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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.

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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:

girardi hextally this yr

And his previous seasons:

girardi pre 2013

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?", 5 out of 5 based on 3 ratings.
Categories : Players


  1. bayman says:

    Since Staal picked up his game earlier in the season, I’ve felt we’d be better off if he were teamed with McDonagh. Vigneault has made the bold move of flopping Boyle and Klein between the 2nd and 3rd D pairs. Time for another switch.

    • Dave says:

      That gives you two defensemen playing on their weak side. I don’t think AV is too keen on that.

  2. Original 6 says:

    I gotta believe that AV would love to move Girardi down, but doesn’t have a lot of options to replace him on the top pair.

    • Dave says:

      That’s a big issue, RD is incredibly weak. Theoretically you could have had Klein, while he was hot, up with McDonagh, but Klein’s coming back down to Earth.

  3. Evan M says:

    maybe see how McD/Klein; Staal/G; Hwick/Boyle goes?

    • John C says:

      I’d love to see Boyle + Girardi being swapped between 2nd/3rd pairing based on performance. It would suck to see your 3yr NMC/3yr NTC defenseman on the 3rd pairing, but at his rate of decline, use it as a wakeup call.

      As Dave put, he’s a relic from the Torts era, that fit in just well enough, for long enough to garner an extension. But as the team gets faster and works on the transition game, Cement-Shoes Girardi is going to continue to be a liability to AV’s plan…

    • WilliamW says:


      2 years from now you’ve got


      Good thing Hank’s the best goalie in the game and lifts up the team D metrics. NYR going to need it

    • Dave says:

      Staal/Girardi would be a tire fire. I think the best bet is McD/Boyle, Staal/Klein in a shutdown role, Moore/Girardi as a third pair.

      • Dave says:

        Or Hunwick/Girardi, either or.

      • WayneG says:

        Based on their history together and their ability to work together I feel they would be able to overcome their aging and injury issues. Definitely NOT a tire fire.

        • Dave says:

          Neither can move the puck up the ice. That pair would be pinned in their own zone for long stretches at a time.

      • Walt says:

        Good choice of pairing, but whatever you do, sit Danny boy to get his undivided attention, and soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is going to be a horrible contract that Sather gave to Girardi in a year, or two?????????????

  4. WilliamW says:

    Wow that’s bad. 5 more years too….

    I wonder how much of that is due to the early season struggles and being away from McDonagh

    Obligatory Anton Stralman reference

    • Dave says:

      I decided to not have this be a Girardi bash-fest or a coulda/shoulda/woulda. He’s here, he’s not going anywhere. It’s time to get the best we can from him.

      • WilliamW says:

        True. Probably an over-reaction on my part.

        Big question now is what to do on the right side. Girardi’s probably a middle of the road 2nd pairing, Klein’s probably a 2-/3+ RD and Boyle’s just old.

        One real problem is that Staal/Girardi isn’t a viable option for a 2nd pair so the match-ups get even harder

        • Dave says:

          I’m susceptible to the over reaction as well, especially with the rumored Vatanen+ for Girardi swap that’s been around for a while.

          If you go McD/Klein, then you hope Staal/Boyle can hold their own and you go with Moore (or Hunwick)/Girardi in sheltered minutes.

          • WilliamW says:

            Let’s hope Skjei is REALLY good. May be the only way to really improve the D corps next year

            More evidence that Hank’s amazing

            • Dave says:

              People really underestimate how good Hank is. He’s masked some significant issues, past and present.

              Skjei will likely be somewhere between Staal/Stralman. Good skater, solid in his own zone, decent puck mover (better than Staal, not as good as Stralman).

  5. SalMerc says:

    Everyone can wish and pontificate, but the fact is that Girardi isn’t going anywhere and his minutes will stay the same. AV just does not have a better option.

  6. Paco 33 says:

    So, to sum up:
    * Girardi: A shell of his former self (this post);
    * McD: Struggling (see prior post);
    * Klein: “Not a very good defenseman” who was having a better-than-expected year but is now “coming back to earth” (this and many other posts);
    * Boyle: Not playing well by all accounts;
    * Staal: “Contract not a total disaster”; but you’re “comfortable with having him on the team” (prior posts)
    J Moore: 6th D-man
    * Lundqvist: Having a solid season but certainly not standing on his head or a Vezina candidate.

    Question: How is this team 4th in the NHL in goals against per game?

  7. WilliamW says:

    Worst contract question. Rank the following long-term contracts given out in order of most preferable to least preferable

    Clarkson – Leafs
    Orpik- Capitals
    Girardi – Rangers
    Callahan – TBL
    Phaneuf – Leafs
    McDonald – Flyers

    Follow-up Rangers specific question. In hindsight, would you prefer either of the following vs. current state of the Rangers:1) Kept Richards, let Callahan and Girardi go 2) signed Callahan to the same deal as TBL , bought out Richards and let Girardi go. In all scenarios Stralman leaves via UFA and Boyle is signed

    • Dave says:

      Clarkson/Orpik/MacDonald/Girardi are all ties for #1.
      Cally/Phaneuf distant #2.

      Both of those scenarios stink.

  8. ranger17 says:

    One thing AV has to do is take G off the PP

  9. Arisrules says:

    People who claim that AV would wish to be able to move G down, would have to explain why AV continues to trot out Girardi on the second PP.

