I expect that from him -- since I got here he’s been a leader the whole time. He took the role and he did a great job. He’s a great captain, he works so hard every day and he’s a great leader for the whole group. - Mikael Backlund
CALGARY, AB -- Last September, few raised an eyebrow when Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley named Mark Giordano as the successor to Jarome Iginla’s vacated captaincy.
He wasted little time raising expectations soon thereafter, though.
In his first season as Calgary’s leader, Giordano put together his most complete season to date.
“He had a great year,” said forward Mikael Backlund, who routinely served as an assistant captain under Giordano. “I expect that from him -- since I got here he’s been a leader the whole time. He took the role and he did a great job. He’s a great captain, he works so hard every day and he’s a great leader for the whole group.”
He didn’t just have a great season. He had a career-year.
At 30 and in his seventh full season of NHL action, Giordano set new career marks in virtually every recordable statistic, including goals (14), assists (33), points (47), power play goals (7) and game-winning goals (2).
He managed to do so, and in the process toss himself into Norris Trophy consideration, despite missing 18 games with a broken ankle sustained in the opening month of the season.
“[Giordano] is a class act, he’s one-of-a-kind,” assistant Curtis Glencross said. “He’s a great leader and he leads in every aspect of his life. You can’t say enough about [Giordano]. When you look at the season he had this year, it’s pretty remarkable. It’s too bad that he couldn’t stay healthy for the whole year.
“There’s not many guys who are a better pro than [Giordano].”
The numbers, impressive in there own right, back Glencross’ claim. Amongst his peers, Giordano’s stats line is second to few.
The 6-foot, 200-pound defenceman finished 11th among blueliners in scoring with 47 points. Just Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks averaged more points-per-game than Giordano. Only nine others saw more ice time per game than the Flames rearguard and among those, but three had a better plus/minus than Giordano.
The combination of Giordano’s on-ice and off-ice certainly caught the attention of newcomer Kevin Westgarth.
“I think most of what I knew about [Giordano] is that I hated him because he would always bury the guys in Los Angeles,” said Westgarth, a former member of the Kings who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in late December. “I know he took down Dustin Brown a few times. Obviously it’s a bit of a different perspective now but it’s been a pleasure watching him up close.
“It’s impressive as…it’s very impressive the game he’s been able to create for himself. Being an undrafted guy, it’s unbelievable to see how hard he works every day. Now he’s a top-10, top-20 defenseman in the league and he still works that hard every single day.
“As a captain, you can’t ask for anything more like that and I think he’ll be a great cornerstone on the back end. Those players don’t come around very often in this league anymore.”
As remarkable as Giordano’s season was, it was his work in the Calgary dressing room that earned him the most praise.
Under the leadership of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee, the upstart Flames recorded a surprising 35-40-7 record, including an NHL-leading and all-time record-tying 49-one goal games.
The team’s attitude reflected that of their captain, Hartley said, re-enforcing his choice for the ‘C’ some seven months ago.
“I had no doubt that Mark Giordano will be a great captain,” he said. “I said it this week in front of my players that Mark Giordano is the ultimate, ultimate pro. Not only captain, but look at this guy, the way he trains, the way he prepares, the way he treats people, the way that he respects the game.
"He's the type of guy that we're going to build a long path leading us to success with.”