Ahead of the curve


As a life-long forward, my half-serious take on defensemen is I don’t notice them unless A) they make a sharp offensive play; or B) they make an egregious mistake. With that in mind, I’ve seen A LOT of Marek Malik (a.k.a. “my boy Malik”:http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2007/03/01/malik-doesnt-get-the-boos-and-neither-do-i/) this year.


But by that measure, I shouldn’t “notice Dan Girardi”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070327/SPORTS01/703270392/1034/SPORTS as much as I do. In 28 NHL games, Girardi’s play has been defined more by subtlety, so smart and so composed that he can make the right play without drawing attention to himself. But as part of a defensive corps that is still prone to the occasional spectacular gaffe, Girardi’s consistency has already made him plenty unique.

By now, many of you know Girardi’s unusual history. He was passed over twice in the NHL draft, and even when he was brought into training camp by the Rangers last season, he first had to start the season in Charlotte (of course, Hugh Jessiman has spent time in Charlotte as well the past few years. The difference is Jessiman was a first round draft pick). But after working his way up to Hartford and then eventually New York, he’s continued to win over fans — both outside the Rangers dressing room, and inside it as well.

“It’s good motivation for any young player,” Jaromir Jagr said. “Nobody counted on this. We had eight defenseman before the season, and he probably wasn’t in the top 12. And look at him now. I think he’s got a good attitude – no highs, no lows. If he makes a mistake, so what? He figures out a way the next time. And he doesn’t make many mistakes.”

More later…

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  1. Sam…I will agree with you on Girardi. I’ve been watching him closely with his plays. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve said in front of the tv “Good Play Girardi!” If he continues learning and playing like this, he just might be the next Leetch, although there’s only one Brian Leetch. Girardi does deserve a lot of credit.

  2. Girardi is more like Rod Seiling or Harry Howell. Not bad to compared to either of them.

  3. Even though he has played Girardi regularly from the moment he came up, I still feel very uneasy with Renney at the helm. Jagr Straka and Nylander are worn out yet Renney keeps giving them too much time. Shanny is a bit sluggish coming back, which is to be expected, but Renney is bringing him back too fast.

    On the other hand, Callahan, for one, is not getting enough time.

    Straka has been ineffective for quite a while with all his hurts. Remember when he was tearing up the league with his scoring earlier? Mistake sending Dubinsky down, he should be getting Straka’s minutes. Also big Renney mistake opting Strudwick over Liffiton. Liffiton is just what they need back there.

    In Renney’s favor though is his now trusting his 4th line and giving them important minutes. Orr has to be the most improved player on the team. With his enforcer ability, makes him an important piece of the team.

    As long as HL stays healthy and sharp, the rest of this season will be exciting hockey.

  4. Dan girardi seems to be a great stable reliable defenseman but he’s definately not a Brian Leetch. Not even a Sergei Zubov.

  5. Lennynyr,
    Renney had to send Dubinsky. Dubi was an emergency injury call up, thus when the player he was in for (Shanny I believe) returned from IR he had to be sent down, or the Rangers would have had to use one of their remaining call up, which I believe will be required if say they wish to use Marc Staal when he returns from Junior.

  6. Lenny – even though I was young I thought Seiling was the target of the boobirds at times. It does not look like Girardi will be.

  7. Thanks for the report, Sam. Girardi stands out because he doesn’t stand out. He does the little things right and is a great story.

    Malik stands out. way out.

  8. I meant to compare Girardi with Leetch with his play making ability while being quiet. I don’t believe Girardi will ever compare with Leetchy’s scoring ability and offensiveness, although that would be still good for the team

  9. I remember when Girardi first game to Hartford. It was a “who is this guy?” thing, and with his background coming from Charlotte I never figured he’d be THIS good. But it is hard to not become a Dan Girardi believer watching him. He’s so smart and smooth. I remember he did something where he stick checked a guy preventing a breakout a week or two ago. He used to do that sort of thing all the time — and he did it on a brilliant play in a game I was at earlier this season in Hartford — in the minors and here he is transferring that skill to the NHL. His transition has been smoother than anyone could imagine.

    Speaking of defensive prospects, Ivan Baranka is done for the season. He re-injured his thumb and had surgery on it. He broke his hand about a year ago in a fight and ever since then he’s had all sorts of problems.

  10. I think Girardi is great and i’m really looking forward to seeing Staal in NY too.
    Apart from Sanguinetti, do we have many offensive D-men in the pipeline? I read Blueshirt Bulletin’s updates on our prospects but Michael Sauer is the only other defenseman of note, outside of Hartford and NY from what i can tell?

  11. Avery Blasts Brodeur on

    Girardi is a solid hockey player, very consistent. That is something others on the blue-line lack big time.

  12. Oh, Seiling was definitely a target of the boobirds. You could count on a sing-song “Get off the ice, Seeeei-ling” several times per game.

  13. “Dan girardi seems to be a great stable reliable defenseman but he’s definately not a Brian Leetch. Not even a Sergei Zubov”

    OMG!!! go jump in front of a bus!!! stop with the stupid leetch comparisons!!!! some of you fools are retarded!!! i bet you thought the stay at home marginal defenseman tom poti was supposed to be the next leetch too!! there WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER LEETCH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. The way I sum up Dan Girardi is, he looks like a devil out there. Which is a huge compliment. The Devils for years have promoted defensemen up that no one has heard of, they step right in and are solid. Dan came up with zero expectations, fit into the system and has never looked out of place, except when paired with Malik. The kid is solid, stable, never rushes, never seems overwhelmed, if he makes a gaff he comes right back and usually makes an amazing play to chip the puck away. I think he is one of the first big positives coming from a truly integrated NYR system. The pack play the same style as the big club, ala the devils. Dan, Cally, and Dubi have shown how the younglings can step right in and not look out of place.