    Girardi is probably the worst FA contract that Slats has signed in his tenure. He already is basically at best a third pairing guy, and we have five more years of him on the ice. We cannot even stash him in Hartford like we did with Redden.

    Hank has been good and bad for this franchise. He has been good, because without him we would have been a disaster for a long time (and how doesn’t like winning?). He has been bad though because he has led us to overrate some of our defenders, and not understand their weaknesses.

    • Dave says:

      That’s why a lot of folks don’t like the new ways of evaluating talent (shot attempts). It tells them that their favorite players may not be as good as they think.

      • Paco 33 says:

        No Dave. What a lot of folks don’t like about “new ways of evaluating talent (shot attempts) involves a bit more than “it tells them that their favorite players may not be as good as they think.” What we really don’t like is the way they’re wielded as a club by those who use them.

        First, they are not the only way of “evaluating talent”. Are they useful? Of course. Are they a tool? Yes. Do they provide a new way of looking deeper into the factors that determine personal and team success? Yup. But they are not the only method and that are not determinative and to use them to the exclusion of the myriad factors that comprise performance only leads to a newer way of misinterpreting what we see on the ice. On occasion you’ll pay lip service to this and say that advanced stats is not the only way of judging players but you, with virtually no exception, use them to the exclusion of anything else.

        But it’s one thing to think that you’re right and that you have the only valid way of evaluating performance. It’s quite another to view those who disagree as wrong. And when you say things like “a lot of folks don’t like the new ways of evaluating talent (shot attempts)” because “(i)t tells them that their favorite players may not be as good as they think,” you’re treating those who disagree with your reliance on fancystats with a lack of respect that is undeserved and an arrogance that is unseemly for a blogger.

        I’ve written a blog. The intent is to inform and to generate informed, intelligent discussion. All too often your replies, like an earlier one to cv19, is snarkier than necessary and, as is the case here, treats those who disagree with some contempt.

        • Dave says:

          If there was a misunderstanding, let’s use this to clear the air. I never once said or even implied that stats are the be-all-end-all. In fact, I tweet regularly that they are not mutually exclusive with watching, and both must be used in conjunction with each other to fairly evaluate players.

          I am far from the only one who sees a huge regression in Girardi’s game, we saw it in the playoffs last year, and the Kings killed him in the Finals. We see it this year, it’s on display. So I used the numbers to evaluate it.

          You can’t possibly say, with a straight face, that Girardi is the same guy he was 2-3 years ago. I don’t see anything wrong with suggesting that he may need to be deployed differently, since he’s with the team for the next 5 years.

          Also, people who are snarky to me get a snarky response right back, don’t dish it if you can’t take it. Cv19 has been snarky to me since he started commenting here, so I am snarky right back. I don’t ban people for opinions, disagreeing with me or not, but if you’re going to be sarcastic, or rude, or say “this guy is unbearable” then expect me to fire right back at you.

          Last year, I used these stats to show how good the Rangers were, and predicted the SCF run on Yahoo. This year, the numbers show differently, and I’m cautiously optimistic while pointing out that we can see better deployment of the current assets. If you disagree, that’s fine.

          One final note: I’m within my right to present unpopular ideas based on what I see and what the stats say, using both in conjunction, as noted above. I discuss like a normal person with those who don’t attack me. If you attack me, I will give you (not you personally, the generic “you”) a dose of your own medicine.

  10. cv19 says:

    Thank goodness for you Paco! This guy is unbearable. Tonight will be my last night participating on this blog.

    Girardi by far leads this team in blocked shots.
    Girardi by far leads this team in hits.
    Anyone who plays with a guy like this ABSOLUTELY LOVES HIM! Counts for something.

    Crosby’s numbers against the Rangers?
    Ovechkin’s numbers against the Rangers?
    Girardi maybe a factor?

    i’m moving on to Blueshirt Bulletin. Good riddance to me.

    Paco, keep up the fight.

    Dave, how was puck possession tonight?
    You and Billy Beane will die in mediocrity with your superstats. Hockey is a game of passion, situational play and physicality. The numbers you adore don’t always show up. I like our results so far this year.
    Oh, and sorry I “missed the point” on my last two responses to your opinions.

    Let’s go Rangers!

    • Walt says:

      fair well!!!!!

    • Dave says:

      Fare thee well.

    • Dave says:

      Side note, you do know Beane completely changed the game of baseball, right? He was the first to challenge the status quo, and his teams were quite good until everyone else caught on.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        A pioneer. There was Bill James before him, but Beane was the one that brought it to the front office of a MLB team and used it as an advantage. The baseball community has taken awhile to come around to the advanced statistics that EVERY team now relies on, and it has been just as slow with the hockey community.

        It’s about finding a competitive advantage, and those that refuse to adapt will be held back.

  11. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    Fun possession stats in relation to playoff teams:

    Over the past 9 seasons, only 12 teams have made the playoffs with a regular season with FF% less than 47.5%.

    Over the same period, only 4 teams have missed the playoffs with a regular season with FF% over than 52.5%.

    Last 9 Stanley Cup Winners and their FF%:

    Team Season FF%
    Carolina 2005-06 50.2
    Anaheim 2006-07 54.0
    Detroit 2007-08 59.6
    Pitt 2008-09 50.1
    Chicago 2009-10 58.1
    Boston 2010-11 50.7
    LA 2011-12 53.7
    Chicago 2012-13 56.1
    LA 2013-14 56.7


    Check it out: