CALGARY — Mark Giordano will have “Norris Trophy winner” attached to his name this NHL season.
The only Calgary Flame to win the award that goes to the league’s top defenceman says the label motivates him.
“You want to prove it’s not just a one-time thing,” Giordano said Monday.
“You want to keep going and improve. If you look around the league and look at all the best players, the one thing they are is really consistent. I want to try and be that and have a good year.”
Giordano became just the fourth defenceman in the 65-year history of the trophy to win it after turning 35, following Nicklas Lidstrom, Doug Harvey and Al MacInnis.
The conclusion of his acceptance speech at the NHL awards in June — “Let’s keep this going. I feel young. I feel fresh” — became amusing summer fodder for friends and teammates.
“I’m still getting the text messages and the hashtag ‘young and fresh’ sent to me pretty much weekly,” said Giordano, who turns 36 on Oct. 3.
“A couple of the boys reached out right away and a couple friends back home have made T-shirts with the hashtag. I wouldn’t say I’ve lived it down yet.”
But Giordano feeling young and fresh bodes well for the Flames’ fortunes in 2019-20, when he’ll be captain for a seventh season.
Led Flames in All Ways
The six-foot-one, 200-pound defender from Toronto led the league with a plus-39 rating last season. Giordano ranked second in scoring with a career-high 17 goals and 57 assists.
Teammate and fellow defenceman Travis Hamonic dubbed him “Mr. Everything”.
The Flames topped the NHL’s Western Conference with a 107-point season — the team’s best since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989 — only to fall in five games to the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of playoffs.
A summer away didn’t decrease Giordano’s dissatisfaction with an early playoff exit.
“It stings, just because of the way we went out,” he said. “Talking to the other guys, we didn’t get to our style of game that we pretty much did the whole season. We weren’t as aggressive and playing that style that we know we can play.
“That’s why it stings. It doesn’t make it any easier when you’re sitting out watching thinking that you can compete and beat the teams that are still in.
“We all know we were pretty disappointed with the way it ended, but we had a really good season last year. When you finish first in the west, you don’t expect there to be too many changes and there wasn’t. Now it’s on us to get to that next level, obviously, in playoffs.”
Flames’ Missing Pieces
The re-signing of restricted free agent forward and 34-goal scorer Matthew Tkachuk is the most significant loose end for the Flames heading into September’s training camp.
“There’s no question how much he means to our team,” Giordano said. “He’s a guy who brings it every night.
“I talk to him quite often. We send some texts almost daily. We try to make light of the situation but as it gets closer to camp, hopefully the business side of it works out. It always ends up working out. You just want it sooner rather than later, if possible.”
The Flames will also be without defenceman Juuso Valimaki — a first-round draft pick in 2017 — to start the season because the 20-year-old tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in early August.
“The hardest part is the initial part when you don’t know how long you’re going to be out,” Giordano said.
“Once you can get to that rehab stage, he’ll be fine. It was tough news to hear because he’s a big part of our team already and he’s going to be a huge part of this organization going forward.”
Former Edmonton Oilers winger Milan Lucic and goaltender Cam Talbot will be Flames this season.
Calgary sent James Neal to Edmonton for the 31-year-old Lucic in a swap of underperforming, contract-heavy forwards.
“Hey listen, playing against Luc for a lot of years, he’s a game-breaking type of guy who plays well in the big games and has a lot of experience obviously,” Giordano said.
“I think everyone knows he’s a presence out there. He’s going to be a leader for us and help our team.”
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press