The mere thought of the last time his Calgary Flames visited New Jersey prompts GM Brad Treliving to exhale loudly.
“Back to the scene of the crime,” he says, eyes bugging out of his head as he stares blankly ahead thinking of the damage done at the Prudential Center that late February night.
“It wasn’t good at all.”
Seconds before the Flames scored an empty-netter, Mark Giordano went to slap a puck around the boards to clear the zone when the stick of Devils forward Steve Bernier got caught up under his arm, preventing a follow through.
Giordano felt a pop, crumpled to the ice and then charged off and down the player’s runway to the trainer’s room.
By the time Treliving got down to the dressing room area Bob Hartley was aware the captain would likely be lost indefinitely, prompting a telling head shake as he passed by his boss.
It threatened to be one of the organization’s most devastating injuries in recent lore given all he meant to the team and its chances of completing an improbable playoff chase.
With his 48th point earlier in the evening, he led his team in scoring as well as all blueliners in the NHL, paving the way for Norris Trophy talk that would suddenly be silenced.
“For sure it runs through your mind — the way it happened with half a minute left in the game,” said Giordano when asked if he had any anxieties heading into Tuesday’s tilt in Jersey.
“But I’m hoping to get into the game and the adrenaline erases all that.
“Maybe I won’t try a hard rim slap shot, I’ll try a hard rim wrist shot next time.”
He can laugh about it now but the heartache associated with what would be announced days later as season-ending surgery to repair a torn biceps was very real.
“There’s a few days after that that are tough,” admitted the 32-year-old.
“The biggest part was we were right there in the mix, battling for a playoff spot — first time we had done that in a while so there’s a few tough days.
“But then you talk to a few guys. (Flames Hockey President Brian) Burkie sent me a pretty good text basically saying to ‘take it for what it’s worth’ and ‘it’s part of the business’ and all that. I had a lot of support.”
With the trade deadline around the corner the Flames feigned he was okay, sending him out for the pre-game skate two nights later in Long Island.
“That was honest -—I know everyone thought it was fake but there was a two or three week window before you have surgery on a tendon like that before it starts scarring down so there was an opportunity, if it felt okay, to try to play a few more games,” said Giordano who admits he needed a trainer’s assistance to put on his jersey that night.
“There was no risk of further injury for myself but I tried it and took a couple shots and it didn’t feel right at all.
“I didn’t know the extent but, yeah, right away I knew it was bad.”
Lost for the season following surgery, he said what kept him sane was travelling with the team, staying as involved as he could while rehabilitating.
Somehow his injury further galvanized the young club as it went on to complete its improbable playoff journey without its top defenceman.
The humble veteran suggests he would have been a long-shot to beat Erik Karlsson for the Norris given Ottawa’s strong finish. We’ll never know.
The lingering effect of his injury had many suggesting it was partly to blame for the Flames slow start this season — a notion Treliving buys into… a bit.
“It happened in February so there’s the physical aspect — he missed six months,” said the GM.
“There’s also a mental aspect of getting over an injury. Plus there’s the start of the season when you’re kind of out of sorts anyway. All those things combined with (playing partner TJ) Brodie being out and him having to play with new people (Dougie Hamilton) were factors. But obviously he’s back and playing the way we know he can.”
And looking to add the final chapter of his injury Tuesday.
“Once I get into the game it won’t be there,” said Giordano of the reminders.
“My arm has felt great all year so hopefully that continues that way and I stay healthy.”