CALGARY – The Calgary Flames may have played below expectations in missing the playoffs last season, but the same can’t be said about Mark Giordano.
After scoring 11 goals and adding 19 assists in 82 games with the Flames in 2009-10, Giordano wants to increase his offensive output while also improving his defensive game.
“I’m just going to try and build on last year and try and get better,” said Giordano. “I want to be guy who contributes offensively and is a good power-play guy.”
In pre-season action against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Giordano showed off his offensive talent by setting up three goals, including a pair by rookie defenceman T.J. Brodie on the power play in Calgary’s 5-4 shootout win.
“He’s sort of the type of defenceman that I model myself after,” said Brodie, who’s making a strong case to stick with the Flames this season. “He’s smart and skilled. If I’m in the right spot, he’ll give me the puck.”
Flames head coach Brent Sutter has been happy with Giordano so far in training camp and through the exhibition schedule.
“He’s just carried on from how he played last year,” Sutter said. “He’s not someone that I sit and worry about because he’s a guy that brings it every night. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and he throws it out there every shift.”
After being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs last Jan. 31 in the blockbuster trade that sent Dion Phanuef the other way, forward Niklas Hagman discovered firsthand how Giordano has developed into one of Calgary’s best defencemen.
“I knew when I came over here that he’s played well, but I was even surprised that he played as well as he did,” Hagman said. “He’s really good overall because he plays well in his own zone too.”
In addition to putting up points, Giordano has made a commitment to playing better in his own end this season.
“I don’t want to be seen as a guy who’s purely offensive and is a liability defensively,” said the six-foot, 203-pound Toronto native. “To play in this league and to play a lot of minutes, you have to be a good defensive player and you have to be able to shut down top players on the other teams and to play in key situations.
“That’s what I want to be and that’s what I have to work on.”
Sutter has confidence that Giordano can continue to contribute offensively while taking care of his defensive responsibilities.
“He has the capabilities of doing both because of his skating ability,” said Sutter, who has given Giordano the green light to jump into the rush if he sees an opportunity. “Some nights he puts himself in situations sometimes where you wish he wouldn’t, but he does because he cares so deeply and has that passion about winning. You’d rather have to have the problem of trying to hold someone back than to push him to go.”
While Calgary allowed a respectable 210 goals against, the Flames want to improve on the league-worst 204 goals they scored last season by allowing their defencemen to become more active.
“We obviously want to keep our defensive play where it is at a high level and then jump in more and be more offensive and create more chances,” Giordano said. “If you look at teams that are successful in the league now, they’re sending their (defencemen) in and their ‘D’ are a big part of their offence.”
The Flames will continue their exhibition schedule with a home game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday before travelling to Saskatoon on Wednesday to face the New York Islanders.
While the Flames assigned defencemen John Negrin and Keith Seabrook along with goalie Matt Keetley to the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League on Monday, Sutter said that prospects like Brodie and forward Greg Nemisz have earned the right to stay with the Flames for a longer look.
“We’ve got two games coming up where we still want to have a real good look at some kids,” Sutter said. “It’s great to have difficult decisions because they’re decisions that weren’t there a year ago, but they’re there now. That’s a fantastic thing that tells you a lot about competition and it tells you a lot that you’ve really got young guys now pushing for NHL jobs and the veterans need to rise their games to levels that’s expected and have consistency in it.”