I know your thoughts after reading this title are probably either, (1) I am a moron or (2) you think I am going some where with this. Hear me out, I am not saying he is going to win the Norris trophy as in he is a shoe-in and no one else compares but, what I am saying is that he should win it.
Taking a look at the other candidates and top defenseman in the NHL at the moment they are all in their mid-late twenties or early thirties and then there is Mark Giordano who is 35-years-old, a 14-year veteran and still producing at same rate as a mid-twenty year old.
Giordano is having one of the best seasons of his career, he is on pace to well exceed his 2015-16 when he had 21 goals and 56 points in 82 games. Giordano has 52 points in 49 games (1.06 points per game), leads all defenseman in plus/minus (+29), second in assists (41) among all defenseman, tied third among all defenseman in goals (11), second in points (52), tied sixth in power play points (18), and 13th in time on ice among defenseman with 24:45.
Aside from all the “important” statistics that essentially decides the Norris trophy winner, what Giordano brings to the Flames in terms of leadership and experience has made them the team they are and a reason the Flames are currently 1st in their division and one of the best NHL teams right now.
Intangibly speaking Giordano has it all, a great leader, a great role model on and off the ice, plays the game well, never gets in trouble, leads the Flames back end year after year as well as the whole Flames team in general. Giordano has the full package and not to say the other defenseman like Brent Burns, John Carlson and Kris Letang don’t but Giordano is a 35-year-old defenseman playing like he is twenty years old still. With how quickly this game is changing in terms of speed and style of play, the fact Giordano can still dominate the blue line and be a top three defenseman in the NHL towards the end of his career and closer to 40-years-old then 30, is remarkable.
Get this one right NHL, if Giordano continues this pace and is a top-three defenseman at the end of the season. Do the right thing, make the right choice and pick your 2018-19 Norris Trophy winner to be Mark Giordano.
The Norris trophy race can be discussed now correct? We are about 30 games into the year, the All-Star break is coming and this is a perfect time to talk about the current race. We have seen a good sample size of 30 some odd games and it is getting to that point in the year where we need to talk about it.
The Norris trophy has been flooded with Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns over the last several years. This year it is different, which is great to see, and the most surprising of the players leading the Norris race right now is Thomas Cabot.
Thomas Chabot, the 21-year-old defenseman in Ottawa is taking this race by storm. Chabot is not just the only defenseman in Ottawa who can play both sides really but the reason he needs to seriously be considered because look what team he is on! Ottawa is a struggling team, bottom of the league and it is not like he has much talent with him. Especially on the blue line Chabot has Ben Harpur (?) Maxime Lajoie and Cody Ceci so the fact this kid has 8 goals, 25 assists and 33 points in 31 games is unbelievable, plus he has just 9 power play points the fewest of all the top Norris candidates. Chabot is second among defenseman in assists, first in points, 20th in time on ice if he continues this production come June we may see our Norris winner.
Next up is John Carlson, a defenseman who got snubbed last year, not even being considered for the Norris continues his tear. Coming off a Stanley Cup season and the best year in his career. Carlson has not slowed down. On the year Carlson has 5 goals and 25 assists, 30 points in 28 games with 14 power play points averaging 25 minutes per game on the ice. Carlson has Ovechkin, Kuznestov and a solid team around him to help him collect apples. Sure feeding Ovechkin is not hard but he does a lot more than just feed Ovechkin. He is the anchor on the Capitals back end, a clear number one defenseman on the team, in conversation as a top-10 defenseman in the league and not only plays offensively sound but defensively he is just as good. I hope at some point when he collects another 65+ point year he gets some recognition for it. Carlson tallied 68 points last season he has 30 through 28 games therefore he is on pace to exceed his last year total by a wide margin.
Morgan Reilly, there is enormous pressure on Reilly the assistant captain, the need for a number one defenseman in Toronto, the fans pressure in Toronto is probably indescribable so for that fact alone. Reilly needs to be in the discussion. Reilly came out of the gate flying this year, he has slowed down a bit but that does not takeaway from the fact that he has 32 points in 30 games with 9 goals and 23 assists. Reilly second among all defenseman with 9 goals, 5th among all defenseman in assists, second in points and 5th with power play points (12). Reilly has been a pretty consistent defenseman in Toronto coming off a 52 point year, his best in his career, he is on pace to well exceed that. Reilly is not a house hold name at this point but if he continues down this road and does not win this year, he will eventually walk away from his NHL career with one Norris trophy.
