Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Blue Line Of Green

These two men to the left - Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie - are two-thirds of the very expensive blue line being assembled in Calgary for the immediate and longer-term future. Mark Giordano's six-year, $40.5 million contract extension kicks in after this upcoming season, but Calgary has done a pretty spectacular job in building what could be the best six-man rotation on the blue line in recent memory. The only problem in building that kind of talented defence corps? It costs a heckuva lot of money. The Flames had that money to spend, and now they're looking at starting the season with one of the best back-ends in all of hockey.

Mark Giordano was a game-changer for the Flames a year ago before he was injured as some considered him a Norris Trophy candidate with his play. The Flames' blue line saw others step up in Giordano's absence, but you could tell that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Adding Dougie Hamilton to the fold protects the Flames in case of future injury, having TJ Brodie locked up adds more strength, and there's still the remaining three musketeers in Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, and one of Ladislav Smid or Tyler Wotherspoon, and this Flames' blue line is as good as those from the late-1980s.

"We know what he can do on the ice," Treliving told the Flames website. "For those who are around our team, we know what he does the other 22 hours a day. He's a leader in every sense of this organization. It's a good feeling for us knowing that we've got him signed long-term. Moving forward, he can continue to do what he does, and that is lead this team."

That gives the Flames a three-pronged attack in Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton through the 2019-20 season, and should keep the Flames in the running for a playoff sport each and every year. Most good teams can boast a solid back-end with a quality goalie and at least two high-quality defencemen. Chicago, of course, has Crawford, Keith, and Seabrook. Montreal has Price, Subban, and Markov. Tampa Bay has Bishop, Hedman, and Stralman. There aren't many teams who can boast the likes of Hiller, Giordano, and Hamilton/Brodie/Wideman/Russell. In other words, Calgary has a plethora of riches on its blue line that features last season's shot-blocking leader Kris Russell.

"We like what it is on paper, but we all know what paper means; not a whole lot once you get going," Treliving said. "It will be a work in progress. Adding Dougie to the mix, he's going to have to find his way. The coaches will figure out how that is going to shape up, but I like the versatility. We've got lefties, we've got righties, people that can play both sides of special teams, there's depth."

In saying that, getting Giordano - who has only improved season after season since returning from the KHL in 2007-08 - under a long-term deal is a smart move. Yes, it eats up a pile of cap room that the Flames had, but holding onto that room means nothing unless it's spent wisely. According to GM Jim Treliving, this signing was a wise investment.

"I do think Mark Giordano on the open market can make more than what Mark Giordano signed for here with us," Treliving said. "Absolutely he did a good deal for himself, but I also think he was very cognizant of his team here and making sure we give ourselves the best chance moving forward to have success."

The Flames still have priorities following this season. Both Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are restricted free agents in 2016-17, and both are in line for a solid raise after last season. Sam Bennett will also require a new contract once his entry-level deal runs out in 2017-18. Getting the captain's contract signed and sealed this season before his deal ran out next summer was important for Treliving, and now he can turn his attention to adjudicating his young players for their next contracts. In other words, the Flames are set nicely for the future.

The captain is signed, the Flames are solid, and the season's just around the corner. With all the right pieces in place, this could be the season where the Flames are on fire.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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