Tag Archives: rafalski

World of Fantasy

Every year, the hockey press likes to make predictions about the league leaders, playoff matchups and where the break outs will appear. I often wonder where they come up with these ideas — are they attending camps, watching guys skate, and looking at the overall team, or just pulling random numbers out of last year’s statistical pile and then hitting “puree” on their column inch generators?

Let’s start by looking at what The Hockey News had to say in their September 4 issue with “Fantasy Advice” (page 49). I’ll call it more fantasy than advice, and make some of my own predictions, and generally try to keep from laughing at the suspension of mathematics for the sake of storytelling.

Scott Gomez will finish in the top 25 scorers, with 87 points, 63 of them assists. So the Rangers are paying $10M for 24 goals? Granted, that’s twice what Gomer put in the net last year at twice the price, so maybe the math works. But wait, there’s more!! Jagr is also projected to have 67 assists. Um, who is going to score the goals from all of those assists? THN doesn’t show any Rangers in the top 25 goal scorers. Prediction #1: Jagr and Gomez play patty-cake with the puck until Gomez starts making his ill-timed, inaccurate passes and the Rangers lead the league in short-handed goals allowed, unless Gomez’ groin strains again and he gets to watch from the press box.

Similarly, fellow green-seeker Brian Rafalski is predicted to score 8 goals and notch 53 assists in the Motor City. Maybe if he keeps his stick down, and remembers where the blue line is. Prediction #2: Rafalski will be the first defenseman to earn $200,000 a point. And Chelios will complain about him at least once.

Much of Evgeni Malkin’s success this year will depend upon his wingers, if he’s moved to center as THN’s 07-08 Yearbook suggests. Put a pair of young guns on either side and he’s got room to move, pass and score; saddle him with guys who don’t move or pass and he’ll get frustrated quickly. Prediction #3: The Penguins give the Rangers a run for the money and playoff seeding.

The Devils will have a 40-goal scorer, again. Parise, Gionta, or Elias could do it, especially if Zubrus sets up the triangle and keeps the shooting lanes open. Prediction #4: At least one of the Devils’ top lines accounts for 100 goals this year.

I have the one-pager from THN tacked to my bulliten board, right by the free weekend passes (with 395 restrictions) from Avis and the raffle tickets I’ve bought to support various random charities; it’s in good company in the “fantasy” world. We’ll revisit this at the half-way point.

Rafalski To Mo-Town

Goodbye, Brian Rafalski. I have no idea what Lou has in mind for his blue line corps, but losing Rafalski on the first day of free agency probably wasn’t his Plan A. That said, I’m hoping Plan B is really, really exciting, because one of the leading names I wanted to see in NJ — all-time leading Jewish scorer and former Red Wing Mathieu Schneider — just went west to the Ducks. And Johnny Oduya wasn’t made a qualifying offer, so he’s free to sign elsewhere without any form of compensation.

I’m going to wager that opinions will be split on this. Rafalski was a good guy, a hard worker, and really steeped in the Devils style: undrafted, picked up out of the European elite leagues, and a big contributor during two Cup runs. That’s the good side. The past season and a half, he seemed almost always a half step out of place or play, whether misplaying the puck on the power play or just being ineffective at shutting down big lines. We’ll miss him, certainly, and I’m glad he didn’t end up with the Rangers or Flyers because then we’d end up implicitly cheering against him.

With Daniel Briere migrating south to the City of Brotherly Love, the field is in play. There are some names out there, and with Rafalski gone, Mogilny and Malakov off of the payroll, and the salary cap raised to over $50M, I’m hoping Lou and Jeff open the wallet up. Soon. The whole free agency thing is likely to be down to mouse nuts by Independence Day.

It’s Over in the Swamp

Yes, I’m profoundly sad that the Devils season has ended. As many of the Devils said in the press, they had a team that could have gone far in the postseason, and now three seasons in a row have ended with the Devils going no better than 5-5. Could have is the operative phrase, but I’m equally worried about the this team suggestion that somehow this year’s roster is going to change dramatically.

If it changes for the better, I’m all for it. The Devils looked horrible on defense. Turnovers in their own end, lack of a quick break out, and an inability to clear the big guns from Tampa Bay and Ottawa out of the slot. The Devils were clearly out-coached. Not that the Ottawa top line was that much better than New Jersey’s top line, but more than 80% of Ottawa’s goals came from those three guys. Whatever the Madden line was doing to shut them down wasn’t working, and in all honestly, probably wasn’t Madden, Pandolfo and Brylin’s fault. If you keep doing the same things and expect different results, without any other context switches, it’s a sign of insanity. The same thing goes for the attack side; I could count how many shots Ottawwa blocked but it would only emphasize that the Devils attack consisted of throwing the puck toward the net and hoping for a tip-in. Everyone caught on to it after the first few games, and more crisp passing, cycling and quick shots were in order. But see above regarding turnovers.

I’m betting on changes at the blueline. I’m also betting that Lou doesn’t hold on to both of Rafalski and Gomez, and my public opinion is that if that’s the case, Gomez should stay. He had a great playoffs and he scored when needed. There’s chemistry on the EGG line (when healthy) that could promote them into the ranks of Heatley-Alfredsson or Lecavalier-St. Louis in terms of consistent offensive threats. With Brylin on the fourth line for the last game, it’s clear that his stock is falling, so the Devils are short of quality centers. And finally, if Gomez crosses the Hudson to wear a blue shirt, he will be the subject of more fan derision than Bobby Holik. It’s not always about money.

