Can Nik Jr. Replace Raf?

The one issue that I feel truly wasn’t addressed in this off-season was finding a true replacement for the loss of Brian Rafalski.

Rafalski was almost a perennial 45+ point producer.  He had a career-high 59 points in 2008-2009 and seemed to be the perfect compliment to Nicklas Lidstrom on the power play.  I’m going to really miss waiting for #5 and #28 to do their patented “kill switch” as they swap positions on the ice to set up the one timer.

We brought in Ian White – a right handed defensemen, but has never achieved more than 26 points in a season.  We brought in Mike Commodore, but no one expects the gritty veteran to contribute much in the point production department.

However, Helene St. James of the Free Press suggests that we’ve had the replacement for Rafalski all along…and its Niklas Kronwall.

Kronwall is one of the Wings’ cornerstones. He has great skill with the puck, be it from the blue line on power plays or jumping up in rushes, and has a knack for delivering bone-crunching open-ice hits.

Oh…you mean hits like this one?

…and this one?

We all know what Kronners can do to unsuspecting forwards.  But I personally would like to see him get back to his offensive production of 2008-2009 when he had 51 points.  Last season, he had a career high 11 goals but fell short in the assist department.  However, he was separated from Brad Stuart and forced to play with guys like Doug Janik and Ruslan Salei for most of the season.

So will Kronwall be reunited with Brad “Severus Snape” Stuart?  Or will he win the coveted spot alongside the captain?

Either way, Miss St. James and I both believe that Kronwall should have a big year in the points department.