The Calgary Flames announced Sunday afternoon they have placed defenseman and Norris Trophy contender Mark Giordano on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Flames and their fans.
Following action Saturday, Calgary sat a mere three points out of the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but with Minnesota, the team currently occupying that final spot, playing their best hockey of the season and Calgary losing their best blueliner, playoff hopes look bleak.
No matter which side of the fence you stand on – if you believe the Calgary Flames are a team that caught some lucky breaks or you think they’re the kind of never-say-die team that has scratched and clawed their way into playoff contention – everyone can agree that Calgary would have been a shell of a team they currently are without Giordano.
And, though there has been no official word of how long Giordano will be out, his being sent back to Calgary while the Flames are on the road could spell disaster.
In 61 games this season, the Giordano has 11 goals and 48 points. He eats big minutes, playing more than 25 minutes per night against the opposition’s best offensive units and has been outstanding for Calgary in doing so. Losing him for any stretch of time, be it a week or simply a pair of games, is critical at this point in the year.
Analytically speaking, Giordano’s play more than speaks for itself. Of the 50 defenseman that have played at least 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey, Giordano has the fourth-best Corsi For percentage relative to his teammates at 6.1 percent. That’s behind only Dougie Hamilton, P.K. Subban and Brian Campbell, and in the same class as Duncan Keith, Erik Karlsson and Nick Leddy.
Of the top 10 blueliners in 5-on-5 Corsi For relative, Giordano’s 28.6 percent of offensive zone starts is also the lowest total of any blueliner. Jake Muzzin (28.7 percent) is the only other defenseman below 31 percent. Of those ahead of him in the advanced stat category, Hamilton and Subban start 31.7 percent of their shifts in the attacking zone while Campbell starts nearly 40 percent in the opposition’s end.
That Giordano has been able to drive play the way he has on a Calgary team that, as a whole, has been better than only Colorado and Buffalo in 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage is remarkable. There are few defenseman who can do what he’s done and the importance of his role on the Flames can’t be understated enough.
Of all the players Giordano has skated at least 100 minutes of 5-on-5 with, not a single player has posted better possession rates apart from Giordano. That’s not a typo, either. He’s been that impressive and his goals and assists are just the tip of the iceberg.
Take his play with T.J. Brodie, for example. The pairing has been heralded as one of the best in the entire NHL, but when it comes to driving play – measured in this instance by 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage – the pairing has been the best on the Flames. They have a Corsi For at 5-on-5 of 49 percent in 1,033 minutes together. When Giordano has been apart, albeit for only 89 minutes, he has a 43.2 percent while playing only 17.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
As for Brodie, in 157 minutes away from Giordano while starting 25 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone, he has posted a 40.5 percent Corsi For away from Giordano. That’s a tremendous indication of just how valuable Giordano has been.
He’s not just the team’s captain -- at times this season, he has been the team. If anyone was going to carry Calgary into the postseason, it was going to be Giordano. Losing him, and on the same day the team traded away Curtis Glencross, is enough to kill Calgary’s playoff hopes barring an incredible, movie script-type run.