During this offseason, many of of us who follow the Red Wings loyally were, shall we say, underwhelmed by the additions that were made to the squad. The re-signing of Jonathan Ericsson, was particularly peculiar, given his struggles in becoming a consistent force from the back end. But, as the saying goes: “you go to war with the army you have”. Our team is still strong, and upon further reflection, the Ian White signing perhaps deserves more praise than it has received.
Between 2002 and 2008, a series of players who were either just barely below the superstar class, or who were flat out obscure, were brought to the team by the front office to fill voids on the blue line, or bolster the attack up front. On the whole, these moves turned out to be smashing successes. Ray Whitney, Mathieu Schneider, Jason Wooley, Brian Rafalski, are just a few of the skaters who seemed to truly thrive under the puck possession, run and gun style that we have become used to in Hockeytown. It reminded me of some kind of explosive chemistry experiment. Add an element when on it’s own is relatively benign to an already powerful mixture, and that element becomes optimized. I like to call this phenomenon, “The Wooley Effect”.
When it was announced that Jason Wooley had become a Red Wing, I remember being puzzled. Then, our fine play by play announcer Ken Daniels, assured fans that Wooley was a very capable and skilled puck moving, offensive minded defenseman. Daniels’ words proved prophetic. Wooley immediately impressed all with his solid, cerebral play. It was clear he was made for Red Wings hockey. Look for something similar to happen with Ian White.
Now Ian White, is no Jason Wooley. He is more of an established name, not to mention much younger, and more of a physical player. He has also been a member of the deadly San Jose Sharks, a team bearing some similarities to our own as far as skill level is concerned. But White himself has voiced his own excitement about joining the Wings, specifically addressing the style of play that has become synonymous with Detroit. A style he accurately and concisely describes as “fun”.
What stands out about White, at least in my eyes, are his 8 assists in the post-season in 2011. White knows where to put the puck, when to pinch, when to fight, and has a cannon from the point. I was a great fan of Brian Rafalski, and I was saddened to see him go. His chess-player mind for hockey fit wonderfully with the team. Does White have the mind for this style of hockey that Rafalski did? It’s too soon to say. He almost has to if he wants to play. But White has a confidence in his eyes that some of our other blue-liners do not. I’m going to wager that White will be a more than adequate replacement for the smooth Rafalski, and that “The Wooley Effect” will benefit Detroit once again. He also has a really fantastic first name.