Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and the concept of the bounce back season

December 24, 2016, by

Photo: Andrew Theodorakis/NY Daily News

At the end of last spring, it was fairly apparent to anyone who had watched the team, whether it was all year long or just the short time the Rangers spent in the post season, that the defense was an issue. Putting aside GM Jeff Gorton’s attempts to address this issue or lack thereof, a popular narrative began floating around that the squad’s worst two defenders, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, would bounce back come October.

Although at the time this notion may have seemed plausible to some and wishful thinking to others, we’re at a point in the season where we can begin to evaluate whether or not that either player has truly bounced back. The Rangers have played enough games to get us to a point where statistical sample sizes are meaningful, and the body of work that we’ve seen on the ice is more than just a momentary flash in the pan.

Let’s start with the good news. Marc Staal, by pretty much any measure, has had a bounce back season. He’s been noticeably more poised on the ice in stark contrast to what we saw last season with his often fraught attempts to clear the zone, and has played a crucial part in helping the Rangers rush the puck up the ice. Statistically too he’s improved, with his CF% this season being 46.91%, higher than last season’s 45.32% and closer to the prior season’s 46.96%. Going by the relative numbers, he’s actually not only bounced back, he’s improved from where he was in 2014-15. His relCF% for the season is just below the team’s average at -0.05%, higher than last season’s -2.46 and markedly better than 2014-15’s -4.10.

This trend holds true for his numbers in terms of scoring chances as well, with his relSCF% for the past three seasons being -4.37, -4.19, and -0.34 going from past to present. The raw numbers there are similarly encouraging, coming in at 48.81 in 2014-15, 43.22 in 2015-16, and 52.22 this season so far. Whether or not he keeps up this level of play remains to be seen, but so far Marc Staal has shown that his skillset from his promising early seasons is still intact.

Things aren’t so promising when looking at Dan Girardi. In 2014-15 he was already on the decline, with a CF% of 46%, and although last season he hit rock bottom at 41.70 this season is not much better at 42.47. Raw scoring chances paint a slightly rosier picture, with Girardi bouncing from 48.72 two seasons ago to 42.33 last season and then 49.32 this season. It is worth noting however, that in the case of both Staal and Girardi, they may be benefitting from the fact that the Rangers have been better at preventing scoring chances as a team, and a rising tide lifts all boats to some degree in hockey.

In terms of how Girardi compares to the teams he’s been on, his relCF% for each season from 2014-15 to present are -5.46, -8.42, and -6.31 while his relSCF%s were -4.34, -5.37, and -4.32. All of this is to say that while he’s not playing as poorly as last season, he’s playing about as poorly as two seasons ago and remains one of the worst players on the team.

It’s also important to put things in perspective – Girardi’s season last year was historically bad, with his 41.70 raw CF% being the 12th worst of all defensemen who have played more than 510 minutes over the past three seasons, and what’s worse is that his relCF% of -8.42 was the second worst season within those parameters, ahead of only Trevor Daley’s -9.18% relCF% season in 2014-15. So to say that he’s improved needs to be contextualized – yes he’s gotten somewhat better, and the scoring chances numbers are encouraging, but he’s still among the worst players in the league, if not the worst, given that his CF% for this season is dead last in the league among defensemen who have played more than 230 minutes (sorry for the arbitrary cutoffs, the slider on Corsica is hard to work) and his relCF% is 13th from last.

So what we’re looking at in sum is a tale of two defensemen, one of whom has bounced back and the other, while slightly better, remains among the league’s worst. Couching things in context, Marc Staal has shown marked individual improvement that, while influenced somewhat by the team’s overall improvements from last season, is likely in large part credited to his own individual performance. On the other hand there’s Dan Girardi, whose improvements upon last season can very probably be chalked up to the team’s general betterment and the fact that it’s hard to have a historically bad season two seasons in a row. What this means for the future in terms of playing time, assignments, or the prospect of both trades and buyouts remains to be seen (although it’s not hard to make educated guesses), but this is where we are currently in terms of the defense.

"Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and the concept of the bounce back season", 3 out of 5 based on 15 ratings.
Categories : Players


  1. Richter1994 says:

    Enough said, well done Pat.

  2. Johnny Red says:

    I agree G is having a tough time but what you young people with this new stats stuff is a little over the top. These player are not pawns on a board, or numbers on a sheet of paper. They are human beings like us with feels, families, and everything else. You people chop him up, chew him up, and spit him out like he’s a nobody. How would you and your family like to see your name being thrown around like your a piece of crap!
    These new stats are ok but they are not the 100% cure all to running a team. They serve a purpose but in my opinion you people have taken it too far. You rely on it for everything. In my 55+ years of watching this sport I have seen a big hit turn a game, and a fight do the same, along with other intangibles that don’t show up on a sheet of paper.
    He’s older and he has a bad contract, but for the love of GOD enough already! Leave the poor man alone. You can be respectful about it when someone isn’t doing well, you don’t have to kick them when they are down.
    This is only my opinion, which doesn’t mean much. Remember this: OPINIONS ARE LIKE BELLY BUTTONS,EVERYONE HAS ONE BUT THEY DON’T SERVE A PURPOSE!

