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What Mark Giordano Brings to the Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs added Mark Giordano to their roster over the weekend. How can the former Norris winner help their team?
Mark Giordano

If Mark Giordano shot the puck the other way, he'd be a perfect addition. 

Alas, the former Kraken captain is a lefty, meaning that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be forced to settle for slightly less than perfection from their newest defender. 

And they are almost certainly delighted with that. 

The Maple Leafs landed the top-four defenseman they've been searching for all year on Sunday, surrendering only a pair of second-round picks and a third-rounder in order to reunite Giordano with the partner that helped him net the 2019 Norris Trophy, TJ Brodie. 

No matter how you slice it, this is an incredible addition to Kyle Dubas' squad. That Toronto managed to upgrade its roster the way they did and didn't forfeit a first-round pick, roster player, or top prospect to do so is simply icing on the cake. 

What Giordano gives the Maple Leafs is options. 

Giordano is no longer the top-pairing stud from his Calgary days. But the 38-year-old still has plenty of gas left in his tank for the stretch run, with Giordano somehow putting up decent underlying numbers on a putrid Kraken team that couldn't defend a parking ticket. Then there's the intangible factor, that being the passion that will only be fuelled more by Giordano helping his hometown team conquer the demons that have haunted them for so long. 

It's a narrative, sure. One used to soften the blow of Nick Foligno's asking price 12 months ago. But it matters here nonetheless. 

Let's not mince words here: the Kraken are a bad hockey team. Horrific, even. 

With Giordano on the ice, however, they got a whole lot better. 

The Kraken out-chanced and out-scored their opponents at even-strength in Giordano's minutes this season, albeit only slightly, generating 50.54 percent and 52 percent of the regular and high-danger scoring chances, respectively. Giordano also helped the Kraken draw even in the expected-goal department as well at 49.74 percent, a Herculean feat given Seattle's general ineffectiveness at both ends of the ice. 

It might be obvious, given that he's a defenseman, but Giordano's impact will be felt the most in the Maple Leafs' defensive zone. 

While his offensive ability has faded since that torrid, Norris-worthy 2018-19 campaign, Giordano's defensive acumen has remained consistent over the years, with the former Flame still proving to be one of the better D-men in the league at disrupting the cycle and transitioning the puck out of his team's zone. 

He doesn't kill penalties, which caps his overall usage somewhat. But the Maple Leafs don't need him to, with their penalty kill currently clicking at a 84.6 percent efficiency rate that lands them top-five in the league. 

Most of all, though, Giordano allows the Maple Leafs' defensive depth pieces to fall into their requisite place. 

Even before Jake Muzzin hit the shelf with his second concussion of the season, Timothy Liljegren was being force-fed a heavy serving of top-four minutes on a nightly basis out of necessity, looking completely overwhelmed in such high-stakes usage as any rookie should, and upsetting the balance of the team's defensive core in the process.

Everyone seemed to be playing one spot higher than they should be. Now, they'll slide back in where they should.  

With Giordano and Brodie now likely reunited on the second pair, Sheldon Keefe has a bonafide bouquet of options at his disposal, perhaps rolling with the Morgan Rielly-Ilya Lyubushkin top pairing that has clicked since being put together over the past three games, and leaving Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin to crush the sheltered third-pair minutes that are left. 

Again; options. 

Although Justin Holl has recovered from his disastrous start to the season of late,  the Maple Leafs can shelter him as a depth option rather than hinging the success of their top-four on his performance as they have in years past. Holl as the team's seventh defenseman is a luxury the Leafs can now afford. Not to mention, with injuries are bound to happen in the playoffs, Holl is as experienced and effective a fill-in as the team could find, whereas Dubas would've likely been forced to dip into the Marlies roster for reinforcements prior to today's trade. 

The Maple Leafs are a better, more versatile, and more flexible hockey team with Mark Giordano in the fold. And with the divisional arms race hitting a fever pitch over the weekend, his arrival could not have come at a better time. 

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