The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Poorly Formed Thoughts: Girardi over Karlsson for the Norris

When Edmonton Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow helped bring the infamous Colin Campbell email incident to light last season, one of the by-products of his research and effort was a discussion that scrutinized the evolving relationship between bloggers and the traditional media.

At the time, one of the most outspoken and critical of this relationship was the Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox. In a feature that ran on The Score, Cox had this to say (hat tip to Broad Street Hockey for the transcription):

“Part of what concerns me about what I see is that there’s an irresponsibility and no consequences. “I can say whatever I want about anybody and I don’t even have to put my name on it.” I can’t see how that’s good.”

Odd. I’m sure many fans and bloggers will feel the same way when the PHWA ballots are cast and we’re left puzzled; attempting to piece together who egregiously omitted someone from with his or her ballot. Since the PHWA does not publicize how each of its members has voted, we’re at the whims of these individuals publicizing their ballots themselves.

With this anonymity, there is no responsibility for due diligence or wrath to be felt for some ill advised selections…

So without further ado, from the mind that brought you “Is Jose Bautista on steroids? Gotta at least ask the question” and “Brian Burke should trade Phil Kessel” comes this genius: 

Never one to avoid rife controversy so long as it positively affects the number of pageviews that his column or blog gets, Cox revels in his pot-stirring role and the attention it creates.


By publicly acknowledging that he’s going to place Girardi ahead of Karlsson on his ballot, Cox is certainly inviting some criticism. Hell, without actually stating that he has Girardi at the top of his ballot, who knows how the rest of his list unfolds. It’s quite possible that he doesn’t even have either player near the top of it.

Ironically, the joke of the matter is that Girardi’s not even the best defenceman on his team; that distinction belongs to Ryan McDonagh.

While there is no question that Girardi is a first pairing defenceman — his 26:24 in average ice-time per game leads the Rangers by almost a minute and a half — his defensive partner, McDonagh, actually has a slightly higher Corsi Relative Quality of Competition. Despite a relatively large disparity in the average power play time per game — McDonagh averages 39 seconds and Girardi averages 1 minute and 43 seconds — McDonagh actually has more goals and points than Girardi. McDonagh also has the highest Relative Corsi amongst the Rangers’ regular defencemen. Hell, even archaic dinosaurs like Cox should be ready to acknowledge that McDonagh’s +/- is higher too.

Looking at Hockey Prospectus’ goals versus threshold (GVT) rankings, Girardi’s not even the second most valuable defenceman on the Rangers.

GVT is very similar to VORP in baseball: it is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. The fact that GVT is measured in goals is crucial: statistics that divide up ‘Win Shares’, so that the ratings of a team’s players sum to that team’s number of wins, are very erratic and non-linear, since wins don’t increase or decrease linearly with team caliber. While hockey is ultimately about winning or losing, players’ contributions always come down to scoring goals and preventing them. A player cannot ‘win’ a game, even though he may be put in a situation where scoring a goal or making a key save would create or conserve a win. Each player’s role, no matter his position, is to try and increase the goal differential in favor of his team. An offensive player who scores a hat trick only to see his teammates allow 4 goals against has nevertheless done his job; a goaltender who stops 39 of 40 shots only to lose 1-0 has likewise performed well. Using this standard, all players can be compared by the same yardstick: how much did they help (or harm) their team’s goal differential?

In fact, looking at Prospectus’ rankings, he’s only the twenty-fourth most valuable defenceman in the NHL; trailing luminaries like Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Willie Mitchell, Ian White and Dennis Wideman. For what it’s worth, Erik Karlsson’s contributions have made him the highest ranked defenceman and the tenth most irreplaceable player in the league this season.

It’s enough to make you wonder how closely Cox has been watching the Rags. I’m assuming what he has seen hasn’t been recent.

Pre All-Star Game Post All-Star Game
GP 47 30
G 4 1
A 13 9
Pts 17 10
+/- 10 6
Hits 138 60
Hits/Game 2.94 2.00
BkS 119 56
BkS/Game 2.53 1.87
PPG 1 0
PPA 7 0

*Please note that this table does no justice to Girardi’s “gritty talent”.

In fact, in many ways, Girardi’s numbers are eerily reminiscent of his 2010/11 totals.

2011/12 2010/11
GP 77 80
G 5 4
A 22 27
Pts 27 31
+/- 16 7
Hits 196 195
BkS 171 236
PPG 1 2
PPA 7 5
Sh 114 110

And guess how many Norris Trophy votes Girardi received last season?