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AN INCREDIBLE YEAR

Mark Giordano is 'very proud' to be a Norris finalist after his tremendous 2018-19 season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

One name on that hunk of hallowed hardware carries a particular significance, a special resonance, for Mark Giordano.

"Obviously everyone knows Bobby Orr is the greatest defenceman ever and one of, if not the, greatest player of all time,'' acknowledges the Flames' captain. "But he wasn't a guy I was lucky enough to watch on TV as a kid, to grow up with. 

"Nick Lidstrom was.

"Pretty special that I've gotten to wear No. 5, like he did. By chance. But that's been cool.

"And now being a Norris nominee, like he was, so often … how many of these did he win? Seven? Eight?

"And I'm sure if he'd kept playing there'd have been a few more.

"What he did, the player he was, the way he carried himself, the respect he got: Incredible."

The unflappable Lidstrom collected his seventh and final Norris Trophy - one short of Orr's record haul - at the evergreen age of 41 in 2011.

Giordano's aiming to land his first at 35.

Up against the past two Norris recipients, Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Giordano has plenty of evidence to back up his claim to the award, set to be doled out June 19th at the big soiree at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

A plus-39 led all players throughout the league, his 74 points ranked second among D-men to the 83 amassed by Burns. He averaged 24:14 of ice time per game and was an indispensable part of a 23-point collective improvement, the Flames trending from being a non-playoff also-ran to tops in the Western Conference and second among the 31 entries.

The timing is right. The dues paid. The profile increased. The numbers and performance having reached an optimum level.

It's shaping up as Mark Giordano's moment.

Video: A look back at the captain's best plays in 2018-19

"I thought I defended really well this year,'' he reasons. "I know plus-minus isn't a stat some people really look at that much and I agree that sometimes it's a bit skewed.

"But to be plus-39 and lead the league was I think my favourite number this year.

"Defensively, I thought I played well. That's the part of my game I take the most pride in. I enjoy playing against the other team's top line.

"Look, if anyone tells you they hate scoring goals and assists, they're lying. And it was nice for me to be able to contribute that way and help the team.

"I've had some pretty good totals in other years, too, but this season I had timely goals, big goals, that helped us win or change momentum in games."

Giordano's story, oft told by now, only adds to the feel-good storyline.

Unheralded, undrafted, a guy who started in the minors, worked his way into the show, moved to the KHL for a year and has since returning rose, steadily, stubbornly, to the pinnacle of his profession.

"What makes this nomination special is that I look at the game today and there's so many great defenceman, the quality of talent, out there in the conversation every year,'' Giordano says. "It's a big number now.

"So I'm very proud to be one of the three finalists.

"And then, of course, you look at that list of past winners."

Video: Mark Giordano has been absolutely dominant in 2018-19

Staring, from a personal standpoint, with the effortlessly-effective 20-season/four-Stanley-Cup defending dynamo defending who ruled the roost during an unparalleled stay at Joe Louis Arena.

They share similar professional traits, do Nick Lidstrom and Mark Giordano. Both captains. Both the fulcrum of their teams. Both outwardly calm but ferociously competitive.

"I played against (Lidstrom) the last few years of his career and even then he was still the best defenceman in the league,'' marvels Giordano. "By a mile.

"I was always in awe of him.

"Being from Toronto, growing up, I watched the Leafs, naturally. The first defenceman I can really remember was Al Iafrate, with that big shot. Dave Ellett. Boris Mironov.

"But as soon as I got to the age I was getting more serious about hockey, understanding the game better, for sure it was Nick Lidstrom. Just the way he carried himself. Virtually mistake-free every night. Played with such poise and confidence.

"I wasn't the only guy who looked up to him. Just his demeanour, the way he carried himself. How could anyone not want to be like him?

"So to be up for an award that he won so many times, for sure I do feel a sense of accomplishment but at the same time I really can't believe it."

Maybe the belief will hit him on the 19th.

"I'm really excited to go to the awards. I won't be overly disappointed if I don't win. Honestly. Being nominated is a big accomplishment in itself.

"But if my name is called it'd be something real special.

"A lot of family will be there. My parents, obviously. My sister. My wife, our kids, as well. No matter what happens, we're going to spend a week there, in Vegas, enjoy ourselves, do a lot of activities.

"Bu't it would sure be nice to have something to celebrate."

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