When the New York Rangers signed Brad Richards to a nine-year deal in the offseason of 2011 the team thought that they were getting one of the top players in the game, as well as a player who could take them to the next level.
At the time, Richards was coming off a rather successful 2010-11 season with the Dallas Stars that saw him finish with 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points in 72 games.
For the Rangers, Richards was supposed to be the No.1 centre that they had been missing for years. He was going to make every player around him better and was going to put up numbers comparable to what he did when was with the Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Well, if we are looking at what Richards was supposed to bring and do for the Rangers then this deal has to be looked at as a disappointment.
Yes, it’s still early on in the deal and yes, he had some big goals for the team last year in both the regular season (nine game-winning goals) and the postseason (a game-tying goal with 6.6 seconds left to go in Game 5 against the Washington Capitals) but judging from what he’s done this year as whole, it appears that Richards’ play is on a downward spiral.
For the first time in his career, the 33-year-old looked completely lost on the ice in the regular season. He was afraid to shoot the puck, he couldn’t handle being the quarterback on the power play, he was benched a few times and his confidence looked shot.
In 46 games in the regular season, Richards had 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points. Those numbers may not look bad but a lot of them came during the last week of the season against some of the weaker teams in the league.
Unfortunately for the Rangers — and Richards, his struggles have carried over into the postseason. In eight games, Richards has just one goal on 15 shots and is a minus-1.
In this postseason, Richards has not generated many scoring chances, hasn’t been a factor on the team’s power play and, much like he did in the regular season, looks like a player that has lost confidence in himself to do the things he needs to in order to be a good hockey player.
As a result of his poor play, Rangers head coach John Tortorella has decreased his minutes.
In his team’s 1-0 victory in Game 6 over the Washington Capitals in the first round, Richards played just over nine and a half minutes. While there were several penalties that kept Richards off the ice, Tortorella used the right guys in that game to sustain offensive zone play and, at the time, Richards wasn’t one of the right guys.
In that Game 6, Richards was relegated to the fourth line with Chris Kreider and Arron Asham. For a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, as the league’s most valuable player in the postseason in 2004 with the Lightning, this was a strange sight to see considering that he used to be a player that was of top-line quality who could produce in all situations.
For someone that works hard and has had a lot of success in his career, it’s unfortunate that Richards has not turned out to be the player the Rangers thought they were getting. What makes matters worse is that the Blueshirts may never end up getting to see that Richards at all.