What will Dan Girardi’s play be like several years down the road? (Puckrant.com)
Yes, it is hard to believe but while Dakota Case does an excellent job getting you prepped for the 2014 NHL Draft, we are going to tackle some less pleasing Fantasy realities. Again, scoring is a bit of a misnomer as the main way to determine a defenseman’s effectiveness. We see it time and time again with the Norris Trophy, for example. However, what happens when players that engage in a rugged defensive game enter their 30s? It’s an especially intriguing question when the player is under contract for the next six seasons, as New York Rangers blueliner Dan Girardi is.
How difficult is it to foresee what will happen in a player’s career several years down the road? It is incredibly challenging. However, these are the type of things that we just do anyway. The goal is to attempt to come up with a sort of possible projection with the eyeball test combined with some advanced statistics. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Yes, Girardi was rewarded handsomely in late-February with a six-year, $33-million extension. With the salary cap going up and likely to continue to rise each year, this contract does not look so bad on the surface. Sure, Girardi stumbled a bit during the playoffs but the last three years have been very good to the defenceman. His compete level is off the charts, he provides some bursts of offense from time to time and he isn’t afraid to say it like it is. No one will confuse him as being in the Ryan McDonagh class but Girardi is a pretty nice defensive complement who will occasionally save you a goal (see video below).
Or is he?
Looking ahead, that’s the biggest question for the New York Rangers and Fantasy owners alike. Despite the fact that he sees some pretty significant power play time, do not expect to suddenly see 35 or more points from Girardi as that is not going to happen. Huge goal outputs are not likely either as he seems locked in around four to six goals per 82-game season.
Considering Girardi’s career high in shots per game and goals came in his first full season, you kind of know what you are going to get here. However, you may not like that reality going forward.
The Eyeball Test
There is always much debate with this. We can see it now: ‘Oh, you’re a Devils fan. What do you know about Dan Girardi?’ That is one obvious interpretation. But still, here’s what we’ve seen.
Girardi took the 2012 Eastern Conference Final loss to New Jersey harder than just about anyone on New York. It affected him — it’s obvious to many observers. This did not overly affect his actual abilities and production, but as the 2014 playoff run ran deeper and deeper, Girardi’s play began to digress once again. He took his fair share of jabs from the media and some wondered about how smart a move giving him the extension was.
This downturn spurred thought about how bad Girardi might be in two, four, or even six years. Currently he’s the number two defenseman on the Rangers, but he is probably a third or fourth blueliner on your Fantasy teams. Next season, that should not change much and as a matter of fact, Girardi might see a modest bump in assists and points. After that, however, the skies are cloudy and uncertain.
Usually the scoring is the first to suffer, but Girardi has never been one to go lights out when it comes to offense. Hits and blocks may not suffer that much either, but injuries may start to take their toll. The blueliner has been very durable, missing just five games since his first full season. However, when you combine that with a lot of playoff games in that stretch you start to worry about the “uh oh factor.” See Anton Volchenkov as a pretty good example and look at what he has been reduced to in New Jersey.
Volchenkov had pretty good point totals at times for Ottawa, but things changed after he came to New Jersey. Injuries and regression took an immense toll to the point where he is pretty much a sixth defenseman who logs maybe 15-to-16 minutes a game on average. That could be where Girardi eventually ends up. The question is how many years does that take? Could he be traded before then? All these scenarios are possible.
There are obviously other examples of regression, but this is where we project Girardi down the road:
- In two years: He’ll be a No. 3 or 4 defenseman
- In four years: He’ll be a No. 5 or 6 defenseman (and may be with different team)
- In six years: He’ll be a No. 6 or 7 defenseman (and possibly out of the NHL)
This is going to ruffle some feathers. However, the evidence is almost damning. You have a player that relies a ton on effort and persistence. His workload has been immense and at some point, intangibles don’t cut it anymore. It will happen. It is only a question of when with Girardi. There is a bit more evidence from the advanced side of the ledger, but we will make this painless as possible.
The Advanced Stats Side
Like Frosted Mini-Wheats, there has to be a little substance to what we have presented. This is the less sugary side, if you will. Many feel that Girardi’s contract will not become an albatross but that he will definitely be a bottom pairing NHL defenseman at best. During the playoffs, he had just seven games out of 25 in which he was greater than a 50 per cent Corsi 5 on 5. (For context, top defensemen generally are over 50 per cent at least 40 per cent of the time.) To make matter worse, there were some 20s and 30s — something you would never seen from first pairing defenseman — in the mix, and one of them came in the Round One against Philadelphia, when ostensibly the opposition wasn’t as strong.
The other scary thing was that Girardi was still seeing around three minutes of power play time a game, and much like Brad Richards seeing power play time at all, this was a bad idea. Anton Stralman probably became a better choice for PP time over Girardi, and if Michael Sauer was still playing in New York… well you get the idea. Oh, by the way, Stralman was a try out just last season in New Jersey before catching on with the Rangers. We think people may see where we are going here.
Yes, the playoffs are a tough animal but seeing Girardi break down like this in two deep runs, along with his game load does not bode well. Even during the season, he started off brutally, got better after the midway point, and looked a little more solid as the season ended but you could see the writing on the wall come playoff time. The ice gets tighter and so did the defenseman.
Girardi’s +/- percentage relative to 5 on 5 Corsi For Percentage looks like a stock ticker having a crazy day. There is less consistency in that than usual but some of that could be attributed to a hockey team that was struggling to play 60 minutes most of the season.
Lastly, one more thing we would like to point out is that the playoffs were very telling with the rise of Stralman. He was greater than 50 per cent Corsi 11 times in 25 tries. Though Stralman’s point total was not impressive, and his zone starts were a bit more sheltered than Girardi’s, he did not make as many mistakes up until the last game and change when the Rangers as a whole were basically running on fumes.
Do the Rangers give Stralman another deal? Conventional wisdom says yes, but will that affect Girardi? That answer is ultimately yes as well. However, while the evidence seems to be there, we are not Glen Sather or Alain Vigenault.
Stay tuned on social media because there is likely going to be a considerable debate on this and we promise to bring more advanced and eyeball stats to the table. Until then, enjoy that summer vacation!
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below how you see the next few years of Dan Girardi’s career playing out.