If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know that although we are fans of Dan Girardi, we generally tend to think that he may not have a future with the team throughout the life of his contract. The Rangers already have several key cogs on defense in Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, and Michael Del Zotto. They also have two key prospects that will likely crack the roster in the next two years in Dylan McIlrath and Tim Erixon. While that does leave one spot open on the blue line, assuming it all plays out like this, there will be several routes the Rangers can go to fill that spot.
That is not a sleight against Girardi, it is just a matter of business. In a salary cap world, Girardi’s $3.325 million cap hit may be too much to handle for a defenseman that has no specific “specialty” on the blue line. Girardi is good at most aspects of the game, but he doesn’t excel in one particular area, the way Del Zotto is an offensive defenseman or the way McIlrath is supposed to be a bruiser.
All that said, it is time that we eat our words and say that Girardi has been magnificent for the Rangers, and I for one hope he continues to be magnificent for many years to come. In a year where the Rangers are without their best defenseman, Girardi has stepped up to the plate and carried this Rangers blue line. The undrafted defenseman now wears an ‘A’, and that speaks volumes of what the coaches and locker room think of him.
Katie Strang of ESPN penned a fantastic article about Girardi, which follows the timeline of when the Rangers first discovered him through the current season. Girardi leads all defensemen in average ice time per game; and as stated above, has the locker room’s complete respect due to the way he plays and carries himself on and off the ice.
Without Girardi, the Rangers would be lost. He plays almost 30 minutes per game, meaning the Rangers don’t have to play the third pairing of Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka that much. Strang points out that Girardi is rarely winded, and while his immense ice time is a concern, the fact that he can just keep on keeping on is a great motivator for the young kids on the team needing someone to look up to.
So take a step back, and give Girardi some much needed appreciation. The best compliment you can give to a defenseman is that you rarely notice him on the ice, because that means he isn’t making mistakes. The fact that Dan Girardi has gone overlooked for this long is as big of a compliment as it is a disgrace. He should be representing the Rangers in the All Star Game, and although he may not win a write-in campaign, he should be a shoo-in for a selection.