Friday, January 25, 2019

Mark Giordano: Three Autographed Cards

It had been a few quiet years on the "Mark Giordano deserves a Norris Trophy" front - since 2014-15, actually - and it has been given to players who didn't actually deserve it in their winning year of late: Drew Doughty wasn't the best defenseman by a long shot in 2015-16 (Erik Karlsson was, and Kris Letang was second), but he hadn't won one yet, which went against his reputation as one of the best defensemen in the game, so he got the nod; Brent Burns was handed the award in 2016-17 on the strength of his 29 goals and 76 points, but in terms of best defenseman, Karlsson, Victor Hedman and two-time winner Duncan Keith had better all-around numbers and metrics; so Hedman was given the award in 2017-18 despite posting 9 fewer points than the previous year, to make up for losing it then, when a case could have easily been made for P.K. Subban, a now-defensively-capable John Carlson, an MVP-like season for Seth Jones, "fancy stats" winners John Klingberg and Roman Josi, or even Doughty, who may have had his best season ever.

That's Oscars-level legacy recognition, or even worse, Martin Brodeur-level belated and overblown history revising.

If Giordano wins it this year, however, it will be out of merit, not just because he missed out on the final quarter-season of play in 2014-15 when he was away ahead of everyone else in the field. He and Letang are the only two defenders who rank in the top-six in the league in each of the following categories (among defensemen who have logged more than 500 minutes): goals, points, shots, shot attempt share, goal differential, and scoring chance share.

Both post those impressive numbers while consistently playing against the opposition's best five players, which is something Karlsson/Burns and Subban/Josi don't have to do, as they rarely play together and, thus, one is often playing against second-liners.

Both Giordano and Letang play on what is essentially a two-horse show this season, Giordano sharing the spotlight with possible MVP candidate Johnny Gaudreau while Letang is playing with a rejuvenated Sidney Crosby who is playing his most "complete" game ever, which excludes him from MVP and scoring leaders talk but has him in consideration for the Selke Trophy; what separates the two is that the Calgary Flames were supposed to be a bubble playoff team relying on a rookie goalie yet stand atop the Pacific Division, while the Pittsburgh Penguins are perennial Stanley Cup contenders who are stuck middling around the Wild Card race.

Giordano's impact on his team is simply much greater than Letang's, this year. The only thing that stands in their way of being the 1-2 picks is the Toronto-centric hockey media - which votes on these awards - and their craving to have a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs finally get his hands on an individual award, and their voting en masse for Morgan Rielly, who in my view comes far behind (in order) at least Giordano, Letang, Karlsson, Burns, Carlson, Hedman, and Jones, maybe even Thomas Chabot, Josi and Mattias Ekholm.

Time will tell, but the Flames' captain has put himself in position to contend, which is pretty much all he could do.

He was in town with the Flames facing the Montréal Canadiens in October, and signed these three cards in blue sharpie for the occasion, first wearing Calgary's classic uniform on the "Gold" variant of card #64 from Panini's 2013-14 Score set, getting in a shooting lane:
Another classic red picture with the prominent alternate captain's "A", this time carrying the puck up the ice on card #474 from Upper Deck's 2013-14 O-Pee-Chee set:
And finally, the captain's "C" clearly visible, looking for someone to pass the puck to, on the "Canvas" card #C132 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 2 collection:
Although undrafted from Juniors, he's definitely making a dent in NHL history as a two-time All-Star, a six-year captain, two-time World Championship silver medalist (2007 and 2010), Spengler Cup winner (2008), and 2015-16 NHL Foundation Award winner. Add a Norris or two, some playoff success, and maybe you're looking at a Hall of Famers; he'd be the second-most prominent undrafted player in my lifetime (after Adam Oates) to make it.

These signed cards will replace his jersey cards as the entry for #5 in my Flames Numbers Project.

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