Declaring your team's most important player is not a simple thing. It's not always the most valuable guy or the highest points producer. It is the player who makes your team go; the one you can't afford to lose, even if all he contributes can't be measured by fancy stats.
Flames' Most Important Player: Mark Giordano, Defenseman
There was no shortage of feel-good storylines for the Calgary Flames last season: the team’s surprising post-season berth; the emergence of talented young star Johnny Gaudreau; Bob Hartley’s inspiring Jack Adams win; and Giordano’s ascension to the ranks of the league's elite defensemen.
The 31-year-old blue-liner finally started to garner some long overdue accolades for his contributions, and had he not missed the last six weeks of the season with injury, his name would have remained among those in consideration for the Norris Trophy. Still, the undrafted Toronto native had a breakout season for the Flames -- and one that rightfully earned him recognition as an All-Star.
Giordano followed up a 47-point campaign in 2013-14 with a career-best season in 2014-15 despite missing a month and a half with a torn bicep that required season-ending surgery. Giordano finished with 11 goals, 48 points and a plus-13 rating in 61 games for the Flames. His strong production, along with contributions from fellow defensemen T.J. Brodie and Dennis Wideman, allowed Calgary to make a largely unexpected playoff push.
Giordano has been hailed as a heart-and-soul leader who sets a certain bar of accountability for a young, rebuilding Flames team. Of Giordano’s superlative work ethic, teammate Brodie told ESPN.com’s last season: “He never gives up. He always comes to work, no matter what day it is, no matter what the score is, he's always playing the same way. It's one of those things you just have to respect him for never giving up."
Though many felt his loss at the trade deadline would be a death knell for the team, on the bubble in the Pacific Division a the time, the group was resolute in sticking together and finding a way against the odds. That’s a great sign of the character of the Flames as a whole, and a shining example of Hartley’s work, but also of the leadership Giordano has provided since taking over as captain.
He holds both himself and his teammates to the highest standard, and that has paid dividends. Expect his leadership role to blossom even further with another young stud in newly acquired Dougie Hamilton on the Flames’ back end to benefit under his tutelage.