Age may have caught up to Mark Giordano but he deserves a spot with the Maple Leafs

Photo credit:Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
23 days ago
The 2023 NHL Playoffs taught us that Mark Giordano is no spring chicken. The 2023-24 was a lesson in how to right-size Mark Giordano’s role and if the veteran defenceman is still interested in a depth role with the Maple Leafs, they’d be lucky to have him.
It’s hard to complain about a 40-year old defenceman on a $800k AAV contract, so don’t expect any of that here. Any issues that people have with Mark Giordano was that the Leafs needed him to be the Norris winning defenceman of five seasons ago or at the very least the 19-minute-a-night defenceman of 2022-23. He was close to the latter in November when the Maple Leafs needed him the most as the Leafs blueline was decimated and the season needed to get back on track, but things slowed down from there.
The reduced workload seemed to agree with Mark Giordano. His goals against per 60 and expected goals per 60 were aligned with most of the Leafs’ blueline. His shots and shot attempts against totals were also better than most of the Leafs’ defencemen, and was one of the top offensive defencemen.
Nothing that Giordano did was mindblowing, but all of this still points to a player the Leafs should be excited about having around in a depth capacity. When you look at the games played by defencemen the top six defencemen only played 78% of games. If you include Klingberg and Edmundson as top six guys down the stretch that still equates to 85% of the games being filled by top six defencemen and 76 games needed to be filled by the Leafs depth. This absolutely makes the case for having trustworthy 7th and 8th defence options.
A lot of the criticism of Giordano last season was that he was slow. In retrospect, speed wasn’t really a concern in the mind of Brad Treliving because he ultimately replaced Giordano with Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin who are a step behind the 40 year old. The combination of Giordano with Brodie, Edmundson, and Lyubushkin does make a case for the concern but of that group it is also easiest to make a case for Giordano returning.
Giordano has other selling points that make the case for his return. His jack of all trades play make him valuable as depth. Whether it’s the penalty kill or the second powerplay unit there is the ability to bring Giordano into the lineup in a special teams capacity as well. Most depth barely get trusted at 5v5 and Giordano can take on as much as the Leafs will trust him with.
Trust will be another important selling point when it comes to Giordano as strong veteran leadership as the Leafs transition to Craig Berube from Sheldon Keefe will be beneficial. It could be nice to have Giordano around if someone like Topi Niemela gets a shot at the Leafs this year.
As much as a case can be made for Giordano there is some writing on the wall as well. Giordano was in concussion protocol late in the season and didn’t crack the Leafs playoff lineup this spring. He’ll be turning 41 in October and as the Leafs might want to think a bit longer term when it comes to their blueline. On the flipside, Giordano might feel he has better chance to win elsewhere, or want a situation with a better chance of playing time.
If 2023-24 was it for Mark Giordano, it’s worth appreciating that while it might not have been his best hockey, Giordano certainly outplayed his contract and was a welcome addition to the Leafs. It’s unfortunate that Giordano might be another on the list of veteran players who thought Toronto was their path to a shot at the Stanley Cup and didn’t see it work out.
It seems doubtful that when Giordano retires that he won’t be around hockey and if the Flames don’t scoop him up quickly, it would be nice to see Giordano carve out a role in the Maple Leafs’ Player Development department.
Data sourced from NHL Edge, Hockey Reference, and Natural Stat Trick.

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