FanPost

Something To Think About Before Extending Dan Girardi's Contract

Dan Girardi is one of the fan favourites on the New York Rangers and it is not hard to understand why. He was signed as an undrafted player fighting his way up from the ECHL to NHL all-star. He sacrifices his body to block shots and always gives his all out on the ice. Dan Girardi is the fearless warrior on the Rangers' blue line.

So with his contract expiring at season's end I'm guessing most people just want to get him signed. He's a 25 min/night first pairing defenceman, just give him the $5.5M/year he wants and be done with it.

But signing someone to a big contract based on their role on a successful team, wasn't that what saddled us with Wade Redden's 6 year $39M contract? We better do our due diligence.

If we are giving Girardi $5.5M/year, we are paying him to be a first pairing defenceman, so we should examine how he has performed as one.

Methodology:

I will look at Girardi's performance both relative to the competition he faced as well as the performance of him and his partner together and away from each other.

I will introduce measures for expected goal difference and Corsi difference (ExpGD20 and ExpCD20) which are used to evaluate how difficult a situation a player was used in. This takes into account the quality of teammates as well as the quality of competition.

Math stuff, feel free to skip:

To calculate this measure I use Hockey Analysis's TM and Opp stats which measure the performance of teammates and opponents when the player is not on the ice, weighted for how much the player in question spent with/against these players on the ice.

I then use the league average in the category to create reference values. For example if a player's teammates had an average CF20 of 18 and the opposition had an average CA20 of 18 one would assume that the expected CF for the player would be 18. But that is actually dependent on the league average in the category. If both teams are under the league average of say 20, the expected CF would be below 18 since the 18 figures had been put up against an expected value of 20.

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So if TMCF20 = 18, OppCA20 = 18, and LAC = 20, then ExpCF20 = 16.2.

Delimitations:

Girardi didn't fully step into the role as a first pairing defenceman until 2010-11, so we will limit our analysis to the 2010-2013 period.

Let's begin with a straight up comparison to his teammates, season for season.

2010-11

TOI

GD20

ExpGD20

GD20 vs Exp

McDonagh

561,53

0,391

0,006

0,385

Sauer

1011,23

0,297

0,010

0,287

Gilroy

624,12

0,128

0,124

0,004

Del Zotto

586,02

0,000

0,126

-0,126

Girardi

1229,97

-0,066

0,121

-0,187

Staal

1224,43

-0,049

0,151

-0,200

Eminger

788,28

-0,051

0,185

-0,236

2010-11

TOI

CD20

ExpCD20

CD20 vs Exp

Sauer

561,53

0,830

-1,614

2,444

McDonagh

1011,23

0,225

-0,379

0,604

Gilroy

624,12

0,000

-0,588

0,588

Staal

586,02

-1,111

-1,433

0,322

Del Zotto

1229,97

-0,708

0,808

-1,516

Eminger

1224,43

-2,080

0,081

-2,161

Girardi

788,28

-2,569

0,021

-2,590

2011-12

TOI

GD20

ExpGD20

GD20 vs Exp

Del Zotto

1086,75

0,239

0,023

0,216

McDonagh

1380,70

0,145

-0,030

0,175

Strålman

689,27

0,145

0,117

0,028

Eminger

433,05

0,046

0,099

-0,053

Bickel

454,63

0,000

0,081

-0,081

Girardi

1379,33

0,029

0,181

-0,152

Staal

678,72

-0,177

0,162

-0,339

2011-12

TOI

CD20

ExpCD20

CD20 vs Exp

McDonagh

1380,70

-0,680

-2,593

1,913

Bickel

454,63

-1,144

-2,052

0,908

Girardi

1379,33

-1,189

-1,601

0,412

Strålman

689,27

-1,276

-1,675

0,399

Del Zotto

1086,75

-1,970

-2,002

0,032

Eminger

433,05

-2,955

-1,174

-1,781

Staal

678,72

-4,273

-0,677

-3,596

2012-13

TOI

GD20

ExpGD20

GD20 vs Exp

Staal

353,57

0,396

0,155

0,241

Strålman

648,38

0,432

0,211

0,221

Eminger

374,87

0,427

0,212

0,215

Del Zotto

714,40

0,420

0,213

0,207

McDonagh

803,08

0,249

0,324

-0,075

Girardi

749,05

-0,026

0,599

-0,625

2012-13

TOI

CD20

ExpCD20

CD20 vs Exp

Strålman

648,38

5,491

-0,545

6,036

McDonagh

803,08

2,490

0,857

1,633

Staal

353,57

0,905

1,516

-0,611

Eminger

374,87

-0,747

1,416

-2,163

Del Zotto

714,40

-0,364

2,414

-2,778

Girardi

749,05

-0,133

2,911

-3,044

Now that doesn't look all that encouraging. While being low on the tables isn't a good indication, it doesn't necessarily deem a player useless. The difference in difficulty between facing Evgeni Malkin and Erik Condra may not always show up in the stats, which can make such comparisons difficult.

