Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mark Giordano Swatch Card

I was a guest on a friend's podcast earlier today, talking about the Calgary Flames' current position in the standings, where they are in 8th place in the Western Conference, holding onto one of the final playoff spots - of the Wild Card variety. They have 23 games remaining on their schedule, with a grueling 7-game road trip starting tonight against the New York Rangers, and six teams vying for their spot.

My contention was that the Flames - big on effort and long-term talent but not quite ''there yet'' nor as deep as the other Western teams - could very well make the playoffs but would likely be subject to a first-round sweep at the hands of a stronger, better team, one with a huge one-two punch at center and whose goalie would out-perform Jonas Hiller. The only position where the Flames would have an advantage - depending on the opponent - would be through their #1 defenseman, Mark Giordano.

This is the year where his name is finally on the same level as the other defensemen who made the All-Star Game and are usually in the conversation for the Norris Trophy - Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, and P.K. Subban. He's currently leading the league's defensemen in points, is in the top-20 for +/-, and 10th in average ice time. He's the captain and sole star on a Calgary team that has surprised everyone in the league.

He has suited up for Team Canada twice, winning the Spengler Cup in 2007, and finishing 7th at the 2010 World Championships. He followed a different career path than most, though more and more players end up being exceptions in this day and age; he went undrafted out of Juniors, despite pacing the OHL in points at his position, and spent three seasons in the Flames' system before bolting to Russia with the famed Moscow Dynamo in 2007-08, where he honed his already-impressive skating and puck-handling abilities.

From the next season onwards, he became a fixture on Calgary's blue line, improving each year and adding more and more responsibilities with each passing season, to become part of the elite last year, and a Norris front-runner this season. I actually thought of naming him as my prediction for the Norris back in October, but I went with the ''safer'' choice in Weber instead.

Here he is wearing the Flames' throwback red (then-away) uniform, from Panini's 2011-12 Titanium set (card #51 of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), featuring a matching red swatch:

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