If you can recall, in one of my earlier posts I made it apparent that my belief to building a successful team was from the net out. So Goalie > Defense > Centers > Wingers. I also made it known that I would be doing these player profiles in order of which players I believed were most important to the Rangers now and for the future, but looking back, this post will be only the second dman I have done so far. Anyways, onto the matter at hand, Mr. Girardi. Girardi is an interesting case as the Rangers brought him in as an undrafted free agent, and it turned out to be a great move as Girardi is now a top pairing dman (on some nights) for the Rangers. The only night’s he’s not a top pairing guy for the Rangers is when Tortorella wants to spread out his top two guys in Girardi and Staal to match up better against the opposition. Girardi is a very valuable piece to the Rangers, and here’s why…
NHL Experience: Currently in his 5th NHL season
Before the NHL:
Girardi (again) like most other Canadian prospects decided to take the route of the CHL to prepare his skills as a future NHL dman hopeful, more specifically, in the OHL with the Barrie Colts. Girardi could barely make a name for himself in Barrie and he was traded to the Guelph Storm during the 02-03 season (recall, Callahan was a member of Guelph). Girardi was able to find himself a niche in Guelph where his D game really started to take shape. Girardi spent 1 full season, and two half seasons with Guelph (he was traded to London midway through his second full year with Guelph), his best season coming in his first full year with the Storm where he recorded 47 points in 68 games. More impressive were his playoff totals that year of 19 points in 22 games. After one more full season with the storm Girardi was signed by the Rangers before the 05-06 season and he was placed on the Charlotte Checkers, the Rangers ECHL affiliate.
Girardi wouldn’t be with Charlotte long before proving that he could play at a higher level, and in the 7 games he played there before being called up to the Wolf Pack Girardi recorded 5 points. Girardi then spent the remainder of that season with the Wolf Pack where he really started to make a name for himself as a Rangers prospect recording 39 points in 66 games in that 05-06 season. After that season Girardi earned himself a two year entry level deal with the Rangers. He would spend the beginning of the 06-07 season with the Wolf Pack and earned himself a mid-season call up that he took full advantage of and Girardi has been with the Rangers since.
Girardi is a member of the Sean Avery club, being that he has never represented Canada in international play; although Girardi has a long career ahead of him and I would be shocked if they never call upon him to represent Canada in the Olympics or in the World championships.
After Girardi earned his call up to the Rangers mid-way through the 06-07 campaign, he quickly established himself as a good shutdown dman for the Rangers who were not hesitant to make it known that they truly believed they had found a hidden gem in the undrafted Girardi. In that first campaign of 34 games Girardi was able to put 6 assists on the score sheet while developing his stay – at – home game. Since that season Girardi has been a staple of consistency on the Rangers blueline. For the past three seasons Girardi has recorded exactly 18 assists in all those years. Not only that, but the past two seasons he recorded exactly 53 penalty minutes both years. Although so far this season with his 12 assists it appears that he is on pace to finally break the threshold the number 18 has on him. But conversation like this is better suited for the below section…
Outlook 2010-2011 and Beyond:
If it was ever a question before this season whether or not Girardi was one of the Rangers top 2 dmen you can officially squash that debate. Girardi has been the most consistent Ranger on the backend thus far this season and has really helped stabilize a defense that was somewhat shaky to begin the season. Whether he is paired with Staal or Del Zotto, Girardi knows his role is to defend his end first but to also not be afraid to join the rush. As far as I can tell Girardi is one of the more intelligent Rangers blueliners in this facet of the game. Rarely do I watch a game and find myself thinking that Girardi had pinched into the offensive zone at the wrong time, or tried to hard to add offense to the game at the wrong time. Now I’m not proclaiming that Girardi is a great offensive dman, but just that he is smart when it comes to that part of the game, and the coaching staff tends to reward him with good power play time. One more thing about Girardi’s offensive game is that I think he’s one of the best in the league at getting shots through to the net. Some Rangers dmen this season have had a ton of trouble not getting their shots blocked, or taking too long to get their shots off, but Girardi never seems to have that problem.
Again not enough can be said about his defensive zone game. Want to know how to tell if a dman is having a good game? Well one question to ask yourself would be, did you see them that game? If a dman is invisible on the ice while logging 25 minutes of ice, chances are they had a fantastic game that night; and Girardi has the ability to accomplish this feat. There’s a reason why he and Staal are always paired up together when facing a team with one dominant line the Rangers need to focus on, they can shut them down.
Girardi is signed through the 13-14 season at a very good cap hit of 3.325, something that will prove to be a bargain for the Rangers towards the end of that contract when Girardi really beings to step into his prime. This was one of those moves the Rangers made that really paid off in the end. Finding a guy like Girardi, an undrafted guy like Girardi, and turning him into a top shutdown dman and a valuable part of the Rangers core, or any teams core is not an easy thing to do.
Girardi is a staple on the Rangers back end. A dman that other teams try to avoid matching their stars up against.
About the Author
Written by Adam Gavriel