What is worrying is the difference between Girardi and his partners. Girardi hasn't had outright better numbers than his partners over the past three years and only once did he have better relative numbers, and not by much.

Since defensive partners post identical numbers when on the ice together, the entire difference between them has occurred when they have been apart. So let's delve into the WOWY charts and see what's what.

Since there are no Opp statistics for time spent with each teammate I have to make one assumption in order to calculate it from the total rate; Dan Girardi faced exactly as tough competition with his main partner as he did without him. Any discrepancies between partners will therefore be attributed to Girardi's partner's minutes without him.

Example: Girardi had an OppCD20 of -0.023 in 2012-13. Since McDonagh had an OppCD20 of -0.028 he must have faced -0.034 competition away from Girardi.

2010-11

TOI

GD20

GD20 vs Exp

CD20

CD20 vs Exp

Girardi with Staal

892,20

-0,135

-0,282

-0,940

-0,644

Staal with Girardi

-0,241

0,789

Girardi without Staal

390,00

-0,051

-0,187

-4,820

-4,650

Staal without Girardi

387,07

0,155

-0,012

-0,620

0,188

As you can see, Staal and Girardi naturally put up identical numbers in their minutes together. However, that gives them different results vs expectations. That is primarily because Staal played with Girardi + forwards while Girardi played with Staal + forwards. If Staal put up better numbers away from Girardi than Girardi did away from Staal, that means Girardi played with better players when they were on the ice together than Staal did. I hope I didn't lose you there.

The table shows that Staal did indeed perform better than Girardi in their time apart. Below is a net difference table which shows the change from together to apart:

2010-11

GD20

GD20 vs Exp

CD20

CD20 vs Exp

Girardi without Staal

0,084

0,096

-3,880

-4,006

Staal without Girardi

0,290

0,228

0,320

-0,602

Both players improved in terms of goal differential, and while Staal's CD20 improved it didn't meet the change in expectation. Girardi's CD20 fell off the charts both in absolute numbers and relative to expectations.

The numbers indicate that while Staal did slightly better away from Girardi, he was hardly hurt by him. Girardi on the other hand seems heavily carried by Staal.

Let's move on to 2011-12 and look directly at the net difference chart.

2011-12

TOI

GD20

GD20 vs Exp

CD20

CD20 vs Exp

Girardi without McDonagh

208,97

-0,497

-0,474

-1,880

-1,657

McDonagh without Girardi

208,78

0,365

0,282

0,410

2,315

Once again Girardi's partner improves away from him, McDonagh in this case across the board. Girardi's number fell in all categories in this case.

McDonagh's CD20 didn't actually increase that much away from Girardi, but the much more difficult csituation he was put into away from Girardi ensured a big increase vs expectation. Girardi's possession numbers didn't fall as dramatically as in 2010-11, but his GD20 fell a lot instead. Goal based metrics aren't the most reliable in small samples, but in conjunction with his possession numbers it doesn't paint a good picture. Not only was Girardi carried by McDonagh, he seems to have dragged him down as well.

The differences from the lockout-shortened 2012-13 follows:

2012-13

TOI

GD20

GD20 vs Exp

CD20

CD20 vs Exp

Girardi without McDonagh

318,47

0,483

0,368

-2,390

-3,187

McDonagh without Girardi

372,50

1,038

1,054

3,470

2,909

It turns out that despite the fewer games, they spent a lot more time apart from each other in 2012-13. Was Tortorella figuring something out?

What jumps out at me is just how much McDonagh improved away from Girardi. A big increase in CD20 is complemented by a massive increase in GD20. The LAC20 in 2012-13 was 19.20 and the LAG20 was 0.82, so an increase in GD20 by more than 1.00 is extremely big.

Girardi's numbers are a bit contradictory. His possession play once again dropped off a lot away from his partner, but his GD20 improved by a significant amount. Goal metrics in small samples are as earlier mentioned unreliable, but it is still a positive indicator.

