When the Seattle Kraken selected Mark Giordano as their expansion pick from the Calgary Flames, many presumed that the veteran defenseman had landed in the ideal role for this stage of his career. The 2018-19 Norris Trophy winner could impart his extensive understanding and mastery of the defensive position to a collection of young blueliners while thriving under reduced responsibilities.
The 2021-22 season has unfolded as such, with Giordano turning back the clock to his productive peak, demonstrating the type of two-way excellence that the Kraken had hoped for when making him their marquee acquisition at the expansion draft. Let’s dig into what has driven the early success of Seattle’s first-ever captain.
Giordano’s Increased Individual Point Production
The veteran blueliner is experiencing an offensive renaissance, with his seven points in 12 games (0.58 points per game) representing his most productive scoring rate since his Norris Trophy season. Giordano has also seen his per-60-minutes output improve considerably, jumping from 1.21 P/60 in all situations last season to 1.68 in 2021-22 – the second-highest clip of his past seven campaigns.
He may be benefitting from increased juice in his weary legs, as he’s played almost two fewer minutes per game than his average ice-time in Calgary (22:40 to 20:49). Much of the difference can be seen in his usage and deployment, as Giordano is being used on the power play more frequently than ever in his career (3:38 per game) and playing his fewest five-on-five minutes since his sophomore season in the NHL. Relatedly, the 38-year-old is becoming an increasingly rare sight on the penalty kill, only playing an average of 25 seconds per game while short-handed – the lowest PK ice-time of his career.
Head coach Dave Hakstol and his staff should be commended for being aware of Giordano’s shortcomings and optimal usage at this stage of his career and are reaping the rewards of their calculated approach as a result. Considering the Kraken’s offensive limitations, any contributions from their defense core are welcome, and Giordano looks set to facilitate the attack where his physical limitations are not exposed.
Giordano Anchoring Strong Defensive Pairs
For all of the focus on Giordano’s enhanced offensive production, Seattle’s elder statesman is not a liability defensively, even despite his diminished skating mobility. In fact, the pairs that Giordano features are dominant at five-on-five, claiming an overwhelming majority of the scoring chances when the captain takes the ice.
According to MoneyPuck, the Kraken’s duo of Giordano and Jamie Oleksiak currently boasts the greatest expected goals ratio (xGF%) among defensive pairings with at least 50 minutes played. They account for just under three-quarters of collective xG (a value assigned to any shot attempt based on location and historical likelihood of scoring from that spot) as a pair. They concede the second-fewest expected goals against per-60-minutes (xGA/60), and the Kraken have outscored their opposition 6-2 when Giordano and Oleksiak have played together.
Giordano’s two other most frequent partnerships at 5v5 are with Carson Soucy (50 minutes) and Vince Dunn (46), with the latter pairing posting a dominant 66 percent shot share compared to the below-average mark of 46 percent with Soucy. In terms of xG, Giordano’s results with Soucy crater to below 33 percent, while Dunn’s skating and aggressiveness with the puck have meshed well with the Kraken captain, riding their chemistry to a stellar 61 percent xG share.
Combining all of Giordano’s results shows he’s held his own at even-strength, with the Kraken controlling 57 percent of all shot attempts, 56 percent of cumulative xG, 57 percent of scoring chances, and over 61 percent of high-danger opportunities. Unfortunately, he’s been outscored 8-7 at 5v5, in direct contrast to the strong process suggested by his underlying numbers. With improved goaltending, those results should improve. If Giordano is about to fall off a cliff, his on-ice metrics aren’t showing any impending signs of doom.
Can Giordano Maintain His Early Success?
The Seattle Kraken have only played 12 games, with another 70 still earmarked on the 2021-22 calendar. Plenty of defensemen have produced strong results in small samples, many of which counted fewer miles on their body than the veteran Giordano. He’s collaborated well with many diverse defensive partners and found success with most of that group. His possession numbers indicate his point totals aren’t simply empty calories, and I’d expect Giordano to continue driving success for the expansion outfit through the end of the season.