Let's face it, Mark Giordano going down injured on February 25th was not in anybody's script, was it?
He was so integral to the success of the Flames this season, it was understandable that many people thought it would be season over. We all feared the worst, yet somehow the remaining players have managed to keep the run going, and the Flames hold their playoff destiny in their own hands.
However, it is fair to say that the success the team has had is in spite of Giordano's injury. The stats back up just how import the captain was, and still is, to the team, and why he should be in serious consideration for the James Norris trophy, awarded to the defenceman who demonstrates the best all-round ability throughout the season.
Thanks to War on Ice for all the stats I'm about to use. With Giordano is the 61 games when Giordano played, without are the to-date 19 without him.
Goals And Goal Attempts
Initially, some of the stats show that the Flames are performing better offensively since Giordano got injured, but the more you delve, the more you find that he's a loss.
As you can see, the Flames' offensive output has increased. They are scoring more goals per game (+0.4), taking more shots (+1.5) and have a better shot percentage (+1%) without Giordano on the backend. However, this is counteracted by the fact they are giving up more chances per game. There is a marginal difference in goals against (+0.1), but a bigger increase in shots against (+3.5) and corsi attempts against (+8.13) per game. The Flames' overall contribution to total corsi has dropped too, by over 3%. Yes, offensive output has improved, but only because they are giving up more chances and having to make their chances count more.
I think the great comeback against Ottawa sums it up - that third period saw some great offensive hockey, but that only came around because they'd given up four goals in the two previous periods. Would that have happened with Giordano in the lineup? Debatable, but highly unlikely.
All we've heard since Giordano went down has been about how gritty the Flames have been. How Lance Bouma has impressive hit numbers, and how Kris Russell has broken the league record for blocked shots in a season. Yes, this is impressive, and can be seen up and down the lineup. However, would you believe that these stats have gotten worse since Giordano has been out?
|Stat||Hits Per Game||Blocked Shots Per Game|
There we have it. Since Giordano fell there have been fewer hits and blocked shots per game, the supposed trait that exemplifies this Flames team. I think this is a case of Giordano's offensive output overshadowing what he was doing in his own zone. He is the captain in so many more ways than just wearing a C. He is leadership, he leads by example, and he expects his teammates to do what he was doing himself.
Compare him to the man who has taken his spot alongside TJ Brodie, the much maligned Deryk Engelland. This is in no way a "let's slag Engelland off" post, but there's no escaping the fact he is not Mark Giordano, in every way you can imagine. He's doing better than I think most expected, but not to the level Giordano was performing. This is especially reflected in their mutual linemate.
Don't get me wrong, TJ Brodie is great. He's a great defenceman and is a Giordano in the making. That's the thing though, he's still work in progress. That progress was being quickly sped up by his partnership alongside Giordano, but it's clear that it isn't done yet by the way the stats play out.
Now, it is important to say that the obvious drop off in TJ Brodie's performance is down to who he has played with, whether it has been Deryk Engelland, Raphael Diaz or some very brief time with David Schlemko. He's not being put into opportunities to score as many points, he's not getting clearer chances to score, and he's not getting anywhere near as many offensive zone starts as he was when he was with Giordano. What is worrying, though, are the PDO and CF% stats.
PDO is determined by adding a team's save percentage to their shot percentage. So here, Brodie's personal PDO is determined by the save percentage when he is on the ice, to his own personal shot percentage. PDO is predominantly a luck-based stat, but it works here because it shows how much his performance has dropped off without Giordano feeding him opportunities. The goalie save percentage is roughly the same, so it reflects badly on him.
The CF% is equally as alarming. With Giordano, Brodie was working at nearly 50% for chances when he was on the ice, but without him, Brodie's line is giving up many more chances that it is creating, just under 9% fewer. Over the course of 40 on ice chances, that goes down from 20 for, to 16. A big difference over the course of a season.
TJ Brodie is a good player, but Mark Giordano makes him that much better.
You can see both sides of the argument.
You could say that Gio has missed the run-in, where the Flames have continued to win without him, so he wasn't as vital as he was made out to be. Or...
You could point to all the stats that point towards a drop off throughout the entire team, where the Flames are struggling defensively and are simply having to outscore their opponents to get wins, and then point to just how important Giordano's contribution was. I'm going to go with this one.
Then, we can all lament about how good this pretty impressive Flames run would be if its captain was fit and playing.
Honestly, I don't think he will win. But, he should definitely be in the conversation, and I wouldn't be surprised if his name was on the trophy.