However, McDonagh's numbers suggest that Girardi dragged him down quite significantly.

Still there is a clear trend observed here: While Girardi does about the same in terms of GD20, his CD20 plummets when separated from his elite partner. His partners, on the other hand, significantly improve in all areas.

So how exactly did their situational use look, did Girardi get put into a lot harder situations which explains his struggling numbers?

2010-11

ExpGD20

ExpCD20

With partner

Without partner

Difference

With partner

Without partner

Difference

Girardi

0,147

0,136

-0,012

-0,296

-0,170

0,126

Staal

0,106

0,167

0,062

-1,729

-0,808

0,922

2011-12

ExpGD20

ExpCD20

With partner

Without partner

Difference

With partner

Without partner

Difference

Girardi

0,201

0,177

-0,023

-0,975

-1,197

-0,223

McDonagh

-0,069

0,014

0,083

-1,677

-3,582

-1,905

2012-13

ExpGD20

ExpCD20

With partner

Without partner

Difference

With partner

Without partner

Difference

Girardi

0,545

0,661

0,115

2,567

3,364

0,797

McDonagh

0,355

0,340

-0,016

0,665

1,226

0,561

Well, not really. The only partner he was ever put into a more difficult situation than when split up was Staal in 2010-11. Only in terms of GD20 and not by much. In all other cases his partners were the ones put into a more difficult situation.

Now we get to my second point:

Considering McDonagh improves so much away from Girardi, who should he play with instead? You may already know who I'm about to suggest from reading the tables above. It may surprise some, but I'm actually suggesting Anton Strålman.

As you can see from the tables above, Strålman had a fantastic season last year. He had the best GD20 out of all NYR defencemen and by far the best CD20. He also did this against low Exp. scores. Now he obviously didn't get shutdown minutes, but he instead got to primarily play with worse players than the other defencemen.

So how did the two do together?

2012-13

TOI

GD20

GD20 vs Exp

CD20

CD20 vs Exp

McDonagh with Strålman

248,18

1,047

0,705

7,820

6,477

Strålman with McDonagh

0,870

8,462

Those are some astonishing numbers. Over 1.0 in GD20 is approaching the absolute best forward duos (Nash-Hagelin had 1.419, Crosby-Kunitz 1.283 but then it dropped off to ~0.8), and considering that a defensive pairing aren't scoring much by themselves and will frequently find themselves on the ice with offensive non-factors such as Boyle and Powe the figure is astonishing. The CD20 is just as amazing, the +7.820 puts them ahead of Nash-Hagelin.

So let's compare them to other top possession pairings around the league. The calculations were slightly simplified for this evaluation, the pairings' Opp data was a weighted average of the player's total Opp rates. The TM rates are how the forwards on the team did away from the pairing, since no other defencemen were on the ice when the pairing was on.

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Strålman-McDonagh compares extremely well, being #2 in GD20 vs Exp and #1 in CD20 vs Exp. The only pairing that comes close is the Visnovsky-Hickey pairing, which also had an extremely underrated season and was a big part of the Islanders making the playoffs.

As can be seen from the bottom chart, the Ranger forwards were barely positive in CD20 without Strålman or McDonagh. Yet with the pairing on the ice they posted some of the best possession numbers in the league and the best goal differential.

In fact there are a lot of other things regarding Strålman's 2012-13 season to discuss, so I'm going to write a separate post dedicated to it. There is pretty compelling evidence that he was one of the bigger drivers of the Rangers' 5v5 success the past season.

I for one would like to see AV try McDonagh-Strålman as the top pairing for a longer period of time to see if they can handle it before handing out an extension to Girardi that pays him like a top pairing defenceman. Because to me, there are a lot of question marks regarding whether he actually is one. He is seemingly dragging down his partners, is one of the worst breakout defencemen in the league, and I'm beginning to think that he fits the mould of the famous Dave Tippett quote a bit too well for comfort:

"I'll give you an example. We had a player that was supposed to be a great, shutdown defenseman. He was supposedly the be-all, end-all of defensemen. But when you did a 10-game analysis of him, you found out he was defending all the time because he can't move the puck. Then we had another guy, who supposedly couldn't defend a lick. Well, he was defending only 20 percent of the time because he's making good plays out of our end. He may not be the strongest defender, but he's only doing it 20 percent of the time. So the equation works out better the other way. I ended up trading the other defenseman."

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