A while back I stated my overall love for the deal that brought Ian White to the Wings this off season. It's quite possibly the best move of the summer and Kenny pulled it off while other teams were spending boatloads of cash on unproven players that they most likely will regret.
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-- First of all let me start this off by saying that Brian Rafalski had an amazing career. His drive and determination to make it in the NHL when he was passed over for being too small changed the way players are scouted and paved the way for smaller, smarter defenders making it in today's NHL. Rafalski was an integral part of the Red Wings 2008 Stanley Cup win as well as both of the Cups he won as a Devil. As a hometown boy that got to live out every Michigan kids dream, Rafalksi will always have a special place in the heart of every Wings fan.
That being said here is my case for why Ian White is actually an upgrade over Brian Rafalski, and the best option Ken Holland and the Red Wings had when free agency started.
Since Rafalski announced his retirement the question has been, what player or players would fill the void left on the Red Wings blue line? Names were thrown around such as Wisniewski, Ehrhoff, and Kaberle. Internal components were discussed suggesting Kronwall, Ericsson or a combination of the both of them stepping in and picking up the slack. All the while Ian White's name was never mentioned.
White has been somewhat of a wallflower when it comes to being noticed in the NHL. He played for three different team last season including the San Jose Sharks where he played top-4 minutes racking up 10 point and a +9 rating in 23 games and another 9 points in 17 games during the Sharks playoff run that would inevitably end the Red Wings cup run.
So when July 1st came and all the "big name" defenders signed lucrative lifetime deals and the Wings fans started to worry that we may have to rely on Jonathan Ericsson to play in our top-4, Ken Holland and his team pulled off quite possibly the best and most financially savvy deals of the off-season.
Now since Rafalski spent a majority of last season struggling to make it through the pain, and Ian White was traded what seemed like more than Mike Sillinger, we'll look at their 2009-10 numbers as both players were healthy and played the majority of the season with one team.
Looking at their numbers side by side shows the picture a bit more clearly. The goals, assists, power play goals are all pretty close. The +/- could be moot as White played for Toronto and Calgary, two teams in the lower half of the standings. White and Raflaski play a very similar style, both smaller guys by NHL standards. They both move the puck well and have above average skating ability, both of them have powerful shots and can man the point on the power play.
Where White begins to separate himself from Rafalski is the physical aspects of the game, he plays with an edge, doesn't get knocked off the puck like Rafalski was prone to. Looking at the latter part of the stats above you can see White hits more, blocks more and may have an edge on takeaways as well. Yes White did play in the East for a majority of the 2009-10 season but for a team that finished near the bottom of the standings.
White is also only 27, Rafalski didn't even begin playing in the NHL until 26. White had 401 games and 143 points under his belt by that age. Getting an all expenses paid crash course from quite possibly the greatest defenceman of all time is something that can only help him develop even further.
While Buffalo and Columbus scrambled to get the "top defenders" this off season, Detroit sat back, stayed focused, and set themselves up for another run at Lord Stanley's cup. With 3 points and a +4 in four games so far this season expect Ian White to shatter his previous career numbers. The future is bright in Detroit, and White could and should be at the center of it for years to come. --
So lets look at the numbers so far
I'll clarify the title. I do not think that Ian White is better than Rafalski. I do believe that he gives a better chance to win than Rafalski would have this year, and with some time his career could follow the same path. White has what Rafalski lacked. Grit, and Rafi had a few intangibles that White is missing as well.
What are your thoughts?
First of all, I think Rafalski and White play very different styles of games. Rafa was an offensive defenseman with slick skills and smarts. White, while good offensively, is more of a gritty all-around defenseman. His passing nowhere rivals Rafalski's (who may have been one of the best passing defensemen ever), but he more than makes up for it with grit and attitude.
I think Rafalski is the more talented of the two, but White actually gives Detroit a better chance to win. Especially because there was obviously something wrong with Rafa the last year or two, whether it be injuries or age. He was not the elite player he was in 08. But he will remain one of my favorite Wings of all time.
White was an incredible signing by Holland, and it just further proves his excellence as a GM. Cup #12.
i always thought it was amazing that rafalski only played 11 seasons, but went to the finals 5 times; winning 3 times. he was also great in the olympics.
the real test for white will come in the spring.
Rafalski 's last two seasons were kinda rough... He was hurting a lot and he was just not himself. Last season we did not see the awesome Brian Rafalski we as hockey were used to. It's also important to note that Rafalski ent last season baby sitting ericsson, and also saw time with Nik on the power play. Remember this is a guy who is used to playing dpwith D partners like Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermeyer. He was amazing for team USA during the olympics! I am and always will be a fan of Rafalski, a Detroit kid who lived the dream! That being said #18 has been awesome for us this year and I couldn't be happier with the deal. Look at the cap hit columbus took to accuire the WIZ, and he isnt even that good! We def got an amazing player out of the white deal!!!! As usual hats off to kenny holland, can't wait to see what his does with that extra cap space this season!
I agree completely, but idk I just love rafi so much honestly it hurt me more seeing hm retire then ozzy n drapes. But white is doing outstanding for us, good thing is he's been a forward before in his career so he can think like one and use that to shut forwards down ! Either would of been great this year but white is younger so that's a huge plus as well
Ive looked at the White signing from the get go as a comparison to Cleary... Take a player with potential to be great, stop his team jumping and give him a place he could feel he could dig his heels into, where he could feel is a home for years to come and then watch him flourish.... How does White stack up against Burns so far? The player SJ chose to get instead of keeping White?
I wasn't actually a big Rafalski fan the last two seasons he was with us. Nice offensively, but he was just such a liability in our end. There was many a night I felt he was no better than Ericsson in the D zone (compounded by the fact that they often played on a line together). I was excited about White and felt he would be an upgrade for us from Day 1 we signed him. Don't know that he will be the better player when you compare careers 20 years from now, but this season he was going to be the upgrade. Wish we could eliminate E52 by returning the $1 trade favor to Winnipeg...
The intangibles are what sweeten this deal, White is more physical and the offense isn't too far off, he could up that over the years as well
Brian Rafalski brought more offense like you said, but Ian White makes up for that with better defensive play. Not to mention, he's younger and is getting paid far less. All in all, best signing of the year and I would do it a million times over.