Anybody know a good head coach?

Puttin’ on the Foil

It’s time for Devils fans to put on the foil. If you’re a Slapshot fan you get the reference, otherwise put some foil on your knuckles, pull your favorite comfy chair in front of the big screen, and start hollering for the good guys in red and black to score some goals.

Hard to believe it’s been three weeks since I’ve written. In that time the Devils gave us hope, with a nice dismissal of Tampa Bay, some solid defense and a whopper of a Gomer-goal. Then they watched it slip away due to shoddy defense, strange bounces and a general lack of attack.

Here’s what I think.

I think Gomez proves he wants to stay in NJ. He’s playing hard, coming up with big shots (and sometimes even a goal) when it counts, and if he could keep from turning the puck over, the Devils would have a chance. I hope Lou remembers this, win or lose, in July.

I think Rafalski is pricing homes in Edmonton. Turnovers? Lack of pressure? He looks like he’s mailing it in half of the time. Not to put all of the blame on Rafalski, as White looks just as sleepy, and Lukowitch is responsible for more bad icing than a Shop Rite bakery’s remaindered goods department. Hello, defense? Hit somebody. Move the puck. CLear the low slot. Stay at home, and make it count. As the Under Armour ads say, “Protect this house.” Or else Saturday will be the last hockey game that house sees.

I think Jamie Langenbrunner might be the next Claude Lemieux. I hope he gets the angry veins popping out of his neck, there goes the quiet Minnesota boy kind of fire in his butt that he can convey to the rest of the team. He’s John Belushi in Animal House crossed with the weird Jimmy kid who made the killer shots in Hoosiers.

I think Patrik Elias needs to show why he’s wearing the “C”. C’mon, Patty, one goal in nine games? Assists are good, but after eight — yes, eight — shots in Game 4, there wasn’t a single goal to show for it. Don’t be so fancy, just fire the puck at the net. As we tell our teenage baseball pitchers, don’t aim, just fire it in there.

In a possible bad combination of superstition, karma, and swag, I’ll be on a plane to Japan while the game is in progress, and won’t know if the season continues until the wee hours of Sunday morning. But I’ll have on the lucky t-shirt at 35,000 feet while the Bubba will be there to cheer in person. Maybe I’ll even put on the foil, if I can convince the Japan Air Lines flight attendants that it’s not a weird American thing. Well, it is, but it’s what I think that counts.

Mamalushen with Chico

I bust a gut listening to the telecast of tonights Devils-Habs game. During the pre-game Chico Resch made a big deal of Sheldon Souray’s lack of scoring against Brodeur, trotting out enough cross-linkages between the Devils, Canadiens, traded players, Brodeur’s home town and defensement leading their teams in scoring to make a serious wikipedia entry.

Chico called it: halfway through the first period, Souray scored on a wicked shot. So much for trends, streaks and historical references. And then Chico said “Well, in Hebrew there’s a word for that, it’s ken-a-hora.” Nothing like some mamalushen (mother tongue) with Chico (Glenn) to dismiss a ken-dryden-a-hora (early blessing, invitation of the evil eye). Technically, it’s more Yiddish than Hebrew, but Chico gets a hall pass for at least being in the right demographic.

All’s well that ends well, and the Devils rallied, converted on both ends of their first 5-on-3 and half of the next one, despite losing Madden (facial laceration and swelling), White (upper body injury), and Gionta (groin pull while getting pulled down). Elias iced the cake with a nifty backhander, and zeit gezunt (be well) Chico.

Chico may decide that spurring the red and black on with some blue and white is a good idea, so here’s a handy field guide to Yiddish in hockey:

Nudnik. Brendan Shanahan. Even if it doesn’t concern him, he’s got his nose into it. I bet he knows what the inside of Jagr’s bag (interpret as you wish) smells like.

Petzel. Sean Avery. Literally, a little wiener. Not like the dog.

Klop. A wrist shot. Literally, kind of a knock, but with finesse.

Zetz. A more serious slap shot, with some serious lumber on it. What the “D” need to do – give the puck a zetz.

Meeskite. Ugly, really really ugly. Makes Pascal Rheaume (above) look like he should be on Grey’s Anatomy.

Heymish. What you’d expect to find in a man’s man den. Homey, yet solid. Rafalski’s goals: very heymish

Chico – welcome to the mishpocha (family). And if you’re laughing, make sure you check this out:

Freylacht in the (Madison Square) Garden of Eden

Where oh where to begin?

Listening to non-stop Klezmer music, starting Saturday night when the Rangers’ King Henrik was responsible for a menorah’s worth of red lights (with Weekes adding the shamas)?

Stewing over Saturday’s ugly Devils loss to Detroit, and knowing that a change in attitude was only a change in production away?

Listening to Big D predict a double-digit points lead for his Rangers over my beloved Devils, trash talk from one of the most polite people I know?

It was a night of freylacht: merry-making of Biblical proportion. From the opening goal scored on what has become the signature Elias off-wing move (slide to the right, pass from Rafalski on the power play and one-timer to touch twine) to the discounted 3:40 of play time after Patty’s second goal, it was fun to watch. Even Big D called to admit it was a good game.

As for the Rangers: the wheels on the bus may have slipped off early this year. No early ken a horas, no early blessings, but it’s freylacht time in the Atlantic Division.