A Detroit Defenceman Retires...Named Brian?

RETIREMENT REPORT

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O7WzsHSsBM

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.

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What Now?

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!

Kyle Busch
www.thecheckingline.com
www.twitter.com/KyleBusch11

6 Comments

George Prax's picture

Kind of surprised about this. Gotta wonder what kind of relation this has to Lidstrom's potential decision. Whether he stays or goes the Wings have to make a play for a defenseman this summer.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

This is not good news for the Wings. I figured that Rafalski would stay for another year or two. This opens up some cap room. Guys like Pitkanen and Wisniewski would be a good fit and considering the fact that Ericsson turned down a good deal for his productivity just makes everything tougher.

George Prax's picture

To be fair, the deal may be good for both parties now, but I'm sure Ericsson expects to get better over time and locking up long term to a fairly low amount may not be in his best interests. It's a good deal, but not a very exciting one if you're ericsson.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

I want to know where all the love is coming from for Ericsson. The guy is a joke. I hope he leaves, you can talk about potential all you want like I said, but he's never going to get there. To me, it isn't about his stats, it's the way he plays the game. I think Lidstrom is coming back just to bridge the gap now and not screw the Wings for next season. It was supposed to be the other way around! The guys that could fill a little of the void are Wisniewski and Bieksa. The other guys I'm not really a fan of. Put the rookies in there like Smith and Kindl and wait until next offseason to make a splash. This year's UFA defenceman are pedestrian.

George Prax's picture
Kyle Andrew Busch wrote:

I want to know where all the love is coming from for Ericsson. The guy is a joke. I hope he leaves, you can talk about potential all you want like I said, but he's never going to get there. To me, it isn't about his stats, it's the way he plays the game. I think Lidstrom is coming back just to bridge the gap now and not screw the Wings for next season. It was supposed to be the other way around! The guys that could fill a little of the void are Wisniewski and Bieksa. The other guys I'm not really a fan of. Put the rookies in there like Smith and Kindl and wait until next offseason to make a splash. This year's UFA defenceman are pedestrian.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not praising the guy, I don't know enough of him to make that statement, so I'll take your word for it about him being terrible. I'm just trying to play devil's advocate here. If an agent is in his ear telling him he's worth 2 now but could be worth in a couple of years, I wouldn't blame him for taking a 6 year deal. Especially considering all the changes that the Wings will likely have to go through in that time period.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

If I'm Ericsson I take that deal for sure. I guess he thinks he's worth more, but clearly not. Every time I watch him he just doesn't have it. They just a new direction.