Dan Girardi has been a keystone for the New York Rangers on defense for a while now, but 2011-12 was the first season in which the veteran blue-liner out of Ontario, Canada received league-wide recognition for his efforts. HBO's 24/7 helped with that, as did his spot in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, the Winter Classic and of course the handful of votes for his name under the Norris Trophy category for the League's best defenseman. This may sound strange since Dan is 28-year-old, but this past season, all things considered, was his break-out year.
The Good: Dan Girardi is the Ryan Callahan of defensemen. He isn't flashy by any means, but boy is he an important player and does he ever put forth a 110-percent effort every night. His willingness to block shots coupled with the way he uses his body to slow down the most talented of opponents speaks to his dedication. He can be paired alongside the best or the worst on the team, but will still find ways to succeed and also bring the game of his partner up another notch as well.
Girardi may not have a loud voice (or he may, I really don't know), but he sure does know how to lead by example. He's the type of guy that, if you were his teammate, you'd take a bullet for him. His focus on the team and winning hockey games is evident in his every move, and that dedication and persistence rubs off on the younger guys, especially his partner, Ryan McDonagh.
Danny G is the all-around package on defense, to put it simply.
The Bad: The only knock on Girardi that I could come up with is his lack of offensive production. Just five goals and 29 overall points this past season had him pretty low on the depth chart in terms of scoring. One thing I've noticed with Dan is that he misses the net with his shot more often that not, especially when positioned at the point on the powerplay. It's possible that if he can fix that aspect of his game, maybe the offense will begin to come more naturally. You all know the Gretzky quote I'm thinking of right now, right?
Also, Girardi did have his moments in the postseason, more frequently than he did during the regular season. And when I say "moments", I am referring to blunders, penalties, turnovers and what not.
Highlight of the Year:
Overall Assessment: Although, in my opinion, Ryan McDonagh has surpassed Dan Girardi as the team's top defenseman, 'G' is still a vital part of this hockey club and right up there with McDonagh. Girardi represents what it means to be a Ranger, and plays with that certain grit and determination that defines this team. The best part is that he has only continued to get better with each passing season, so I'm expecting even bigger and better things in 2012-13.
Report Card Grade: A