    • Johnny Red says:

      I forgot the most important thing: MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HANUKKAH TO ALL AND GOD BLESS

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      First off he gets paid 5 plus million a year to play this game. It’s entertainment, he’s not saving life’s nor is he contributing to the betterment of human kind. It’s hockey. Stop with the his feelings or his family shit. He sucks and he has for several years now. One doesn’t need a advanced anything just watch the games.

      Once the belly button did serve a purpose and now like G it doesn’t. He’s not a goalie so stop with snow angels the attempts at blocking shots and screening the goalie. Take the man he can’t take the puck he can’t keep up he can’t .

      But with the millions he’s making it should be a Merry Christmas
      And a Happy New Year in his household.

      • stevesse says:

        Hockey, like baseball and basketball is a business that allows guaranteed contracts. So when a baseball team gives out 10 year 200 million contracts, it is assumed there will be an albatross over their head for the last third of said contract. That is the price of keeping or getting good production in the early years. Perhaps football is the best example of what the fans really want. NGC! You cant play, you get no pay! In today’s NHL, if you can’t skate, you can’t play and the league will show no forgiveness. Girardi is a dinosaur.

        • Johnny Red says:

          You are 100% correct! I put them blame on management for giving these NMC’S I’m with you, it should be like football. Great comment

        • Reenavipul says:

          I’m happy for every player to have a guaranteed contract, as the providers of labor should be rewarded handsomely.

          But NMC are good for neither the player nor the club in a hard cap environment.

      • Johnny Red says:

        You’re right, all I’m trying to say is we don’t need to beat it to death day after day. He should have NEVER been signed and given a NMC in the first place. The guy they should have kept was Stralman. I’m sorry you feel you need to use that language.

      • howiehockey says:

        Both contracts (Girardi & Staal) are absurd to begin with from every standpoint; salary, length of contract and clause wise. I’ll have more to say tomorrow.

    • rglv says:

      I understand that stats are important, but they are not everything. I rely more on my eyes than stats. And my eyes were telling me that Girardi’s regression did not start last year but much earlier than that. I did see with my eyes the two games in 2014 SCF that we lost because of his giveaways in D zone that resulted in goals while Rangers were up on the score board. It was before he was handed over a ludicrous contract And speaking of loyalty I do not recall any when Messier and Leech were shipped out all in the name of the team’s betterment. So, it is obviously not Gigardi’s fault that he was given this contract, and it is not about loyalty, but rather a pure GM miscalculation of a player’s value.

    • Lucky says:

      Thank you for your very good comment. You talk me out my heart as we say in germany. Some of those people here are so mean and wiseguy like. Its hard to stand how they talk about others. But this is the change into they new Disney Like Corporation what the NHL became. All about stats and facts. They honour and guts are an relict from the past. Thats why player are skating away when their best player got a dirty hit to the head. No revenge because they got a power play and all what matters is the possibillity of the statistical chance to Score. Hockey is not a sport for types anymore. You gotta be a statistical driven corporate employee in the hockey businness. And those Bloggers who never played one shift of hockey are the result.

  3. Ranger11 says:

    I know this was about Staal and Girardi and I agree with what you said but what’s up with Mac? He had 3 straight goals in Pitt go right through his D or lack of D. That poke checking is not gonna cut it, especially in the playoffs. Klein is another one. Where’s the banging guys off the puck? When we see guys all alone in front of our goal with 2 and 3 chances at rebounds ya know we’re in trouble. I know the game has changed but good hard work and physical play around the net will always be a must. Anyway, good write up here and Merry Christmas to all fans out there in Rangers land

  4. Spozo says:

    My whole problem with an article like this is that you simply take a single stat and say they are playing well or not playing well.

    Yes fancy stats are useful but they are not all encompassing.

    I’m not disagreeing with your assessment on the two Players or that Girardi has clearly regressed I just can’t put too much stock in to a single advanced stat to definitively say whether a player is good or not.

  5. Silent Bill says:

    All these CF%, relCF%, relSCF%, make me mental.

  6. Peter says:

    The stats confirm, I believe, what many of us have seen on the ice: Staal is noticeably better than he was last year while Dan struggles most nights. While the team’s commitment to backchecking has helped out the Dmen many tines this season, it does not always cover up the defensive lapses. Girardi’s play also tends to put undue pressure on McD to do more than he can, wearing him out.

    Unfortunately, unless and until Gorton pulls off a deal for a first pair RD, or they decide to give Clendening a shot at playing regularly, we are going to see Dan continue to struggle. He is a fine and valiant player, but he is obviously done.

    Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

  7. paulronty says:

    Do you realize that the difference between a Corsi of 46.91 & 45.32(Staal this year & last), is totally insignificant from a statistical point of view. Corsi is a useless stat, so I wish people would stop using it. Maybe you should use adjusted +/- instead. Who knows. They are all on the ice with five other guys, so looking at them in isolation is fruitless in my view. In baseball, they try to look at a pitcher in isolation by using FIP, but what is the equivalent in hockey?

