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Calgary Flames

Flames have Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, and their scoring to thank for early success

The Flames' top pairing are numbers one and three in defencemen scoring.



The Flames‘ leading scorer last season was Jiri Hudler, with 54 points. Their leading goal scorer was Mike Cammalleri with 26 goals, four more than the Flames’ next guy, rookie Sean Monahan. With these guys, the Flames were in the bottom third of league scoring, 22nd overall with just 209 goals to the team. And then they lost Cammalleri for nothing in free agency.

The only major forward the Flames added over the off-season was Mason Raymond. He scored 19 times last season, and matched Cammalleri’s 45 points, albeit in 19 more games. So that was going to help, but fact of the matter was: who is going to score for the Flames?

It's early yet, but about a month into the 2014-15 season, the Flames are third in the league in goal scoring, with 49 in 16 games. They're tied for seventh with three goals per game.

Their leading scorers are Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, a pair of defencemen.

So, not only do they play the most minutes against the toughest competition with poor zone starts, but they're providing the offence for their team as well. Calgary would be a hopeless, floundering wreck without them, so we're very fortunate they're here. And that they've both been scoring.

As of this writing – the morning of November 9, 2014 – Giordano is first in defencemen scoring, with five goals and 18 points in 16 games (and he’s the only defenceman with substantial time played who’s over a point per game). He’s tied for fifth overall, with only Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Tyler Seguin, and Phil Kessel scoring more. Brodie is third (tied for 24th overall), with four goals and 14 points over the same time frame. Together, they account for 32 points, the most out of a defensive pairing so far this season.

Heck, throw in Dennis Wideman – five goals, nine points, and tied for 16th in defencemen scoring league-wide – and that’s 41 points from just half the Flames’ backend.

Calgary’s top three forwards – Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, and Monahan – account for 36 points combined. It’s taking three forwards to beat two defencemen, and you have to add a fourth to surpass the totals of three.

So it's pretty much all backend for Calgary. Wideman plays in more favourable circumstances, which just makes the bulk of work Giordano and Brodie do even more impressive. They're put in situations you wouldn't expect them to score in, and they do it anyway. No other team has that, at least not at this point in the season.

Duncan Keith and Keith Seabrook? Great pairing. They don’t play in Chicago’s toughest circumstances, though; that honour goes to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. Keith and Seabrook have just 14 points between them – that’s one Brodie – and are fifth and seventh in Blackhawks scoring.

Shea Weber and Roman Josi? Phenomenal. They take Nashville’s hard minutes, and do it in style. Except their style has them at just 11 points combined, seventh and eighth in Predators scoring.

There are a number of defencemen scoring at pretty decent clips. Now-a-defenceman-again Brent Burns is second in the league, with 15 points in 15 games. Kris Letang has 12 in 13. John Carlson, Keith Yandle, and Kevin Shattenkirk all have 11 in 14, while eight guys have put up 10 points so far. Washington is the only team with two defencemen who are double digits in scoring, with Mike Green joining Carlson, but they don’t play the same pairing. Carlson takes tougher minutes, while Green plays in more favourable circumstances.

The point being, not only are Giordano and Brodie the top scorers from the blueline this season, but they mean far more to their team than anyone else. You can attribute nearly all of the Flames' early success to them.

Is it going to keep up? Brodie had a five-game point streak (seven points therein) going before the Panthers held him off the scoreboard. Giordano is on an insane clip right now, riding a six-game point streak (11 points in that time), with multipoint games in his last four. In fact:

That's pretty decent company. But as for the question… Well, maybe. Not at their current pace, but they may not drop too far off, either.

Giordano probably isn’t going to score more than 82 points. Brodie may not eclipse 70. Only one defenceman, Erik Karlsson, managed that feat last season (74 points in 82 games). But right now, they’re getting a lot of shots (Giordano is second on the team with 38, while Brodie is fifth with 27). Their shooting percentages are high, and will almost certainly fall, but aren’t out of reason. Giordano is sitting at 11.3%, with a career average 7.3% (7.8% last season). Brodie has the more unsustainable 14.8%. His career average is 5.5%, but his career is very young yet, and last season he had a career-low 3.8%.

Both players scored career highs in points last season. Since being named captain, Giordano has 65 points over 80 games, and he's still going. Over that same timeframe, Brodie has 37 points in 97 games. Brodie's numbers look less impressive until you remember he's 24 years old, and only just started breaking out offensively and receiving top powerplay time about 14 or 15 games ago.

So while they'll fall off a bit, they're still likely to be two of the top offensive defencemen this season, and are definitely more valuable to their team than any other defender in the league.

Is this the year Giordano wins the Norris? He has to be the early frontrunner. And if Brodie continues to improve, which in all likelihood he will, there may be a trophy for him down the line as well.

by Ari Yanover