CALGARY – Uh-oh, there goes Gio.
Those were the words uttered by thousands of concerned Calgary Flames fans who watched captain Mark Giordano hobble off the ice and, eventually, down the hallway to the dressing room Tuesday night.
Done for the night.
Already in the tightest of battles, this could change everything.
Late in the second period of the Flames’ 3-1 loss to the lowly San Jose Sharks, the Calgary captain came up lamely following an innocent one-timer that suddenly turned awkward with his legs splaying towards the splits. He lay on the ice for several seconds afterwards while play continued, a move foreign to the tough-as-nails defender.
A Sharks player told Sportsnet he heard the 36-year-old say “I tore my hamstring.” A rink-side cameraman heard the same thing.
At the next commercial break, Giordano returned to the ice for a test, followed by a walk down the tunnel to the room. No update was provided by the team, other than word he wouldn’t be returning to action.
The mood in the dressing room suggested the situation is bad, although it’s hard to say given how devastating it was simply to follow up an 8-3 humiliation with a loss to draft-lottery fodder.
“He’s our leader, so if you’re not concerned you’ve got a problem,” said Michael Stone. “He’s a big part of our team – probably the biggest part of our team. So tough to see him leave the game there.”
No one was willing to offer up information of any kind, as is customary in these situations, but assistant Martin Gelinas told Sportsnet The Fan 960 after the game that Giordano was in a lot of pain.
If this is serious, so is the state of affairs in Calgary.
“It’s potentially a huge loss,” said interim coach Geoff Ward, who would only say it was a lower-body injury. “We’ll worry about things as they unfold. Right now it’s all speculation, so we’ll wait and see what the doctors say. But potentially it’s a big loss.”
As pedestrian as his season was, this team cannot afford to lose a player of Giordano’s stature and importance for long.
The club is not deep enough at the back end. And teams can’t replace defending Norris Trophy winners.
At a time when several of the team’s regular six defencemen are going through considerable turbulence, this is a blow that could seriously alter Calgary’s playoff chances, not to mention its trade deadline approach.
Suddenly, the need for a right-shot winger is dwarfed by the need for a top-four blueliner.
A pending UFA like Brenden Dillon could be in play instead of a Tyler Toffoli, Chris Kreider or Kasperi Kapanen.
Once considered the backbone of the Flames, the defence corps is now full of question marks.
Fresh off of a few tough outings against the Oilers, Noah Hanifin was bumped to the third unit alongside little-used Stone to start Tuesday’s game. That left Travis Hamonic playing with TJ Brodie and Rasmus Andersson next to Giordano.
Next up on the depth chart is Oliver Kylington, who was scratched Tuesday following another rough patch.
On the farm?
Alex Yelesin, Rinat Valiev and Brandon Davidson, who have combined to play three NHL games this season.
Don’t think for a second the fix can be rushing back first round gem Juuso Valimaki, who is in month six of a six-to-nine-month rehabilitation following knee surgery. He started skating by himself this week, but is nowhere near being close to a return, let alone a significant assignment in the bigs.
“He’s our best defenceman and probably our hardest worker and one of our best, if not the best player,” said Matthew Tkachuk of Giordano. “It’s definitely a big hole, but guys in this room are capable of filling that just by committee. You can’t have one person who does what he does, so you have to do it as a group.”
In a season full of twists and turns, the combination of losing to the Sharks and losing their star defenceman at the same time could end up being a devastating twist of fate.
How they’ll respond on and off the ice is anyone’s guess.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, but any time anyone leaves the game it’s not a good feeling,” said Sean Monahan. “He’s obviously the leader of our team and a real important player for us. But when a guy like that goes down guys have to step up and fill a role. You’ve got to win games for guys who are battling for you.”
And it may send the Flames reeling.