Archive for Dan Girardi
This offseason, head coach Alain Vigneault said the plan was to get defenseman Dan Girardi some rest from time to time. The idea made sense, as Girardi played most of last season with a fractured kneecap, and was just downright awful. This was on top of his declining play becoming the focal point among fans. After all, keeping Girardi fresh is the best way to get the best hockey out of him as he ages.
However through this point of the season, Girardi has been a healthy scratch for rest just once. It has showed in his on-ice performance, as he simply can’t keep up with the opposition’s top skaters. But that hasn’t stopped AV from dressing him nightly. He was asked about this after practice on Saturday, and his answer clued us into what his approach will be going forward.
With the Rangers on their bye week, which was perfectly timed with the halfway point of the season, we are afforded the opportunity to evaluate the Rangers with nothing else going on. Midseason report cards have been a bit of a tradition here at BSB, so let’s keep that tradition going, shall we?
Over the next few days, each of us will be tackling a different aspect of the team, and assigning grades accordingly. I’m batting leadoff here, and I’m going to be discussing the most polarizing aspect of this year’s team: The defense.
Overall, the back line for the Rangers has been relatively bad. The combination of age, injuries, wear and tear, and a shift towards speed has made what was once a strong defense into a bottom-five unit in the league. The slow start by Henrik Lundqvist exposed the defense even more. But it’s not all bad, either.
The Rangers need defensive help. Most of that is because of the rapid decline of Dan Girardi, who continues to play on the top pair due to lack of other options on the Rangers. No matter where you sit on the Girardi spectrum, it’s tough to argue against Girardi being a shell of what he was five years ago. Players like him deserve a leash, but that leash should have run out two years ago.
Beyond his declining play, his contract is an albatross to the Rangers. He is signed for another three years following the 2016-2017 season, with a $5.5 million cap hit. The Rangers were able to get some cap breathing space in the Derick Brassard/Mika Zibanejad swap, but not enough to make an adequate fix to the defense. Even if the Rangers had the space to make an upgrade, there’s no room for additions. Something has to give.
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.
David Pastrnak hits Dan Girardi high. He got a two minor check to the head penalty. Girardi left the ice. No word on his return.
Even though the Rangers have started the season 2-2, there have been plenty of reasons for optimism. The team has dominated possession and scoring chances in the two losses, and were simply stymied by two goaltenders on their game. There have been some highlights and lowlights since the season began, and as you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
1. This forward group has been really impressive so far. There is speed up and down the lineup. Oddly good chemistry has developed on certain lines very quickly (coughKreiderZBadBuchcough) and the special teams have had a much better look, as well. The sample sizes are still to small to look at efficiency or league rankings, etc., but the visual analysis tells me that it has been much improved.
2. It is really nice to have some shooters in the lineup for a change. There is obviously a point of diminishing returns with simply firing at the net with every touch, but having those guys with a shoot first instinct has made the offense much more dynamic. Mika Zibanejad has been especially impressive thus far.
Update: Lines for tonight are Chris Kreider-Mika ZIbanejad-Rick Nash; Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello; Jesper Fast-Kevin Hayes-J.T.MIller; Michael Grabner-Josh Jooris-Brandon Pirri. Defense pairs are Ryan McDonagh-Nick Holden; Marc Staal-Adam Clendening; Brady Skjei-Dylan McIlrath.
Josh Jooris will likely dress tonight in Buchnevich’s place. My guess is that Pirri gets Buchnevich’s spot with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, while Jooris slides in to the 4C role.
If Kevin Klein still can’t go, then expect Dylan McIlrath to get into tonight’s game.
Dan Girardi left last night’s 3-2 loss to St. Louis with a hip injury, and it appears to be more serious than a typical day-to-day style injury. With the next game coming on Monday against San Jose, it looks like Girardi will be out for at least that game. Assuming Kevin Klein cannot play due to his back spasms, it means Dylan McIlrath will likely be inserted into the lineup.
If Alain Vigneault wants to go the call-up route, then one of Girardi or Klein will need to be placed on IR to open up the roster spot. But all signs point to McIlrath playing at least one game, likely on a bottom pair, before the inevitable trade comes.
Jeff Gorton, in the mean time, will be placing a call to the Girardi-Cyborg store where all his parts come from. Clearly there was a defect somewhere in building him this season.
Dan Girardi has been a polarizing player this offseason, by no fault of his own. The 32 year old defenseman, who has spent his entire career in New York, played most of last season with a cracked kneecap. For all of his faults, Girardi has brass cajones for playing through the entire season like that. But that said, he is 32, is coming off this injury, and has a lot of wear and tear on his body.
The front office and coaching staff are expecting Girardi to have a bounce back season. Those who have been looking at his underlying numbers for the past few seasons don’t believe this is possible for a number of reasons. But is it possible for Girardi to have this bounce back season that we all hope for?
The ridiculousness of free agency is now a week behind us, and a whole lot has happened. Not much with the Rangers, mind you, but that is more or less a good thing. The Blueshirts brought in Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Nick Holden and a couple AHL signees. Most of the heavy lifting appears to be done, and as you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
- I can’t help but wonder if Jeff Gorton was aiming for some sort of actual return for Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. I am painfully aware that the number of cap floor, analytically-averse teams are dwindling rapidly and that there simply may have been no interested parties. This could explain why no one has signed Kris Russell yet. Point is, I hope Gorton would have jumped on the opportunity just to shed the salary and not hoped for an actual return.