    Girardi reminds me of James Patrick, not flashy, just solid and stable. Jeep’s problem in NYC was that the expectations were unforntunately set way too high, then Keenan came in and got rid of him.

  15. James Patrick may be a bit of a stretch, Patrick put up a fairly substantial amount of points for us. Not HoF numbers, but substantial.

    Girardi may never rack up a ton of points, who knows, but his defensive play is impressive. He’s mobile with excellent hockey sense. One thing I’ve noticed is how calm and focused he is. The first game he was in vs. Pitts, I remember him making some good defensive plays on Crosby. Not intimidated at all, and played Crosby perfectly.

    I have to admit I thought Baranka would be next, but with all his injuries things are looking down for Ivan. I wasn’t expecting much from Girardi and he has definitely impressed.

  16. Doodie Machetto on

    I have seen Girardi make one giveaway, all season. It was Saturday against the Bruins, where everyone except for Lunqvist, Betts, and Pock played an absolute stinker. On a defense where giveaways seem to be the norm, to have only one come to mind is amazing. If only he had a decent shot.

  17. Over on the Island it looks like DP is out for the season! That is SOO sweet!! They gave up 3 #1 draft picks for Smyth and don’t make the playoffs…And people complain that the Rangers have problem developing players….

  18. Ian – I thought the same thing about Girardi last game. :)

    DP’s injury can only merit one response.

    *deep breath*


    Good news everybody!!

    (May God have mercy on your soul if you know what I’m referring to…)

  19. Screaming Banshee on

    Girardi does have an offensive game. Until his call up in January, he was second only to Cally for the Wolfpack in points.

    What people fail to realize, is he’s a rookie on a team that is thick into the hunt for a playoff spot. Do you think he’s going to take careless risks in trying to get shots on goal? His offensive game will come. Until then he’s doing what all good D-Men should be doing — minding his own knitting.

  20. WeWantFishStix on

    maybe Dunham and Poti can carry the isles the rest of the way hahahahahahaha say goodnight islanders!!!

  21. Fruity Cupcake on

    Fewer than 30 GP, only 4 PIMs and he’s a +4 ? Good for him, good for us! Bet he’s a nice kid, too.

  22. As to Seiling, at times he incurred the ire of Garden fans because in the era of crash/bash/Big, Bad, Bruins & Broad St. Bullies, Seiling was a stylist.

    But his lack of physical assertiveness should never have been confused with lack of courage — he never hesitated to go where he had to go to make a play, even if it meant into high-traffic or where he would be vulnerable. Rod could not be intimidated.

    The fans may not have appreciated him, but Emile Francis certainly did. In Seiling’s heydey, prior to the rule limiting the number of players who could be removed from the ice at one time, 5 on 3’s was not a rare occurence at all.

    Seiling was ALWAYS chosen to kill such penalties (along with Park and a defensive center par excellance- Bruce MacGregor).

    Seiling’s skill did not go unnoticed beyond the Rangers either – he was chosen as a member, (a starter in game one,no less) in the Team Canada-Soviet 1972 Summit Series.
    (Also true, like a number of other NHLers his game didn’t work on that occasion and after game 1 he saw little action).

    Seiling, like Girardi was a Steady-Eddie, new how to use the boards to clear, seldom made a mental error and spent approximately 15 seasons in the NHL (which, when you think of it is some accomplishment).

    Seiling was a rarity in his day – a college graduate (St. Michael’s).

    He’s been very successful in his post-hockey career; curently heads the Toronto Accomodations Association and is offical spokesman for the city’s hotel industry.

    As I’ve mentioned, Girardi has much in common with Girardi with one exception.

    Schoenfeld (who “discovered him”, is his biggest booster, and predicted his success some time ago) regularly used Girardi to QB the Pack’s power play. His shot is hard and it is accurate and can result in many a rebound.

    No, he’s not a Leetch, but he brings valuable assets to the Rangers and if Renney’s smart he’ll begin to take more advantage of them.

    But, like Seiling, he’s a “thinking man’s defenseman.”

    And that ain’t bad.

  23. and what does it tell you that Schony discovered Girardi, and that Shanny recommended Avery.

    it tells me that Sather and Renney are still clueless, but now they are reaping the benefit of real hockey knowledge from players and coaches below them.

  24. Thanks Mark – I was in my teens during the prime Seiling yrs – did remember him getting booed due to the physical aspects of the game but certainly did not understand the game as I think I do now. I remember Eddie G standing up to other teams tough guys.

    The ironic part of that Ranger team is they beat the defending cup champs (either Bost or Mtl) 3 years running but then tripped up against teams like Chi or Philly. 72′ was very tough to take watching Bucyk with the cup at MSG. Ratelle being hurt and a guy named Robert Orr lead to that downfall.

  25. I have watched Girardi carefully, and he seems intent on doing the little things right. He has not malik’d the puck at all; he stays in position, and he does not try to head-butt the put either. He is fast, smart, and well…

    he is the anti-Malik!

  26. Ian….”He just might be the next Leetch..” Dude, that was a joke right?

    Two words about Dan Girardi: Tom Laidlaw! That is who he reminds me of. The KISS method on Defense. Keep It Simple Stupid. Take the man off the puck, get the puck out of the zone. He actually does have an ounce more offense know-how than Tommy did (in fact his goal this year might be as many as Laidlaw scored in his career, sorry Tommy!), but in the defensive zone I see a lot of similarities.

    All this being said, I sure wish there wasn’t an article on him in the News this week. He had his worst game as a Ranger against Montreal, the same day that article came out!

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