The Rafalski Rant


Rafalski t-shirt for sale at Dicks (Monica McAlister / THW)

OK, so if you haven’t noticed by the headline here, this isn’t my typical post — this is the Rafalski rant.

This is a compilation of thoughts and opnions that I’ve had for a while about a specific $6 million-a-year defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, whom I will just refer to as Raffy or Rafalski.

Every team and every fan base loves a hometown hero. We all have pride in our local boys when they make the NHL and want to see them do well and show the league, “Hey! See! We have good programs here!” And we all love it even more when they play for our team. For the Detroit Red Wings, there are four current hometown heroes: Justin Abdelkder is probably the most well known and has the biggest cult following. A native of Michigan who went to Michigan State University and drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. He wore number 19 for The Captain (except in Detroit where he is number 8). Along with Abdelkader, there is Drew Miller (MSU), Mike Modano (Westland, MI native) and Brian Rafalski (Dearborn, MI native). The latter has a storied career of leaving for Europe after college and coming back to the United States to play for the New Jersey Devils. He recently won an Olympic silver medal with Team USA, and if the Raffy that had shown up in the Olympics would just show up in a Winged Wheel, then the Rafalski Rant may never take place.

Now out of the four hometown heroes listed on the current Red Wings team, Rafalski has the lowest appeal to the hometown. Why? I personally think it’s because of his inconsisent play and that you can count on him to give the puck to the other team a handful of times.

A goalie is only as good as the defensemen in front of him.

And Rafalski, you cost Chris Osgood his 400th-career win last night at home in the Joe, in front of the fans that has stood with him through the years. Osgood may not be the most flashy of the goalies out there and he may have had a rough go since the 2008 cup run, but he has been a great mentor to the up-and-coming Jimmy Howard. Osgood will be only the 10th NHL goalie to EVER reach 400 wins. Yet he still is the most disrespected, underappreciated goalies in the league. Dan Ellis, who complains about rookies being creative in shootouts, is more-respected league-wide as a goalie than the three-time cup champ Osgood.

Osgood deserved that win, and yet you still handed the puck over to the Dallas Stars in two critical times.

I am tired of seeing Rafalski cost the team $6 million a year and give the puck to the opposing team as often as he does his own teammates.

Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Nicklas Lidstrom. What do they have in common? They are the three longtime defense partners of Rafalski’s. How much of his greatness is from them carrying him? I have to say a good chunk of it. There was a game in the 2009-10 season where the Red Wings were already depleted with injuries, and the lineup for the game that night was announced with Rafalski being paired with Brett Lebda. Fans were calling it armageddon. It wasn’t the end of times (clearly we’re all here right now), but as for hockey defense, it was bad — so bad the two were never put together again (by the way, I need to take a pause here to thank Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs for taking Lebda — thank you).

It’s hard to sit by and watch a goalie be taunted around the league as a failure when he’ll be the 10th ever to reach 400 wins; and yet watch a defenseman be credited so much as great though he fails to get the fundamentals of defense. As for you Washington Capitals fans: You love Mike Green now; but if he doesn’t strengthen his defensive play, you’ll eventually be posting “The Mike Green Rant.”


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