  8. John says:

    The stats support the play, I see both players on the decline. Stall’s improved play may be due to the fact that he is no longer paired with Girardi, but neither are having a positive impact on the team and management will have to deal with that soon. Dealing will be difficult, so we aren’t going to get much IF we find an interested team, a buyout seems inevitable.
    Girardi has been a terrific Ranger, a minute monster and one time shut down defenseman, and a good teammate. Its time to give someone else a chance.

  9. DAVID k says:

    Staal & Girardi need to go Girardi is holding back McD enough with the good team player and all the other crap. This is business and the business of these two being in the lineup is a bad investment and we need to move them both somehow. Merr yChritas & Happy Hanukah

  10. Five Hole says:

    The stats back it up and we all see it game after game, but why can’t AV see it?! This guy benches their franchise player, because in his words, he loves Henrik, but loves the Rangers more. Apparently, he loves him some Dan Girardi a whole lot more than the Rangers because benching Skjei instead of G is ludicrous is not moronic.

    • Richter1994 says:

      Baffling, I would love the opportunity to ask him questions.

      • Five Hole says:

        You and me both, Richter! Baffling how the local press let’s him off the hook. I don’t know if it’s because hockey is the “4th sport” in town, but no other manager/coach in NY would be able to pull the questionable moves he makes without any mercy. I imagine since there’s so few beat writers following the team, they need to be somewhat cordial in order to have any access to the team.

        • Richter1994 says:

          Right, Five, the beat writers are at his mercy. From what I understand some papers don’t even have them travel with the team anymore to cut costs, so they watch it on TV and the report on the game.

  11. 'The Original Rob' says:

    Merry Christmas my fellow Ranger Brothers n Sisters!

    Interesting article Pat and thank you.

    It kinda threw me off guard a bit, as I would have though the numbers on G would have been a bit better from what I’ve seen from thee ole eye.

    That’s okay though. The Warrior is still looking much better then last year and I have a hunch he’s still a bit banged up. I like how the coach has been sitting him for games here n there and hope that the added rest will catch up and he will benefit for the second season from it.

    Oh, and I just wanted to say to all that doubted Staal and Holden, as well as G, to go stick a fork in it!

    Merry Christmas to all 🙂


  12. Al Dugan says:

    First Merry Christmas to all the guys and gals who work giving us this great site on a daily basis! It is fun to read and interact with all the posters.

    Second, the percentages quoted in the article are simply counting. Somebody attempts a shot, it’s counted. One at a time. Shots attempts for versus shot attempts against. The best way to look at it is 5v5, which is the way most of the game is played. It is fairly logical that in order to win a game it is better most of the time to have more shot attempts than the other team. You sometimes get bailed out by your goalie or a hot shooter, but those things tend to even out over time, aka last year. So, if you don’t like Corsi, you don’t like counting.

    Right now, the Rangers have given up about 150 more shot attempts than their opponents. Some nights they win those games when they are out attempted, but in the long run it is proven that that will not continue, aka last year. Currently, they have average goaltending, but a very high shooting percentage. History says this will not continue. The Rangers tend to benefit from better goaltending, and normal to slightly better shooting percentages, aka last year. Right now, Dan Girardi is running a -140 shot attempt differential. It’s better than his run last year when he ended the season at -400+. Chris Krieder is having a banner year for NYR with goals and assists and it shows with his differential with attempts for and against. He’s currently +70. What I’m trying to say is make a New Year’s resolution like I did last year, and look at the additional counting of shots for and against and start from there. It tells you a lot. Don’t give up the eye test, don’t give up your rooting interest on a particular player. Just enjoy the stuff that’s out there that can help,you see a little bit better. I am not trying to jam these down your throats or change the way you watch. I’ll I’m saying is some of these new counting methods can predict a lot of what will transpire as the season progresses. And having a negative number with shot attempts suggests pretty strongly that your team is having major problems in its defensive zone. And if you watch the NYR and then watch other better possession teams (like PIT or WSH OR MTL OR CBJ) your eye will tell you that something is wrong with the NYR.

  13. Anthony Merrill says:

    Here are the Facts. Girardi brings down McD. He can’t make a pass out of the zone and if he’s behind his own net teams know to swarm him because he turns it over. Whenever the other team scores I rewind and look for Girardi. He’s either out of position, blocking his own goal keeper, he’s the one who passed it to the other team creating their scoring chance or playing goalie himself.
    On a positive note, he has been shooting when he’s not chasing a pass he missed and he’s taken the body a little more.
    Lastly, can we get rid of Joe Micheletti? His over analysis, constant talking over Sam Rosen, pointing out the obvious and that voice UGh bring back JD

  14. amy says:

    hopefully after this three day break this team will get back on its winning ways starting off by beating Ottawa tomorrow night last time Ottawa beat us 2-0 in a game that brass wanted to be over and done with let’s see what happens tomorrow night