Rafalski. He did it all...and did it all at a world class level. Unfortunately, as so happens when you play with one of the best ever at a particular position, he was often overshadowed by Nick. I also think Nick learned a lot from him on the blue line in terms of offense. I have seen very few "skate the line" with the puck like Rafalski did. At the beginning of his term with us, he was much better at this than Nick. His lateral movement with the puck at the blue line to find a shooting lane was second to none. As a result, Nick soon became much improved at this, and eventually you'd have to say that they were equally as good. But Rafalski was underrated in my opinion.
minus his kronwalling though, he just doesn't seem to be brave enough to do it anymore.
Do you honestly see Kronwall's reduction in hits as a lack of "bravery?" As the Wings' #1 Dman, the onus is on him to be defensively responsible at all times. He can't afford to take himself out of the play (who's going to cover-Smith?) in order to deliver a soul-crushing hit, the very type the league seems intent on cracking down on, especially if someone's hurt on the play. I don't see that as a lack of bravery, I see that as Kronner recognizing that he is now a leader on this team and adjusting his game accordingly.
As for predictions, I can't wait to see how a pain-free Z plays. If he truly feels better than he has in years, he's going to rep that C beyond our wildest dreams. *lady boner* Same with Pav and The Knee of Infinite Sorrow.
The kids are going to continue to play with swag and light a fire under everyone's ball sack. I love the smell of burnt pubes in the morning. Particularly if that morning is hosting a nationally televised NBC game. Suck it, Edzo.
I lost a lot of confidence in Howard last year, and from interviews I've read it sounds like he understands that his play was unacceptable. He's the big question mark for me this year--when he's on, the Wings are a machine. When he's off we're a bunch of monkeys humping various footballs all over the ice whilst pinching uncontrollably at the wrong times and firing off slappers over the glass resulting in ill-timed penalties and a growing sense of ennui. It's horrible.
Anyway, while I'm certainly not counting poultry, I do see that there could be some positive things to look forward to this season, despite some of the glaring holes remaining unaddressed.