while i've really liked the guy since his multi-game call-up in 2005/2006, it was just over a year now since i announced mark giordano was my favorite current flames player, and decided that it would be his nickname adorning my favorite jersey (sooooo, we can call it our anniversary, if you like)... ;)
alot of people think that my devotion is based on his rugged good looks and strong italian roots, his uncanny ability to grow a 5 o'clock shadow at 10am, his resemblence to mr. bean, and the way he skates with his tongue out (concentrating like a five year old). the truth is: i'm thoroughly amused by gio's antics but let's not mistake my fascination with him for my fondness for forsberg ---which is a totally different kindof thing... ;) i love gio because he's always been a positionally solid defenseman with a great outlet pass, who makes WAY more great decisions than he does bad, and can skate his way out of trouble.... he's a dude that's overcome going undrafted and is probably the only player to ever roll the dice against darryl sutter and WIN... oh, and he's pretty affordable in the salary cap era.
convincing other folks of my boy's greatness wasn't always easy, but i sure did my best to get the word out.... what can i say ? i've always pulled for the underdog, and gio has made a career out of being an underrated player... bear in mind that his last coach pretty much called him out for getting hisself clutterbucked.
in the past few seasons, gio has climbed his way from undrafted torontonian, to farm-team regular, to russian league ground-stander, to 3rd pairing-low minutes defender to punching bag (keenan era), to goon, to a guy who regularly lines up beside one of the league's elite: jay bouwmeester... and let's be honest, friends: he doesn't look out of place in that 20-or-so minutes per night role on a division-leading team's top pairing (note to anybody who thinks 4 & 5 are NOT the team's top two ? dream on.....) .....ahhhh, it's like watching a flower bloom: soooo beautiful.
one of my alltime favorite blogger quotes came from kyle [and it's been so long i can't even remember what kyle's website was] who said very aptly, "I'd rank our defence as Phaneuf, (Robyn) Regehr, Hamrlik, Ference, Warrener, Giordano, Ritchie (Regehr), You, Me, Darryl Sutter, Zyuzin." while this was written as a comment on how godawful zyuzin was (is?), it still listed gio as a mid-range defender at quite a young age....
well, i was just alerted to the presence of a public loveletter to my boy gio that was printed in an actual semi-respectable publication (thanks to olddog for the heads-up) where he gets some serious love from his peers... allz i gotta say is that it's about freakin' time.... ;)
i'll cut and paste it here, for those future days when it's no longer a vyable link (it's just that good).
Keeping track of his old pals, Craig Conroy remembers tuning in one night.
This is early 2006-07, and Conroy, then with the Los Angeles Kings, eagerly watches the Calgary Flames visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.
One new face dazzles him.
“He scored two goals,” Conroy recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow. Who is this guy? Giordano? Never heard of him.’ ”
At that, the geyser of gushing becomes completely uncorked.
“Now? Just to see how good he is on a daily basis . . . . ”
Kind words, which is Conroy’s hallmark.
But before you smirk and slot this warm — and getting warmer — appraisal of Mark Giordano into the Conroy-being-Conroy file, know this: buzz is widespread.
Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, the other morning, is asked about Calgary’s defence. He responds by singling out Giordano. Calls him underrated.
Two weeks ago at Anaheim, Flames coach Brent Sutter, after fielding the obligatory queries regarding Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester, takes happy hold of a Giordano question and whacks it out of the park.
“He’s probably been one of our most steady guys, right from the get-go,” starts Sutter, whose Flames next face the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. “He can skate. He can move the puck. He’s a battler. He gets into the areas you need a defenceman to go into. He wants to be the first guy on the puck when he’s playing in his zone.
“He’s been a real, real good player for us — very solid.”
No argument there.
In 26 outings, Giordano has suffered only five minus nights — nothing worse than minus-one, and none in the past month.
But talking about his fine play isn’t easy for Giordano. And not only because Aaron Johnson and Adam Pardy are cackling nearby.
Is he at least proud of his progress? He waves it off.
“Once you start thinking like that, you get too comfortable where you are. You hear a lot of positive talk. When you hear something good from your coach, it goes a long way.”
And, as Sutter notes, the 26-year-old has been sturdy since September. While star forwards struggled in the early going, while high-profile defencemen hiccuped through adjustments, Giordano smoothly left the gate.
He, however, had had as much to worry about as anyone else, after losing the final months of last National Hockey League season because of injury. He needed to prove himself. Again. To another coach.
Cutting short his campaign had been Minnesota thumper Cal Clutterbuck, who pasted him.
(Then-boss Mike Keenan publicly scolded his defenceman for being unprepared for the lick. “I don’t blame myself — it was a hockey play,” Giordano says now. “I had the puck, I tried to make a play, he hit me.”)
The resulting ripped-up shoulder tendon required surgery.
The resulting lineup hole required Jordan Leopold’s addition.
“Everyone talks about (losing Rene Bourque and Regehr to injuries down the stretch) . . . but, to me, I think Gio was the key to the whole thing,” says Conroy. “I said it last year and I’ll say it again — he brings so much more than people give him credit for. He finds you, when you’re open, in stride, on your tape. And he gets back to get the puck quick. As a centre, I’m coming back to support him and he beats a lot of guys on his own down low. That creates time and space for the rest of us to get out of the zone.
“Very under-rated in my opinion.”
While modest in self-assessment — “We’re only 20-some games in . . . I’ve felt pretty good” — Giordano’s best asset is unwithering fearlessness. Not in a brawling sort of way, although he has shucked his gloves twice this season.
But in a gimme-the-puck sort of way.
At his first camp, it was obvious (even to reporters) that he played without pause. Unlike other young blueliners, there was never a hot-potato aspect to Giordano’s approach.
“I have to want the puck. It’s part of my game — I have to want to make plays,” says the Toronto native. “When I’m not playing well, that’s exactly what happens — you shy away from taking chances, you shy away from wanting to make plays. That’s when you hesitate, and that’s when guys in this league will jump all over you.”
Meaning swagger stays at the top of his priority list.
There is no substitute for poise, Giordano knows.
“Confidence, that’s the biggest thing. One year, a guy will be top of the league, the next year, he won’t. Why is it? It’s not because his skill’s gone away. It’s because his confidence has gone away, right?”
Averaging 19 minutes nightly, Giordano, who represents a cap hit of $892,000 US for this season and next, has supplied eight points and a plus-three rating.
Which makes him, what exactly?
A No. 5 defenceman? A No. 4?
A No. 3 on another team perhaps?
Giordano declines to play along.
“I don’t want to define myself in a certain role,” he says. “The thing with me, I just want to be solid every game, be a big part of it every game.
“I don’t want to be considered just an extra depth guy or anything like that.”
----scott cruikshank, calgary herald dec 1/09
eff, yeah people !!! bring on the love for my BOY !!!!
ps: i'm guessing there will be a zillion posts and texts tomorrow to alert me to this article, cause there's a whole helluva lot of people that see gio and think wi.... which i'm undenyably proud of, btw. also proud that when you google-image "mark giordano" at the bottom of the first page is the separated at birth that i did a few years back...
ps: gio, if you're reading this: i want my jersey signed. ;)