Is it time to shelter Dan Girardi’s minutes?February 10, 2015, by
If you’ve been reading this blog a while, then you know we’ve been questioning Dan Girardi’s deployment for quite some time now. Love him or hate him, the fact remains that Girardi will be a member of the Rangers for the next five seasons. Since the Rangers are, for better or worse, married to Girardi long-term, it is now about utilizing this resource to get the most out of what is almost guaranteed to be some painful decline years.
Let’s get the easy part out of the way: Girardi is not the player he used to be. Whether you believe it to be a regression due to age, or that the switch to Alain Vigneault’s aggressive system exploited his skating ability, or that he just wasn’t good to begin with, it doesn’t matter. What we see today is what we have.
Girardi has been playing top-pairing, shutdown minutes for a long time now. John Tortorella leaned heavily on Girardi when he came on board in 2009, and AV has continued that trend. Under Torts, Girardi was a 50% CF player once (2012-2013). Under AV, Girardi was a 50% CF player last season –I’m rounding up from 49.9%– but is/was still a negative relative CF player. His drop in CF% this year to 45% is a huge drop off.
This is important because you expect your top pairing to not only shutdown the opposition, but be proficient at pushing the play up the ice. Girardi simply doesn’t do that well, and really hasn’t throughout his career.
Since Girardi lacks at that aspect of the game, it’s time to look at the shutdown aspect of his game, both in quantity (CA/60) and in quality (hextallys). If you don’t expect your shutdown guys to be proficient at pushing the play up the ice, then you expect him to limit both the number of shot attempts and the quality of shot attempts. Unfortunately, Girardi is regressing in both of those as well.
Girardi’s CA/60 took a big increase this year, going from 56.7 to 60.5. This confirms what most have seen while watching, that Girardi isn’t playing the way he has in the past. Girardi’s actually been having issues since the midpoint of 2014, and has steadily gotten worse at allowing a number of shot attempts.
So now we look at shot quality via hextallys. Hextally charts look at the shot attempt locations allowed by players relative to the rest of the league. For a shutdown guy, you want to see more shot attempts from outside the high risk areas. Remember, you want blue dots here (negative numbers). Here’s Girardi this year and last:
And his previous seasons:
I don’t even need to draw the pentagon in this picture. Girardi’s shot rate the past two years in the slot has jumped from 1.74 to 1.88, showing regression on an already poor number. His numbers outside the slot are also alarmingly high and a sharp increase from prior years.
Now, the left point jump may not necessarily be his fault. He plays RD and the left point is the furthest point from his coverage zone under AV. Same goes for the mid-point jump from 1.55 to 2.4. Those zones are usually reserved for forward defensive play. However, you can still see the high volume of red dots littered throughout the charts.
So right now we have a player that doesn’t drive possession, limit shot attempts, or limit quality shot attempts. But yet, he is getting matched up against the top scorers from the opposition. Yes, he blocks shots fearlessly, which is a skill in of itself, but that also means he doesn’t have the puck.
Perhaps Girardi would be better served playing against weaker competition, those that can’t necessarily exploit his skating issues or his puck handling issues. This would also free up Ryan McDonagh a bit, since he appears to be struggling as well. Sheltering Girardi may not happen this year, but it will need to happen sometime soon if this team is to succeed in the future."Is it time to shelter Dan Girardi's minutes?",