In the Calgary Flames’ game against the New Jersey Devils, Mark Giordano did something very few other NHL players have ever done. He became the fourth ever defenceman to score 60 or more points while being 35 years old or older.
To say that Giordano is enjoying his best season ever really complements the fact that he has a seriously strong chance of winning the Norris Trophy come June. It’s all the more impressive knowing he’s doing this while being the oldest skater on his team; only goaltender Mike Smith is older than the captain.
Scoring 60 or more points in a season is already no easy task. Doing so as a defenceman is even harder. Of course, the difficulty reaches its epitome when you factor in age on top of it all. Other teams can only stop and stare in awe as they can’t help but appreciate just how good these defencemen really are.
One way to revisit these feats would be to look at which teams each defenceman has enjoyed scoring on while accomplishing such rare individual achievements. To visualise the offence of these defencemen, I used circle packing to see how many points were scored on each team.
Teams are grouped by division as an added layer of context, with Western Conference teams being blue, and Eastern Conference teams being red. Team logos are scaled proportionally to better represent which teams the defencemen were able to rack up points against.
To visualise the offence of these defencemen, I used circle packing to see how many points were scored on each team. Teams are grouped by division as an added layer of context, with Western Conference teams being blue, and Eastern Conference teams being red. Team logos are scaled proportionally to better represent which teams the defencemen were able to rack up points against.
The first to ever do it
Exactly 20 years ago during the 1998-99 season, former Flame Al MacInnis scored 62 points in 82 games during his age-35 season as a member of the St. Louis Blues. He was third overall in team-scoring, only behind Pavol Demitra and Pierre Turgeon.
MacInnis had no issues when it come to scoring on the Flames, scoring a total of seven points against the team that drafted him, which would be the most points he scored against any team that season. Of course, he had little issues scoring against Central Division rivals either.
Four seasons later, MacInnis outdid himself and went on to score 68 points in 80 games played. His 68 points would be enough to be second in team scoring, as Demitra once again led the Blues in 2002-03. MacInnis more than doubled the next-best Blues defenceman; Alexander Khavanov posted 33 points that year.
This time around, MacInnis feasted on the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring seven points against the divisional foe. However, he had a knack of appearing on the score sheet whenever the Blues played against a Pacific division team; he totalled 25 points against them.
The duo that did it together
During the 2005-06 campaign, something special happened in the league. Two different players joined the club in the same season. Niklas Lidstrom and Sergei Zubov both enjoyed stellar seasons as members of the Detroit Red Wins and Dallas Stars, respectively.
Lidstrom oft scored against divisional rivals, and managed to score 10 points against the Chicago Blackhawks, and another 20 points against the other Central teams. He also scored more against the Pacific division than he did against the Northwest division, but it was really his dominance in the Central that stood out.
Amazingly, Lidstrom’s 80 points were only good enough for fourth on the Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Brendan Shanahan all posted better offensive totals. Keep in mind that Shanahan was also 37 years old that year. The Red Wings’ veterans were among some of the league’s best players, no doubt about that.
Zubov mirrored Lidstrom rather nicely in 2005-06. Zubov also hit double digits scoring against a divisional rival, scoring 10 points against the Los Angeles Kings. In total, 31 of Zubovs’ 71 points were against the Pacific division. Zubov was third on team scoring, with Mike Modano and Jason Arnott being the only two Stars with more points.
The streak that kept going
Lidstrom wasn’t happy with doing it just once though. He went on and scored 60+ points in the next two seasons, marking three straight years of absolute dominance on the ice. Just for good measure, he did it one last time during the 2010-2011 season as a 40-year-old.
Lidstrom certainly enjoyed highly productive seasons late in his career. A Stanley Cup, multiple Norris trophies, and even joining the Triple Gold Club when he was 36, Lidstrom did it all as an old-timer.
The captain’s turn
It’s taken some time for any other defenceman to join the club since Lidstrom last did it. But finally, Giordano has entered, and he isn’t slowing down yet. He’s been nearly a point-per-game player all season long, already blowing by career-bests, and he’s now looking to establish one of the best seasons of all-time for a defenceman.
The plethora of teams that Giordano’s picked up points against really exemplifies that he’s one of the Flames’ best and most consistent players. His campaign for the Norris is in full force, but perhaps some considerations for the Hart Trophy alongside Johnny Gaudreau should be made for the captain as well.
Giordano has since gone on and added another point against the Minnesota Wild, making his season total 61 points in 63 games played.
Giordano made his mark by joining an ultra-exclusive NHL club, and has a lot more to look forward to as the Flames are enjoying a phenomenal season on top of their competitive window blowing open for the foreseeable future.
The way that Giordano leads the team both on and off the ice, there’s no doubt that he’ll cement himself in Flames history as one of their best defencemen.
Team logos from DetroitHockey.net. Plots made with R using “ggraph“.
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