Giordano: Calgary’s diamond in the rough

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When the 2014 Norris Trophy votes were tallied, Duncan Keith came out on top, but one interesting choice received a first-place nod: Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano.

Some probably snickered at the idea of handing a top vote to a relatively obscure blueliner who only appeared in 64 games (playing on one of the worst teams in the league), but there’s a reason Team Canada’s brass pondered adding him to the Olympic roster: he had an incredible 2013-14 season.

The 30-year-old wowed onlookers of just about any leaning, whether it be in the area of traditional narratives or “advanced stats.”

Giordano almost seemed to will a bad team to be respectable, with his impact on the ice being comically drastic at times, as Tyler Dellow pointed out. Despite facing very tough competition and being put in unfriendly situations (he didn’t get cozy zone starts), Giordano enjoyed great possession stats that only looked more amazing compared to his teammates.

Oh yeah, he also scored 47 points in 64 games, which is a pace of 60 over a full season. His status as the Flames captain combines with those offensive numbers to make him a favorite of “old-school” types while his ability to push the play (even in challenging situations) makes him commendable in the stats community.

Really, the only question that puts a slight damper on things is whether he can be quite as impressive in the future. Giordano has long been respected as an underrated defenseman, but those arguments were often made for him either getting a roster spot or more ice time. Can we expect him to regularly be in elite conversations?

Extra Skater’s numbers imply that he’s been a bit erratic, though regularly useful. Here’s a simplified version of their dashboard stats to give you an idea of the mix:

Season GP G P Corsi For% Corsi Rel% PDO Zone Start% ZS Rel% PK time QoC TOI% QoT TOI%
2010-2011 82 8 43 53.40% 0.027 99.1 52.70% -0.90% 36.50% 28.80% 27.00%
2011-2012 61 9 27 47.90% 0.007 100.9 52.60% 0.041 43.20% 29.00% 27.50%
2012-2013 47 4 15 47.50% -0.30% 98.5 40.30% -7.00% 53.10% 29.40% 28.30%
2013-2014 64 14 47 53.30% 0.103 99.6 43.10% -8.70% 56.10% 29.60% 29.10%

Overall, Giordano looks like he can be trusted to at least be good-to-very-good. He’s quietly become a dependable point producer, even if he may slow down from last season’s blistering pace. Even if he’s not the possession demon he was last season, he can probably at least survive in difficult situations or exploit beneficial ones. In other words, the hype surrounding Giordano seems largely reasonable.

It’s uncertain that he’ll be worthy of Norris consideration as he legitimately was last season, but the Flames will take all the quality players they can get … and Giordano has a strong chance to be the Flames’ best player (or at least among their best players) for some time.

If he comes anywhere close to last season’s work, don’t bat an eye if the Norris buzz only builds.

Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

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Arizona Senate President Steve Yarbrough does not expect a piece of legislation to pass that would give the Coyotes millions of dollars in public financing to build a new arena.

That being said, Yarbrough thinks the Coyotes may be able to gain some “traction” if they offer to put in more of their own money.

Under the current plan, the team has pledged $170 million of the arena’s total cost, which is estimated at almost $400 million. The difference would be made up by new sales taxes, plus $55 million from the still-to-be-determined host city.

“If you are getting no traction the way the bill is designed, you could see if the hockey team paid a greater portion,” Yarbrough told the Arizona Republic yesterday. “I have been around this business long enough to know that if it’s not working in this format, you change the format to make it more attractive.”

For their part, the Coyotes have not said whether they’d be willing to pay a greater portion of the project, only that they’ll continue to “work hard to find a viable arena solution in the greater Phoenix area, a market that both the club and the NHL believe is a strong hockey market capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

Related: Bettman says Coyotes “cannot and will not remain in Glendale”

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.