Mark Giordano, another player who has put in his dues, his time in the NHL and has finally come in the discussion for the Norris. Giordano is more known for his defensively sound game, being a shutdown defenseman who makes a great first pass and step out the zone. As the Flames offense evolves and Giordano continues to step into a big leadership role and his game offensively has soared this year. Giordano has 20 points in 29 games, 3 goals and 26 assists on the year. He leads all defenseman in assists, 9th in power play points (10), 4th in plus/minus (+16) and a clear impact on the Flames success this year. Giordano may be known for his charity work and defensive play but he has stepped into a bigger role this year that has propelled him into the Norris talk.
Keith Yandle, a offensive-defenseman a clear Norris candidate and a HUGE part to the Panthers power play and offensive success. Yandle has 28 points in 28 games, 5 goals and 23 assists. He leads all defenseman in power play points with 19, tied for the lead in power play goals (4) and 5th among all defenseman in assists. Another defenseman who has put his time in and has been a consistent power play specialists as well as offensive force on the back end. Yandle has had some concerns about his defensive game but he plays a solid defensive game and even if he doesn’t his offense makes up for it. Yandle’s best year in his 13-year career came in 2010-2011 where he tallied 59 points (11G, 48A) he is also coming off a 56 point year in 2017-18 (8G, 48A) as of now Yandle is expected to exceed his best year if he continues on this pace he could end the year with 82 points, unlikely but Yandle can easily be a 60 point player this year.
The Flames have had an eventful off season, the signing of James Neal is one their big acquisitions, receiving a 30-goal scorer and veteran winger is big for this Calgary team. Neal is slatted to play with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau being already a top 10 player in the NHL and Monahan being a top 20 center in the NHL, the Flames line one is now looking even better than before.
The Flames came out and had a bit of a rocky start last season, they picked things up and slowly pushed for contention as the season went on. But they fell short and missed the playoffs for the 7th time in 9 years. The Flames dealt with their fair share of issues, they had just Gaudreau and Monahan doing the heavy lifting. After Gaudreau’s 84 points and Monahan’s 64 the next player was Matthew Tkachuk with 49 points, that’s a big difference from 84 to 49 points. They also dealt with Glen Gulutzan throwing fits throughout the year.
The Flames relied heavily upfront here two top guys upfront and their back end to do most of the work, Mike Smith came out a little shaky but eventually racketed things up, but it was just not enough for the Flames to get back into the mix. The Flames back end had Dougie Hamilton(44), Mark Giordano(38) and TJ Brodie(32) in the top 10 for points on the team. That means, a few things there is a lack of offensive depth and production or these defenseman just had good years, it was a mix of both. On top of Smith coming out a little uneasy, the Flames fell into a hole early and found themselves constantly digging out of it, every game. Smith posted 25-22-6 record with a 2.65 goals against, .916 save percentage and 3 shutouts. He started in 55 games and we can expect him to be in the crease the same amount maybe more next year.
Can the Flames get back into the playoffs?
Playing out of the Pacific with the Ducks only getting better, L.A. only getting better, San Jose having Evander Kane for a full season and a depth on both sides, Vegas coming off a unbelievable season, Edmonton looking to get back into the mix and Arizona adding some solid pieces to their line up, the only way the Flames having even some what of a chance is a wild card spot. Which would be having to beat out L.A., St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, Chicago. I don’t see Calgary making playoff, with the talent in their division and in the conference it is going to be extremely tough to crack that wild card or top 3 in the division.
Calgary will need Gaudreau to produce 100 points, Neal to get into the 30-goal mark or upwards of it, Monahan to produce around upwards of 70, Tkachuk to be even better than last year, Backlund and Frolik to be 50 point guys and defense missing their top scorer now and powerplay threat will need for Travis Hamonic to come out of his shell, Giordano to step up big time and Noah Hanafin to push upwards of 35 points. And Mike Smith to win 35 games or more and be ready from game one to game eighty-two. It is going to be a challenge, it is not impossible but I would have to rule out Calgary next year.
Fantasy impact in Calgary…
The positives to this though is that the Flames have a lot of fantasy value on their roster, Gaudreau is a sure lock, Neal could be a huge addition to that line one and Gaudreau’s 60 assists may be 70 plus with Neal now. Monahan will have a big work load on his plate and after a career year and another 30 goal season Monahan will be relied on to do the same and even more. Hanafin and Giordano have huge potential on that backend with their power play time and ability to play both sides of the puck well, those two should automatically be on your list. Tkachuk and Backlund coming off their best years, we should be expecting Tkachuk and Backlund both to crack 50 plus points this season. The Flames will be in the mix all season and with that comes goal scoring and a lot of fantasy value. These guys are my biggest assets when looking at Calgary’s roster.