Recently, the NHL Network released their top 20 defenseman and placed the Calgary Flames’ captain, Mark Giordano third on the list.
The 35-year-old defenseman had a career-high season last year which earned him the Norris Trophy for the best defenseman in 2019-20 with over 96 per cent of the first place votes.
But, the crew at the NHL Network and other hockey experts have often placed Giordano behind Brent Burns and Victor Hedman as the league’s top defenseman.
And even more recently Giordano was ranked an 89 overall in EA Sports NHL 20 video game — ranked lower than Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karllson, who had 45 points a piece last season — nearly 30 points less than Giordano’s 2018-19 campaign.
Yes, Giordano has been accredited as top defenseman with the Norris Trophy, but outside that people seem to still undervalue him as the best defenseman compared to others.
“Maybe people outside take him a little bit for granted,” Flames’ centre Mikael Backlund said in an NHL.com article.
In the interview, Backlund went on to say, “But nobody in here does believe me. He’s always our top player, year-in, year-out. This year’s no different. What’s made him stand out a bit more this year, I suppose, is that he’s had a hotter start points-wise.
“If you’re going to win the Norris, that’s a factor, for sure. People always look at points.
“But for us, we know his value.
“In here, we love him. The city of Calgary loves him. We know how good he is,” Backlund said.
But, why should Giordano be considered the best in the league?
Giordano’s career-high season
Giordano finished second in the NHL in points among defensemen behind Burns with 17 goals and 57 assists for a total of 74 points.
Giordano led the entire NHL with a plus-39 rating and the veteran defenseman led the Flames in ice time per game (24:14) and had 21 power-play points and six shorthanded points.
Giordano is also a natural leader and was a large contributing factor to the Flames finishing with the best record in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
Giordano’s 2018-19 campaign was impressive at any age and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down; he works hard, he’s arguably the most consistent player in the league and he’s a natural leader.
And to be even more impressive the Norris-winner went undrafted and has played his entire NHL to date in a Flames jersey.
“His work ethic, his belief in himself, his drive, he continually got better year after year, a guy that went undrafted. Remarkable story, remarkable player, well-deserved Norris Trophy winner. Played in every situation, well-rounded player, defenseman. For me, it’s just the heart, the work ethic and he believed in himself to get to that level,” NHL Network analyst Ken Daneyko said of Giordano on the network’s list.
Giordano was one of five Flames players to have 70-plus points last season and the Flames were the only team with that many 70-plus point producers in the league. Giordano may not have had as many points as Burns or Hedman, but he carried his team with consistent defense, while racking up high points. Giordano is arguably more consistent defensively and offensively at the same time.
Giordano vs. Burns
Giordano played less ice time and had ten less assists and 9 less points than Burns. But, Giordano had one more goal than the San Jose Sharks defenseman last season and had nearly 80 less shots. He also played less average ice time than Burns and had a better shot percentage at 7.7 per cent, while Burns was at 5.3 per cent.
It’s arguable that even though Burns had more points, that doesn’t make him the best defenseman. Giordano is easily the more well-rounded player as he had a plus-39 rating over Burns’ plus-13. That alone shows Giordano’s usefulness when he’s on the ice.
Giordano vs. Hedman
But, if you don’t think there’s a strong enough case for Giordano to be placed higher than Burns, then you should agree that he’s better than Hedman.
Last season, Giordano beat the Lightning defenseman in every category. Giordano finished 2018-19 with 17 goals, while Hedman had 12. The Flames’ captain also helped his teammates directly with 57 assists and Hedman had 42 helpers.
Giordano has 221 shots on goal last year and Hedman had 182. Hedman had a 6.6 shot percentage and Giordano had 7.7 per cent of his shots cross the goal line.
And like I said, points don’t amount to the perfect defenseman, but Giordano’s points show more production on top of his consistency and ability to shut down players. Hedman’s team did slightly better, but were mostly credited with being an offensive powerhouse.
Hedman and the Lightning’s defenceman faced 2,627 shots while the Flames’ goaltenders faced 2,297 shots last season. This is not directly linked to Giordano and Hedman, but as both teams’ top defenseman it goes to show which team played slightly better defensively – even though the Lightning finished first in the NHL.
Giordano needs more recognition
The argument against Giordano is that he had a substantial amount of penalty minutes over the other guys and had less points than Burns.
But, winning the Norris Trophy by a landslide and having such an amazing season last year, Giordano deserves more credit and should’ve been placed at least a spot higher on the NHL Network’s top defensman list – if not at the top.
To me, Giordano is more in touch with being a defensemen, while also producing great points and creating plays for his teammates. He is a great support for his teammates, including goalies and his forwards as he is great at keeping pucks to the outside. Giordano is also not afraid of blocking shots and making big hits.
Giordano may not be the flashiest defenseman, but he’s the most useful and the hardest-working one. He went undrafted and he only seems to get better with age rather than deteriorating like other players. That alone means he’s a valuable asset to the Flames and an elite NHL player.
Although near the top of many people’s lists, Giordano deserves even more recognition and with a new season on the horizon Giordano is set for another highlight year.