The traditional method of ranking individual player performance is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white. This is “Pass/Fail.”
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Brian Rafalski is a pro’s pro. In 2010-11, like several seasons before it, he was the best in the business keeping the puck in at the blueline by whatever means necessary. I meant to type up a thing earlier in the season outlining why that’s so important — and how you can’t really “quantify” that kind of contribution, much like his veteran presence, his incredibly calm demeanor, and his outlet pass skills — which were, to be clear, absolutely filthy. He was second on the team in +/-, even in a “down year,” and was relied on for more than twenty minutes a night. His 0.76 points/game were the second best in the League among players that played at least 40 games. Read that again: HE WAS THE SECOND MOST PRODUCTION OFFENSIVE DEFENSEMAN LAST SEASON.
With all of the wonderful things we can say about Brian Rafalski’s season, there’s just as much on the thumbs down side. He had clearly lost a step, and was getting drilled behind the net a hell of a lot more than he used to, likely a result of his body telling him it was about time to hang ’em up. For an offensive contributor, he didn’t actually score goals all that often — chipping in only four goals in 63 games, and ZERO on the power play (which is his bread and butter). When the post-season rolled around, Rafalski found himself a minus player. Truth be told, the situation had become evident as the season wore on that his body just wasn’t in it anymore.
Of course, Rafalski threw us a curveball as he walked away from the final year of his deal, and the $6M that would have come with it. He decided that there were things that were more important than hockey at this point in his life, and he was going to walk away (while he still could) to pursue them and spend time with his family. This is a man that has earned that right and — despite the weak season, by his standards — he’s a valuable player that will be nearly impossible to replace internally or via free agency. That’s worth something.
Disch: Raffy is an easy top-4 defensemen on the Wings and really a top 2 on most teams, injured or not. He played like it this year…despite some ugly moments that happen for any non-Nick blueliner when you’re out there against the opposing team’s best. I think next year when Shitbox’s replacement is starting the break, we’re going to realize how big a deal Rafalski was to the 2010-11 team.
Petrella: While his season may be a “fail” in his own eyes, it is so only by his incredible standards. He retired one of the best quarterbacks in the League, and his intangibles can’t be understated. But for someone that’s expected to be Nicklas Lidstrom’s quasi-equal counterpart, he didn’t quite get there. We’ll all be disappointed if we think he can be replaced and improved upon.
Hollis: Despite the mobility issues and the turnovers, Rafalski was still one of the best at breaking open a rush and finding ways to contribute points. Even when he knew his career was done, he kept working and kept contributing. Pass for the season and pass for the career.
Final TPL Grade
Up Next: Todd Bertuzzi
6/7 :: Pavel Datsyuk (PASS)
6/6 :: Brad Stuart (PASS)
6/4 :: Henrik Zetterberg (PASS)
5/27 :: Jakub Kindl (SPLIT)
5/26 :: Darren Helm (PASS)
5/24 :: Niklas Kronwall (PASS)
5/23 :: Valtteri Filppula (PASS)