Johnson: Why Mark Giordano should be the next Flames captain
Workmanlike defenceman deserves to be the next face of the franchise six months after Jarome Iginla was traded
Defenceman Mark Giordano deserves to be the next Flames captain.
Photograph by: Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald
Don’t dither. Resist the temptation to overthink it.
Mark Giordano’s your man.
By a landslide, if the polls aren’t rigged.
“I think anyone would love to wear a ‘C’, anytime,” Giordano replies, asked about the possibility of being handed the captaincy of the Calgary Flames. “Any of the 750 players (in the NHL) would answer yes.”
The guy is more of a lock than Nenshi on Oct. 21.
Why, even Michael Cammalleri, another prospective candidate given his years of service around the National Hockey League, would unhesitatingly cast his ballot for No. 5.
“I definitely wouldn’t turn something like that down,” Cammalleri hedges during a break Wednesday in Flames’ pre-training camp fitness testing at the U of C. “Having said that, my vote is . . . I think Mark Giordano would be a great captain of this group.
“I’ll be up front and honest about that. He’s been here a long time. He’s a guy that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and being an assistant captain to him would be an honour, also.”
The captaincy that has been vacant, left in limbo, since the iconic Jarome Iginla was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 27 must be filled. No more fannying-about with the leadership issue. Time to put a new face on the franchise.
Given the apple-cheeked demographics of this group, installing the right person in that role is absolutely paramount in accelerating progression. Be warned, it isn’t going to be an easy or simple job. Iginla, if only from a sheer profile point of view, will be a difficult act to follow.
“We have chosen our captain,” teased coach Bob Hartley late afternoon, in his office listening to The Eagles warm-up for their evening concert at the Scotiabank Saddledome, “but we haven’t made the announcement yet.”
Giordano. Gotta be.
There are apt to be more than a few long, tortuous nights this winter, hellish lessons to learn, stinging losses to rebound from and precious little regroup time. That is always the way of scorched earth, of Ground Zero, of (shudder!) rebuild. So this group desperately needs a focal point that genuinely wants to be a part of it, is invested for the long haul, won’t be flipped to, say, Toronto or Tampa come the trade deadline or is only paying convenient lip service to the painful, but necessary, long-term strategy.
Not only for the kids who’ll go in search of guidance, seek out a role model to emulate, but for an ever-dwindling group of returning veterans who must be held accountable and cannot be allowed to, as they say in the parlance, ‘shut ’er down’, content merely to put in time and collect fat paycheques, if things go far south in a hurry.
Mark Giordano fits every requirement. He’s got the seasoning (at 29, all 385 of his regular-season games have been contested in Calgary livery), the temperament, the try.
“He’s been here a long time,” praises Cammalleri. “He’s a guy that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and being an assistant captain to him would be an honour, also.”
Giordano will make his share of mistakes, sure, but none will come through a lack of effort, a fall-off in care. He isn’t likely to overturn any tables or strip paint off the walls of inner sanctums with lacerating critiques. That isn’t his style. Never has been one to fall back on the phoney showiness thing.
“A captain is the mirror of your team,” says Bob The Rebuilder, who had another quiet pro, Joe Sakic, as his captain in Denver. “That’s why like everyone looks in the mirror in the morning before they leave home. The mirror makes sure your tie is straight, your hair is good.
“A good captain of a hockey team is like a good captain on a boat. You recognize the value of a good captain on the water when the ocean goes crazy a little bit; in the middle of a storm. Anyone can be a captain when the sea is calm. The captain should bring poise, an element of calm.
“Hockey is a very emotional business. You win three and you’re ready to plan the Stanley Cup parade. You lose three and you’re ready to fire everybody and the chairs are flying. That’s where you need a guy that has the ability to take one step backward and say ‘OK, what’s the best route forward?’, without going crazy or acting in the heat of the moment and five minutes later regretting his actions.
“We talked in many meetings and after each meeting we were always coming back to the same guy.”
That same guy can be but one guy.
Giordano only works his backside off. Blocks shots. Races in to fight other people’s battles. Is the first one to step up and deliver a hit. Plays in every conceivable situation. Is a pro through and through.
What more could you, could anyone, possibly want?
“It’s an important role,” agrees Giordano. “The young guys coming into the league now are well prepared. They’re in great shape. And maybe if older guys can help them out with some of the mental aspects of the game . . .
“You lead the way by the way you play on the ice. You can say whatever you want, if you’re not performing on the ice it’s tough to be looked up to. I think on the ice is most important.
“I’m going to try and do that, play hard every night and every practice and go from there.
“You look at our team and it’s pretty clear that there’s only one way we’re going to be successful, and that’s with hard work and playing the right way with the details. It seems like a fresh start, obviously.
“We have to be tight knit. Do the little things right. That’s really the only chance we have.
“We want to win. No matter what’s going on, you want to talk about seeing different guys, rebuilding and re-tooling and all the stuff, the bottom line at the end of the day, when we play, we’re trying to win and trying to get into the playoffs. It goes a long way when you work hard as a team and play as a group. I’ve seen other teams do it, I’ve seen other teams turn it around quick.
“It’s going to be a good battle right from the net out this year in camp.”
Too often in selecting a new captain teams only serve to outsmart themselves by trying placate potential mopers or try to motivate erratic talents by jangling the carrot of a letter in front of them, or lazily, stupidly dole out the ‘C’ to the “best” (read: top scorer) player as if by royal birthright, ludicrously assuming leadership and skill level are somehow inseparable bedfellows.
So don’t make this more complicated than it actually is.
Do the right thing. Do the simple thing.
Pick the right candidate. The ONLY candidate.
And that candidate is Mark Giordano. Ready that acceptance speech. The election desk is ready to declare.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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