Archive for Dan Girardi
The Rangers find themselves back in action on Tuesday, after their seven day All-Star layoff. Hopefully, the rest does the team well, as they have exchanged optimistic signs of improvement with mediocre displays over the past few weeks (months). While we take a little breather from competitive hockey, I have some thoughts.
Might as well start with the All-Star Game. I will just say what we are all thinking: it’s terrible. It has been terrible for quite some time. At least it doesn’t determine home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final, but that’s a different discussion altogether. I have read various articles on how to improve it, and at least the NHL is trying. Yearly tweaks to format, a fantasy draft, etc., have at least shown the league acknowledges the problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a realistic fix. Players don’t try, which is fine. The problem is over the past few years they spend more time just dicking around than they do playing hockey. I understand that these guys work very hard over the course of the year and deserve some levity and recreation. The problem is watching Carey Price play goal backwards just isn’t very entertaining. That’s not to even touch on the whole John Scott fiasco. Read More→
The Rangers have a right-defense problem. Kevin Klein is solid and by far the best defenseman on that side. Aside from him, the Rangers aren’t really sure what they are getting on a nightly basis from Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, and Dylan McIlrath. The cause of inconsistency varies by player, but inconsistency is still inconsistency.
Boyle is still a solid possession player and his presence opens things up on the powerplay. However he is old and he’s slowing down considerably. He got torched by a Caps player on Sunday to negate an icing, and has been slow to the puck relatively consistently all year. That’s by no fault of his own, he lost a step.
Girardi has had a terrible season, and a fractured kneecap probably isn’t helping matters. Injured or not, he’s been a liability on the ice. McIlrath’s inconsistencies are more easily explained, as he’s a rookie. He will make mistakes. But those mistakes will become fewer in number as he gets more playing time. He should be getting groomed for regular minutes next season as well.
I have a confession to make. I haven’t really been watching much of the Rangers lately. A combination of a hectic work schedule and early deficits have conspired to dilute my commitment to watching this group. It’s tough to keep it locked to MSG when they are already down 4-1 six minutes into the second. Despite this, I have obviously read every wonderful article the BSB crew has churned out and scrolled through the ol’ Twitter feed to see the wreckage the morning after games. The weirdest part is my liquor cabinet hasn’t needed refilling as often. Strange.
What this little break has allowed me to do is take a step back and assess the big picture with this club. The only consistent thing this season has been inconsistency. They have been embarrassed by mediocre teams like the Flames and Oilers, but have put on clinics against talent-stacked squads in Tampa, Dallas and St. Louis. It’s maddening. What I have determined during my sabbatical is that the organization is facing a litany of crossroad decisions as the Rangers enter the back half of Henrik Lundqvist’s prime window.
The Rangers appear to be fully healthy today, as Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi, and Antti Raanta all returned to practice today. Klein has been out the longest with an abdominal injury, almost three weeks. Girardi missed a week with a knee injury. Raanta missed a week with what was likely a concussion. Klein’s injury really cost the Rangers, as he was their best defenseman before the injury.
Make of that what you will.
The Rangers embarrassing loss in Edmonton was the exclamation point for the embarrassing regression from the Rangers defense. Unfortunately it all centers on Dan Girardi. The veteran Rangers blueliner has become an absolute liability.
This issue is no longer about his already questionable decision making ability. Players can cover up their decision making through their athletic prowess (Chris Kreider), their effort (guys such as Brandon Prust) and their positional sense but Girardi’s awful play has become so apparent and it’s because he’s basically doing nothing right on the ice anymore and it’s got to the point where he needs to be removed from the line-up, even if it’s just for a game or two.
Girardi can’t skate well enough for Alain Vigneault’s system, he makes bad plays with the puck but his positional play has now never been worse. He’s far too often removed from the play in his own zone. To the point where he can’t even block a shot which has so often been his saving grace (because fan bases overrate heroic blocked shots like it was the Spartan’s last stand) and a key defense from his defenders (of which I used to be one).
The fanbase is obviously divided on Dan Girardi. It couldn’t be any more obvious. Some think he’s a top pairing, shutdown defenseman. Others think he should be fired into the sun with a giant Acme slingshot. The rest think it’s somewhere in between. It’s pretty fun to watch the interactions on Twitter and in the comments.
So that leads me to the newest poll: Where do you think the Rangers should play Girardi? Top pair? Out of the lineup? In between? Vote in the poll below.
Disclaimer: I’m 100% poking the bear here.
The Rangers have now past the ten game mark of the new season, and will be taking on the cellar-dwelling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Madison Square Garden in search of a 7-2-2 start. There has been much to analyze in the early going, so naturally I have some thoughts…
1. Mainstream media analysis, especially in the early goings of a season, is especially broad. Good starts, slow starts and unexpected performers litter the narrative landscape. Reading publications like The Hockey News or ESPN, the assumption is that the Canadiens are invincible and the Ducks and Blue Jackets are toast. You dig a little deeper into the individual teams and you find that each club has it own sources of consternation and optimism.
Like most teams the Rangers go as their best players go. Right now, only Henrik Lundqvist can say he’s his usual elite self and keep a straight face. Rick Nash, Derick Brassard as well as the entire blueline are not contributing as expected. Right now it’s the blueline that is causing most concern. Other forwards and the Rangers’ general depth are covering for Nash, for Kreider and for Brassard (take a bow Oscar Lindberg) but the defensive unit – as a collective – are making a series of errors each and every game.
The entire blueline has been a relative tire fire. It’s been hockey punctuated by individual mistake after individual mistake, by poor coverage and unacceptable defensive zone exits. The Rangers blueline has also been a turnover machine throughout October. Through all of that negative narrative (say that drunk) and no one, perhaps not even Dan Girardi, has begun the new season in as disappointing fashion as Ryan McDonagh.
Dan Girardi is probably the most interesting Ranger on the roster. He is the subject of a very vocal amount of criticism that is only equaled by the vocal amount of praise. It’s an age-old battle of “watch the game nerd” versus “#fancystats.” Here’s the dirty little secret of the eye-test and #fancystats: If you’re only using one, you’re doing it wrong. We’ve all seen what the numbers say on Girardi, it’s been discussed ad nauseam around these parts. Suffice it to say, they are not favorable.
The disconnect is tying those numbers his play in the defensive zone. And in the defensive zone, system matters. There is a major difference between John Tortorella’s low-zone collapse and Alain Vigneault’s overload/man coverage hybrid (shift to man coverage when the puck is below the goal line). In a low-zone collapse the goal is to defend the high risk areas and block shots. This requires that all players be proficient at blocking shots –which is a skill, no doubt– and understanding when to block the shot and when to let your goalie make the save.
In an overload, the goal is to outnumber the opposition on the wall and create pressure on the puck carrier. When the puck is below the goal line, players switch from an overload to man coverage. Everyone is always moving, and the scheme is a difficult transition from a collapsing team. Those 9-2 and 6-0 losses on the west coast two seasons ago are constant reminders. This kind of system is incredibly reliant on quick skaters and gap control.
Isn’t everyone in a much better mood now that hockey is back? It doesn’t hurt that the Rangers won their opener against the defending champs and rained on their obnoxious banner-raising ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the Blackhawks organization, but my god, that was a little much. The Blueshirts are back at it tonight against Columbus, so I figured I would share some thoughts on game day…
In the interest of keeping this in some semblance of order, I’m going to try and compartmentalize these bullets into ‘Hawks thoughts and then Blue Jackets thoughts.