- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)
If you were paying attention in 2014, when Dan Girardi signed his six-year, $33 million extension, you knew trouble was coming.
Girardi was re-signed at that time because he was viewed as a stalwart defensive defenseman in his late 20s who provided the Rangers with a lot of value in their efforts to suppress opposing offenses. And to that end, you'd have to say that a fairly big chunk of his contract should just be deposited directly into Henrik Lundqvist's bank account.
It's easy to look like a stalwart defensive defenseman when the goaltender behind you is the best in the world on a year-in, year-out basis. Indeed, because at this point we understand fundamentally that Girardi is not a good defenseman and probably never was, one might be surprised to learn that over his entire career, his on-ice 5-on-5 goal differential is even. He's been on the ice for 450 Ranger goals and 450 opponent goals in 717 regular-season games.
But what that kinda-sorta does not tell you is that Girardi is a huge drag on the team overall.
You have to understand is that the New York Rangers are an elite team in terms of outscoring the opponent at 5-on-5 over that time; their plus-161 is fourth in the league only behind Boston, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. So for Girardi to be even is actually not very good at all. Maybe it's good if he's a middle- or even bottom-pairing defenseman, and paid commensurately. But this is a $5.5 million defenseman we're talking about, who to this day is still one of the 21 highest-paid defenders in the league, and he will be until 2020.
When he's off the ice, the Rangers are at more than 55 percent goals-for, largely because of Lundqvist's overwhelming talent. They're a solidly middle-of-the-pack scoring team (13th in the NHL over that time) but have allowed the fewest goals. Girardi has been on the ice for more than a third of them, which to some extent stands to reason; he's played 36.4 percent of the Rangers' minutes in that time.
Over that long a period — 700-plus games — that becomes a fairly telling statistic. But obviously possession numbers are even more telling, and they don't tell a very good story about Girardi's defensive prowess:
Around the time he signed the extension on March 1, 2014, the data suggested that Girardi was starting to drop off a little bit. In the previous 100 or so games, he'd delivered a negative relative possession number, but it was easy enough to poo-poo that as being the result of he and Marc Staal playing the most difficult competition the Rangers could give them. As you can see above, he was chugging along at a seemingly marginal shot attempt differential (minus-49 in 119 games since the start of the lockout-shortened season), but the rest of the Rangers were plus-288. A little while later, he began to drop off a cliff in earnest, while the rest of the Rangers continued steadily playing at a solid level.
The fact that he's at minus-773, or 46.6 percent since the lockout season, for that money, and still getting the minutes he does is astonishing in and of itself. Meanwhile, the rest of the Rangers are at 51.6 percent with him off the ice. Remember, too, that Girardi plays only a little more than 36 percent of the team's total 5-on-5 TOI. To get that low in that little time is pretty astonishing. It's the ninth-worst shot attempt differential among all skaters over that time, and everyone behind him was on the atrocious Buffalo, Toronto, or Calgary teams of the last few years.
And this isn't just a “the stats say one thing and the eye test says another” issue. You watch this guy play and he's just 100 percent totally out of his depth to an embarrassing extent.
To illustrate this, let's look at two lowlights from this week alone. Here's a single shift against the Ducks (via Adam Herman of Blueshirt Banter), and it's just painful to watch him give the puck away like this:
That's four turnovers in 33 seconds, and yeah the Ducks are good, and yeah he started in his own zone, but there are so many very simple plays he could have made to not just hand his opponents the puck.
And here he is just a few days later getting absolutely humiliated by a pretty standard power move from Tomas Hertl as he cuts to the middle like Girardi is a particularly passive traffic cone.
One thing you could say for Girardi back when he signed that extension was that he was legitimately good at keeping opponents to the outside, with a 54.7 percent share of high-danger chances in 2012-13 and 2013-14. That was more or less in line with the team's overall number of 54.5 percent, and given that he was playing tough competition, that provides value. But since then — and it was predictable that relative chance differential would follow relative shot attempts, especially as he aged into his 30s — he's a minus-4.5 percent player in terms of relative high-danger chances. When he's on the ice, the Rangers don't even hit 46 percent, but clear 50.4 percent when he's off.
There are four more years left on this deal, and something has to be done. Either Alain Vigneault needs to stop using him as a top-pairing, shutdown defenseman (which is still happening in the face of anyone who watches a Ranger game screaming, “Get him off the ice!”) or Jeff Gorton needs to step in and buy him out this summer, or trade him, or send him down. He cannot be allowed to continue playing like this.
The Rangers' window is only open as long as Henrik Lundqvist is an elite goaltender. They are quite frankly not a good team, and their cap-resource allocation is laughable right now. Girardi is a big reason why in both regards. In fact, he drags the Rangers' 5-on-5 save percentage down to .925 (slightly above league average) versus .933 when he's off the ice. And even with Lundqvist standing on his head most nights, you still get games like Saturday afternoon's massacre in San Jose, in which the Rangers gave up 52 shots and should have just left the building after the second intermission.
All of which should be instructive to anyone who is for some reason still looking to sign “defensive defensemen” to contracts. Dan Girardi might have been the best of them, given that he was once an NHL All-Star (for some reason) and it was once considered a shocking snub that he didn't make the Canadian Olympic team (for some reason).
And you see the result of giving him this kind of deal: There's just no long-term benefit to it, and all it gives you are serious roster issues as the cap stagnates, because you need to figure out a way to justify healthy-scratching a $5.5 million player two or three years into that deal. If we're already shaking our heads at it collectively, imagine what this contract looks like in Years 5 and 6.
Non sequitur: Kris Russell will be 29 in May and is looking for as much $6 million AAV over six years this summer. Don't know why that came to mind just now.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Always nice to have two goalies playing lights-out hockey. Ducks look scarier and scarier and time goes on.
Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes still technically haven't been eliminated from a playoff spot, but with the Kings clinching one at 93 points that is fairly illustrative of the quality of the Pacific this year.
Carolina Hurricanes: The lead pass from Noah Hanifin on this Chris Terry goal is out of control.
Chicago: Well it seems Chicago, usually a reliably good faceoff team, has been getting killed at the dot all year. Fortunately, that has literally nothing to do with the ability to win or lose games over the long-term.
Florida Panthers: How do you shoot the devil in the back when attempt the second-fewest shots per 60 in the league?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sid Crosby has points in 11 straight. Specifically, 18 points in 11 games. And it's not even his best 11-game stretch since the new year, because he went 12-10-22 in 11 from Jan. 12 to Feb. 8. He's up to 55 in 42 since Mike Sullivan became head coach.
St. Louis Blues: Would that every goalie could return from injury versus the Canucks.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Another look at the Stamkos free agency situation, this time examining his agent. Phil Esposito seems to not know how professional sports work.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have had 11 players make their NHL debuts at some point this season. Is there any way that's not a record?
Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin called out the Canucks dressing room for not putting in enough effort. Which isn't the issue or anything, because the team is just awful, but this is still falling apart pretty spectacularly.
Washington Capitals: I think we're into our second month of “The Caps are coasting into the playoffs and just kinda screwing around to see what they've got” stories. That's a long time to be doing that.
Play of the Weekend
Save of the Year candidate from Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko (in a losing effort).
Gold Star Award
Yo shout out to Tomas Hertl for roasting the Rangers for three assists. That is a good game for him.
Minus of the Weekend
The Rangers are really bad, though. Really, really bad.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Year
User “Connor” might need to rework this:
RNH, Yakupov FOR Subban
Remember the time you said you saw Snagglepuss outside?
(All stats via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY