A Detroit Defenceman Retires...Named Brian?
It has been reported through various sources (TSN, Sportsnet,FSN Detroit, etc.) that Red Wings defenceman Brian Rafalski is announcing his retirement.
This came to a shock to me because he is only 37 years old and still looks like he has a couple years left in him. I think the plan was to have Rafalski for a couple more seasons to help bridge the gap from when Nick Lidstrom ultimately retires as well.
Rafalski played 11 seasons in the NHL with Detroit and New Jersey, winning the Stanley Cup three times. He scored 79 goals and had 436 assists for 515 points in 833 games.
Rafalski started his career with New Jersey. After struggling to make the team, he finally cracked the line-up in the 1999-2000 season and won the Cup that same year. He played behind defenceman such as Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko. Add in the fact that he played under Nick Lidstrom and you can see that Raffy might have been under appreciated. He won the Cup again in 2003.
Rafalski became a free agent in the 2006 offseason and didn't resign with New Jersey. Mathieu Schneider had just left Detroit for Anaheim, and Detroit signed Rafalski to a 5 year, $30 million contract. He helped the Wings to the Cup in 2008. He will retire with one year left on his contract.
With Rafalski out of the picture, the Wings are looking super thin on defence. The fact that Lidstrom might also hang the skates up just adds salt to the wound. Rafalski was lamented in the last half of the 2011 season, but when looking at him, he had a surgically repaired knee and was 37 years old. Those two things together don't add up to Raffy being the same player he was when Detroit signed him. Clearly Ken Holland thought Rafalski was going to hang around, but the number two defenceman had other plans.
This retirement comes to me as both good and bad. The good thing is $6 million extra dollars are at the disposal of Holland for free agency. This means Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves are definitely coming back. The bad thing is so will Jonathan Ericsson, and for a price I would be shocked about.
It was reported that Ericsson turned down Detroit's offer of a 6 year, $12 million contract, good for $2 million per year. Are you kidding me? Ericsson is easily the worst defenceman on Detroit. Watching him live is horrible. He pinches EVERY time, can't shoot and doesn't hit anyone! The fact that he thinks he can get more than $2 million in free agency is absurd. It tells me he thinks he's better than he is.
Detroit needs to smarten up and get rid of this guy. I'm not the only Wings fan that dislikes the guy, there's a whole fan forum against him. I would rather the Wings let him go. He's had three years already and I'm sick of hearing about his "potential." Potential is something NHL 11 players talk about, not about real live sports. All you need is to look at how he's played the last 3 years and realize he is a liability.
Rafalski's retirement means that some of th young guys will get a shot at playing. Assuming Lidstrom stays, here's what the line-up SHOULD look like in my opinion:
Lidstrom - Smith
Kronwall - Stuart
Kindl - ________
The last spot can be a free agent, and in no way, shape or form can it be Tomas Kaberle. The Hockey News reported Detroit would be a good fit for Kaberle, but no. Definitely not. He's been brutal in Boston and it goes to show how playing for Toronto made him look superhuman.
What Detroit needs is a speedy defenceman who will rush the puck but won't get caught. Are there any out there on the free agent market? Not so much, but I've heard Detroit is willing to trade, mainly Valterri Filppula and Jiri Hudler.
On forward, guys like Brooks Laich and Scottie Upshall are on my wishlist, just to get some grit and speed in the mix. Put Upshall with Helm and Abdelkader and it's a demon speed line. Laich is the heir to Tomas Holmstrom. Subtract Kris Draper, Mike Modano and Chris Osgood, and you have a young Wings team. Consider that Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton have no more AHL time left, the Wings need a spot for them, and also, Tomas Tatar and GUstav Nyquist are waiting in the weeds.
It's shaping up to be an interesting offseason for Detroit fans. Stay tuned for more Free Agent news and rumours.
Good luck to Brian Rafalski, he will be missed!