Since returning to the NHL for the 2008-09 season, Mark Giordano
has become one of the go-to defensemen on the Calgary Flames
Unable to come to terms on a contract with the Flames after playing 55 games during parts of two seasons as an undrafted free agent, Giordano spent a season in Russia playing for Dynamo Moscow before returning to North America.
Last season, he broke through with career highs of 11 goals, 30 points and a plus-17 rating while playing in all 82 regular-season games. Then, Giordano got the long-term security he was looking for when Calgary signed him to a five-year contract extension Oct. 29. He has 2 goals, 8 points and a plus-2 rating this season.
"It was something I wanted to get done. I'm not one of those guys who wants to wait to the last second to negotiate a contract," Giordano told NHL.com. "I thought it was a good opportunity, and they felt the same way. I think it was a really good deal for both sides. I love Calgary and like playing there, so I was just glad to get it done so early."
As excited as Giordano was to resume his NHL career, he called the 50 games he played in Russia in 2007-08 a positive experience.
"It's a really good league with really good players. The toughest part about it is the lifestyle change," he said. "Not being able to speak the language and all those little things that go into it. It's tough to do every-day things like grocery shopping and going out and stuff like that."
Giordano's teammates included Jamie Lundmark
, who also spent time in Calgary among his NHL stops, and Eric Landry
, a one-time San Jose draft pick. Having them around, as well as some Russian teammates who were fluent in English helped bridge the language gap, but a second chance in Calgary definitely was on Giordano's mind.
"The Flames didn't have to be as kind as they were," he said. "They didn't hold a grudge or anything like that towards me and everything worked out."
Giordano's strong two-way game was one of the bright spots last season for a Calgary team that struggled to score goals and ultimately missed the playoffs. He said the offensive aspect of the game always has come naturally, but it's being responsible in his own end that's his main focus.
"I've been trying to develop my overall game, playing a lot better defensively," he said. "Guys that are good defensively are the guys who are usually out in the last minute of a game and getting the big minutes. … The bottom line is, if you're a coach you can't have a guy you can't rely on out in key situations and that's the biggest thing as a player that you want to do, gain the trust of your coaches to be able to play key minutes."
With an 8-11-1 record, they currently sit six points out of a Western Conference playoff spot and have been plagued by inconsistency on both sides of the puck. Their 2.9 goals per game is a notable improvement over last season's 2.45, but the offense comes in spurts and then disappears for a stretch. Their 3.05 team goals-against average is in the bottom-third of the League, and particularly disappointing for a team that has Miikka Kiprusoff
as its goaltender.
Giordano said the Flames aren't far from pointing their season in the right direction -- if they can do certain things just a little better.
"It's attention to maybe those one or two mistakes right now that are costing us games," he said. "If you look at all our losses, we're right there -- we feel like we've lost a lot of games where we brought it upon ourselves and made some mental mistakes. But in saying that, that's a good thing going forward because we know we can fix it and we have the potential to win a lot of games."