Archive for Dan Girardi
Update (5:20pm): To address the goaltending question, both Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist were way above league average in adjusted goals saved above average (adjGSAA) which by definition compares goalies and, “as definitively as possible, regardless of circumstance, and in consideration of the tools we have and the variables we can actually account for, Goalie A is performing better than Goalie B.” Since these two goalies are above average, we can assume that they bail out their defense on high-danger shots on a regular basis.
Throughout this golden era of Rangers hockey, a period of time in which we have seen the most consistent success from the Rangers (still missing that one essential piece though), their vaunted defense has been the subject of much praise. That was until very recently, about the mid-point of two seasons ago, when the Rangers faced a critical decision with Dan Girardi. They re-signed their franchise defenseman, and then re-upped Marc Staal the following year. This locked up two core pieces for what could be the remainder of their careers.
I find the NHL Draft to be such an interesting concept. Not only do front offices have to be ready to deal with reacting to their punch list of player rankings and how to best utilize those picks, they also must engage in rapid-fire trade discussions and last minute pick movement. Fascinating. The Rangers are in an unusual position (for them, at least) at the Draft this season, having no high picks and several valuable assets. There are numerous ways the next two days can play out, so naturally, I have some thoughts.
- Might as well start with Cam Talbot. Over the last few weeks, we have gotten a little better idea about where his market stands in the context of a potential bidding war between Buffalo, San Jose, Edmonton and potentially teams like Dallas or Florida. The claim is that Sather turned down two second round picks. I trust the big guy’s trading prowess, and that’s a solid return to turn your nose up at in a very deep draft.
The New York Rangers defense has been called elite by some, and a disaster by others. The reality of the unit is that it is somewhere in the middle, much like how Suit graded them yesterday. The Rangers seem to be set on the left side. They have a legit top pairing defenseman in Ryan McDonagh, at least two solid top-four in Keith Yandle and Marc Staal, and then, well, it gets fuzzy on the right side.
Starting with Dan Girardi, who appears to be the most divisive topic among Ranger fans later, the Rangers have a player who thrived under John Tortorella’s zone collapse defensive zone style. But under Alain Vigneault, Girardi’s lack of foot speed, poor gap control, and poor positioning have many questioning if he can keep up in a strong side overload/man coverage system. I’ve already suggested that the Rangers consider dropping him from his top pairing role, to mixed reviews.
Dan Boyle was brought in to help the powerplay –at the expense of Anton Stralman, who I needed to mention at least once in this post due to the situation, but will forego mentioning him again– and was relatively unsuccessful. He made the opposition mindful of his presence, and he certainly gave them options, but the results simply were not there.
Some quick notes that broke over the weekend:
- Marc Staal had surgery to remove a bone chip in his ankle last week, he is expected back for opening night.
- Dan Girardi also had surgery for a bursa excision. He is also expected back for opening night.
- The Arizona Coyotes had their sights set on goalie coach Benoit Allaire, but Allaire turned them down, preferring to stay with New York as part of a long-term approach. Allaire has worked with Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot to great success, and will be working with Mackenzie Skapski as well.
- Jeff Gorton appears to be the heir apparent to Glen Sather, if he steps down. The Rangers denied the Maple Leafs and Bruins interviews with the Assistant GM.
- Ryan McDonagh had a fractured foot, suffered in Game 4.
- Dan Girardi sprained his right MCL in Game 4.
- Mats Zuccarello had a brain contusion (yeesh), full recovery expected. He was unable to talk for 3 days and needed speech therapy.
- Marc Staal had a hairline fracture in his ankle, suffered in the regular season.
While injuries are not an excuse, these injuries certainly played a role in the Rangers’ defensive performance in the latter half of the series.
Tonight old foes reunite. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have seen a lot of each other in recent years as this will be the fifth time since 2009 the teams face off in postseason play. The Rangers welcome the Caps to the Garden well rested, but with plenty of question marks thanks to an indifferent powerplay, key players underperforming, injuries, and players returning from injury. We’ll get to the Rangers in a moment. Let’s take a look at the Capitals.
Capitals at a glance
We know what the Capitals are and what they do. The Capitals are a big team with immense top end skill and are a team who look to punish you physically. Forget about Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom for a moment (if that’s possible). The Capitals will try to outmuscle the Rangers with the likes of Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Tom Wilson, and Troy Brouwer.
If you include Ovechkin, the Capitals have six players up front who stand 6-2 and above who all weigh in over 215 lbs. That’s not even accounting for guys such as Brooks Orpik and Tim Gleason on the blueline, both of whom love the physical stuff. While the Rangers can more than hold their own physically and along the boards, this isn’t the type of series they’ll want to play.
The Capitals enter the series with better possession numbers to the Rangers (52.0% against the Rangers 50.2%, even strength and score adjusted), similar shooting percentages (8.8% against 8.1% at even strength) but –for those of you that place significant worth in the statistic– are a much better team in the faceoff circle, leading the playoffs with a 56% success rate. It goes without saying that if the Rangers spend a lot of time in the penalty box, the Capitals faceoff skills combined with their (regular season) league-leading powerplay will make them pay.
Dan Girardi will play in Game Two tonight, despite taking a puck to the jaw in Game One and not returning. Girardi left in the third period after the injury as the Rangers held on to a 2-1 lead to take the first game of the series. Kevin Klein, out since March with a broken arm, will not make return tonight. Klein is close, and still considered day-to-day, but Matt Hunwick is doing just fine as his replacement for now.
There are precious few quality defensemen that become available in the National Hockey League. It’s why defensemen like James Wisniewski, Ben Lovejoy(!), Marek Zidlicky and Braydon Coburn all fetched far more than any of them should have done at the trade deadline. Most of them still have their uses for sure, but the prices that they were moved for were certainly inflated in each case. This all brings us to Rangers defenseman and the owner of one well discussed, long term and onerous contract, Dan Girardi.
It’s highly unlikely that Girardi gets moved any time soon. This is because Girardi has been incredibly loyal, is well respected inside the organisation and is an absolute iron man. He logs big minutes, he’s a low maintenance kind of guy and he’s a leader. That said, Girardi is regressing; he’s a possession disaster and his (average) skating and puck moving ability don’t really fit well with Alain Vigneault’s system now, let alone as he ages. However, the market for defensemen has never been weaker – get your supply and demand caps on – which means moving Girardi is something the Rangers must consider. This summer the Rangers should be able to find a taker for Girardi as teams are increasingly desperate for defensive help.
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.
With the All-Star Game coming up this weekend, we’ve been handing out our annual midseason grades. Dave tackled the goaltending and coaches, Chris wrote about the top-six forwards, and today I’ll be reviewing the defense.
Boyle’s season got off to a slow start after the 38-year-old D-man missed the first five weeks of the year with a broken wrist. But in my eyes, he was brought here to do one thing – fix the power play – and that’s been a resounding success. Does Boyle deserve all the credit? Definitely not. But he has made a major impact moving the puck quickly and decisively on the man advantage, and he’s been better in his own end than I expected. Boyle has been deployed in the offensive zone whenever possible, but he’s made that positioning count by helping the team direct rubber at the opposing net at a terrific rate.
The decision to let Anton Stralman go in favor of Boyle may haunt the Rangers for years, but for the short term, I’m pretty comfortable with the tradeoff.
Grade: A- Read More→