid out the reasons why Giordano would love to return to the franchise he played 15 NHL seasons for. “I certainly think there’s a possibility,” he told Francis. “Coach loves him. Player loves the coach. Player has a home in the city. The team seems to be playing much better… and I think there could be an argument that a guy like Gio, with a little more offence, could really add to the mix… But that’s not something we control.”
The fact is, the case for bringing back Giordano is more sentimental than logical. When hockey pundits were debating whether or not the Flames should have protected the 38-year-old from the expansion draft last summer, the argument to keep him in the fold was more about showing loyalty to one of the franchise’s all-time greats rather than his actual value to the team. Giordano’s advancing age, $6.75 million cap hit and declining on-ice performance made Calgary’s decision to part ways with the veteran defenceman a no-brainer. Fast forward six months, and absolutely nothing has changed.
The Flames Don’t Have a Top-4 Role Available for Giordano
When the Kraken picked up Giordano at the expansion draft, there was a lot of hand wringing over how the Flames would replace the massive minutes the former captain logged on a nightly basis. He led the team in ice time per game in seven of the past eight campaigns, including last season at the age of 37. Before the 2021-22 season started, I wrote about how Juuso Välimäki hoped to step up to help fill the void. And while that definitely hasn’t happened, another young defender took everyone by surprise out of training camp and has risen to the challenge. Oliver Kylington has arrived.
Kylington leads all Flames blueliners with 19 points in 32 games, and his obvious chemistry with new partner Chris Tanev makes them an effective pairing. The young Swede has generated the offensive pop that Giordano used to provide, while Tanev continues to be one of the most effective shutdown defensemen in the league. The other top-four pairing has also been very solid. Noah Hannifin has picked up right where he left off last campaign, and Rasmus Andersson is having a bounce-back year after a poor showing in 2020-21. That begs the question: where would Giordano slot in on the Flames’ roster?
Would Giordano Accept a Diminished Role?
While the Flames’ top-four seems to be set in stone right now, the third pairing has been a big question mark all season long. New addition Erik Gudbranson had a decent start to his tenure in Calgary, but his game has seen some regression in recent weeks. Meanwhile, his partner Nikita Zadorov has been a huge disappointment, particularly if you factor in his huge cap hit of $3.75 million. There have been calls for head coach Darryl Sutter to try out veteran Michael Stone or even recall Valimaki from the Stockton Heat to reinforce the bottom end of the D-core. But so far, Sutter has been sticking with his “twin towers,” who both offer size but not much more.
Would Giordano be an upgrade on either Gudbranson or Zadorov? Absolutely. Does it make sense to give up a first and a possible second/third-round draft pick for a potential bottom pairing guy saddled with a massive cap hit? Absolutely not. Even if the Flames end up trading for their former captain, I really don’t know how he would fit in on a team that really doesn’t need him to be “the guy” anymore.
And don’t even get me started about what this means for the Flames’ vacant captaincy. Would the return of Giordano mean he automatically gets to wear the C on his chest again? What if he didn’t re-sign with the team in the offseason? What if he did re-sign but became a third-pairing guy with a diminished role? It’s a messy situation that is best avoided.
The Flames Have Other Pressing Needs
I think it’s fair to say that the Flames probably need another top-six forward more than they need defensive depth. It’s a safe bet that they find a way back to the postseason this season, so general manager Brad Treliving should address the team’s secondary scoring woes and consider adding more scoring punch ahead of the trade deadline. Players like Tomas Hertl, Filip Forsberg and Rickard Rakell all come to mind as reasonable options. Even if Treliving wanted to beef up the back end, a defenceman like John Klingberg is nine years younger than Giordano, is $2.5 million cheaper and has more offensive upside.
I know Giordano still holds a very special place in Flames fans’ hearts, and you don’t have to look any further than his preseason appearance at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sep. 29. When the former captain opened the scoring for the Kraken, chants of “Gio” nearly raised the roof. There’s obviously still a lot of love out there for the local legend, but it all comes down to what is best for the franchise moving forward. If it didn’t make sense to protect Giordano from the expansion draft, it certainly doesn’t make sense to bring him back now.
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Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.