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MR. 'EVERYTHING'

Teammates praise captain's incredible play this season - something Giordano hopes to keep doing for years to come

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

For those that not only witnessed, but profited from that eye-popping, Norris-caliber campaign, a single word seemed right to assess the captain's worth.

"Everything," said Travis Hamonic, dolloping a heaping helping of praise on fellow blueliner Mark Giordano.

"Everything," repeated rookie Rasmus Andersson, without a smidge of uncertainty.

"Everything," No. 5's longtime teammate and fellow locker-room spearhead, Mikael Backlund, added. "He does it all. 

"If Gio doesn't win (the Norris), there's something wrong."

Is there an echo in here?

Everything. 

To summarize the man's many offerings to the Flames' first 50-win season since the '89 Cup-winning squad, everything seems rather suitable, doesn't it?

The do-it-all D man finished second among blueliners with 17 goals and 74 points in 78 regular-season games, had a league-leading four short-handed markers, 21 powerplay points, and a league-best +39 rating. 

Most impressively, he was also the NHL's top possession driver in the final half season, scoring a mighty Corsi-For percentage of 59.42 - more than three percentage points higher than fellow Norris finalist, Brent Burns.

But unlike Burns and reigning champ Victor Hedman, Giordano did it by defying Father Time.

Aging, he says, like a fine wine.

"I'm not dumb to the fact that I'm getting older here," chuckled the Flames captain. "The key, I think, to sustaining a high level of play, is to understand that. Don't fight it. Work with it. 

"I'm going to be 36 when we drop the puck next year. But I don't feel that way at all. I feel like I'm coming off a year where I played my best hockey. Some might think that would take a toll over the course of - probably - 90-plus games when you factor in the pre-season…

"I don't feel that way at all. I want to keep going. 

"This is the best I've ever felt, physically.

"And you know what? I think that kind of a positive mindset helps. I'm not going into the summertime dreading the work I have to put in. Just the opposite. I'm motivated. I want to go and have a great off-season so that when we're back here in September, I can step right back in and elevate my game even further."

 

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Along with being a Norris nominee, Giordano was also nominated for the Mark Messier Leadership Award Wednesday.

So much of the modern-day game is predicated on speed, and if the first round of this year's playoffs is any indication, that isn't changing anytime soon. 

So, what, after an incredible, 35-year-old campaign, can Giordano bring for a second, third, fourth, or even fifth encore?

For starters, only a handful of others have won the Norris Trophy at this vintage or older, but those who did - like the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom, who won it four times between his 35- and 40-year-old seasons, or former Flames icon Al MacInnis - were the elite of their time.

Like Giordano, today.

"He's a freak," said Hamonic. "He comes into camp and puts guys to shame with how hard he works in the gym.

"So, chasing that stuff down? 

"Wouldn't be surprised."

 

 

Giordano was, after all, just the fifth defenceman in NHL history to chart a 60-point season at 35 or older, joining Lidstrom, MacInnis, Ray Bourque, Sergei Zubov and Doug Harvey. 

That doesn't happen by accident. 

All four maintained a high level of play for several more years with some - Lidstrom, MacInnis and Harvey - doing it past their 40th birthday. 

Giordano is well on his way, too, showing the endurance of a 20-something by averaging more than 24 minutes per game ice time and rarely, if ever, 'taking the option' on a recovery day.

Earlier this year, in fact, coach Bill Peters went as far as to hide the veteran's skates on one of those blasted rest days in hopes he would heed the advice and rest the old widgets instead.

That's not the way he's wired.

"The great thing about where I'm at, especially in reference to those guys, is that I haven't had any thoughts whatsoever about slowing down," Giordano said. "And for me, that starts in the gym.

"I do a lot of lifting in the off-season, try to make those big gains and build muscle mass, because you lose it over the course of the season with all the high-intensity cardio we do. 

"So, when we talk about getting here to Game 90 or whatever it is, you're able to handle it. Your body's not breaking down. You're not fatigued because your strength is gone. 

"That and really taking my diet seriously, even with a four or five-month break from this level of competition, is big. It's something I learned very early on in my career, and I definitely credit that to the commitment I've had to getting to where I am 
now."

 

Video: One-on-One With The Captain

 

Giordano plans to take the next couple of weeks off to allow the nagging bumps to heal up, but once June rolls around, he'll be back, full bore, into his regimented off-season training program. 

"You never want to take too much time off and lose some of the positive momentum you've gained," he said. "For me, it's a big off-season. They all are, but this definitely has a different feel because of the season I just had. 

"Speed is the No. 1 priority for me. The game, as we all know, is only getting faster. So, you're always looking for ways to maintain and even improve upon your quickness.

"It's all about staying on top of it."

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