CALGARY - Thin up front due to injuries and with no forward in the top 40 in NHL scoring, the Calgary Flames are still among the league's best teams in offensive firepower.
Calgary ranked fifth among the 30 NHL teams in goals scored with 50 prior to Wednesday's games. Much of the offence for the 9-6-2 Flames has come from the blue-line.
Leading the way is captain Mark Giordano, who leads both the Flames and all NHL defencemen with five goals and 14 assists in 17 games.
Second on the club and third among NHL blue-liners is Giordano's defensive partner T.J. Brodie, with four goals and 10 assists.
"Offensively, we've got the green light to just go and create and that's what we try and do on the back end," Giordano said Wednesday at Scotiabank Saddledome.
"We need to score goals and get more goals than last year. If we're going to score on this team a lot of it is going to be created through puck movement on our back end or our defence jumping in. It was definitely something we talked about."
In the second year of a rebuild, Flames head coach Bob Hartley admitted he and the coaching staff wondered over the summer where the offence would come from. Hartley declared at training camp scoring would be by committee.
Giordano is clearly head of that committee, working on a seven-game point streak (four goals, 12 assists) with the Flames at home to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
According to the NHL, the Calgary captain is only the fifth defenceman since 2005-06 to record 18 points in the first 16 games of the regular season.
"I don't care what anyone says. If you're on a streak, scoring and getting points, it feels great," Giordano said. "You feel you're contributing, especially the way we've been going. We're winning games."
Brodie signed a five-year contract extension in October worth $4.6 million per year, according to Capgeek.com. The 24-year-old has taken his cue from the captain in the opposition's zone.
"There's things that I've tried to take out of his game and put in my game," Brodie said. "As defencemen, we want to contribute too. We want to be the difference makers.
"Playing with him, he's always open, he always wants the puck, which is nice. When he gets the puck in the slot, there's not many times when he misses the net. It's usually a shot on net or a goal."
What makes the contributions from Calgary's top defensive pairing particularly significant is that the Flames lost second- and third-line centres Mikael Backlund and Matt Stajan, as well top-six wingers Mason Raymond and Joe Colborne, to injuries at the end of October.
Calgary still averaged just under four goals a game on their recent five-game road trip while claiming six out of a possible 10 points. With his three goals and seven assists on that road swing, the NHL named the 31-year-old Giordano the league's first star of the week.
Jiri Hudler (13 points), Johnny Gaudreau (12) and Sean Monahan (11) are Calgary's top producing forwards.
When asked about the timetable for the return of Stajan (knee), Raymond (shoulder), Colborne (upper body) and Backlund (abdomen), Hartley said "no one is close." Michael Ferland, one of the call-ups from the Adirondack Flames to fill the void, was concussed Oct. 31 and has just begun skating again.
So Giordano and Brodie will likely continue to play prominent roles in Calgary's offence for the near future. Hartley insists his team would play that style of game regardless of injuries at forward.
"It's not just about Gio or Brodes. It's not about taking chances. It's about making the right plays," the head coach said. "We want to play that style of game.
"We want to be an up-tempo team to go and score goals and we know how tough it is to score goals. If you only depend on the three forwards to score goals, sometimes you make it tough."
Giordano points out he and Brodie couldn't be offensive forces without the support of the forwards.
"With our style of play and our forwards, the way they backtrack and create turnovers, it helps us jump in the play," the captain said. "We have to keep providing that offence, that second wave for our team."