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The resurgence of Dan Girardi

January 10, 2014, by
Part human, part cyborg.

Part human, part cyborg.

It’s no mystery. Dan Girardi was pretty terrible to start the season. The switch from a shot-blocking system to an overload system exposed the defenseman’s skating a bit, and he was torched by the same players who he used to defend so well in previous years. The problems weren’t just limited to defense either. Even though he’s not known for his scoring, Girardi still took a whopping 15 games to record his first point and 18 games to notch his first goal.

Over those first 25-30 games, Girardi took a whipping from us. But over the last 15-20 games, Girardi has found his legs, and appears to have adapted to the system. It’s tough to quantify a defensive defenseman’s worth via stats, especially when there’s a chance his stats could be skewed by playing with Ryan McDonagh. That said, Girardi is still being used as the team’s top defenseman on the right side. He gets a ton of PK time, he is facing top competition, and he is doing so with less than 50% of his starts happening in the offensive zone. Axel Fant-Eldh was able to put together this chart showing how Girardi’s resurgence has been evident as well.

But it is the qualitative (eye) test that really shows Girardi’s improvements over the last month or so.

When we were noting Girardi’s slide in play, we were noticing how he is often caught out of position, or snow angels too much on normal rushes. Our goal breakdowns from earlier in the year almost always mentioned Girardi. But these mistakes are now becoming few and far between. As the goal breakdowns become more recent, the less often we mention a turnover from Girardi, or a snow angel, or just bad positioning.

They say the best compliment you can pay to a defenseman is to say you didn’t notice him. As the season has moved into December and January, we aren’t noticing Girardi as much. Yes, he’s prone to the brain fart every now and again, but every single player in this league has brain farts. Except Pavel Datsyuk.

Much is being made over Girardi’s market value, his trade value, and whether or not the Rangers should keep Girardi around. Admittedly, it will be tough to turn down an offer of two young stud prospects and a first round pick (rumored value) for Girardi. The Rangers should –and will– do their homework there. The Rangers will also do their best to try and keep the defenseman, as right-handed shots made of cyborg parts (missed four games in his entire career) are a rare find.

Girardi has taken a giant leap forward as he adjusts to Alain Vigneault’s new defensive zone style of play. It took him longer than expected, but I guess that should have been planned for since his entire career has been based around a low zone collapse. It takes more than 2 months to re-train your brain from zone defense to overload. Girardi is a major part of the recent 6-2-1 run for the Rangers, and his continued strong play will be an important piece to any playoff run.

Categories : Defense


  1. Tim B says:

    Speaking of resurgence, a few players in the minors need to find their game. Wade Redden retired, maybe he can return to CT whale as an assistant to the coach and help defensemen like McIlrath. If he can turn around MDZ’s game maybe he can strengthen Dylan and Connor Allens games as well. I wouldnt mind Kevin Weekes signing as an assistant to the coach for AHL and helping Missiaen, Malcolm and Stajcer get better too. Doubt any of this will happen though.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Weekes won’t.  He’s got the cushy NHL Network gig.  Probably won’t be walking away from that to coach AHL goalies.

    • Dave says:

      It’s amazing how few people realize the role Redden played for this team. He was the consummate professional.

  2. Walt says:

    Maybe some time back, Dan looked in the mirror and said “I like this blue jersey on me, I’d better start playing better”, and put his mind to it.  Just a thought, with all the talk of a possible trade!!

    • Dave says:

      I think it just took longer for him to adjust to a more skating intensive DZ style of play. Guy was hardwired for low zone collapse and shot blocking for 7 years.

  3. Caerid11 says:

    The question is, does he still fit into what AV wants out of his defense in the long-term, and does it warrant resigning him for what will be a modestly large contract vs. finding a better-suited replacement one way or another.
    We all love Danny G, and I’d be happy with him staying here, but I also want what’s best for the team, which is whatever fits what AV wants (since it seems he’ll get at least the time Tortorella had to fully implement his system while Sather finds the players to play in it).
    Curious what you guys think since you’re more advanced-statistics oriented here than most places.

    • Dave says:

      I think Girardi needs to be re-signed. It’s tempting to see what they can get, but RHDs that are defensively responsible and don’t miss games are a rare find. Depends on what he wants for his next deal too. I’d go to about $5.25m over 5 years. Not much more.

  4. Paco33 says:

    I think we should trade Girardi for something every team needs to be competitive – a solid, right-handed, top-pair D-man  who plays every game.

  5. FrankCerbone says:

    Vigneult’s man on man defensive philosophy has caused EVERY RANGER PLAYER WITH THE EXCEPTION OF KREIDER & HAGELIN TO BE A MINUS PLAYER.  Everyone knew with Vigneault’s offensive philosophy would negatively affect Lundquists stats, but no one except us fans complained.
    Poor MDZ struggled with a team that had no Callahan, Hagelin, Nash and then when they came back idiot Vigneault conveniently benched him.
    Well, both Stralman & Staal are playing poorly, MDZ is back to playing the left side and responsibly.
    Girardi must be resigned at all costs, and RFA David Savard
    (right handed defenseman) and UFA Tom Gilbert (right handed defenseman) must be targeted.
    LW & UFA Matt Moulson, who rarely misses a gm & is good for 30 goals per should be targeted.
    Time for Stralman & Staal to move on.