A Look Back at the Mike Richards Trade

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A Look Back at the Mike Richards Trade
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Over the past few days, maybe even weeks, I have been hearing some rather disturbing and irksome opinions from the Kings community about the Mike Richards trade.

These feelings obviously are tied closely to the form of Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds (who has ten points in ten games, including six goals), and the form of the Kings Mike Richards (who currently has just one goal in 18 games, and only three since returning from a concussion on December 22nd).

These opinions that the Kings made a mistake trading away Simmonds and Schenn for Mike Richards are foolish in many aspects. Maybe they have merit in the world of fantasy stat watchers, but in a real life representation, they have little to no value.

People are comparing Simmonds production to Richards. And there are so many variables in it that you can't really compare production. Not to take anything away from Wayne Simmonds, who is having a fantastic season, but there ARE significant variables.

Here are the many variables I personally feel make the Richards vs. Simmonds discussion have little to no value:

 

1) Linemates


Let's start this out at a micro level and get larger shall we? Richards is currently stuck with Jarret 'high and wide' Stoll, and Dustin 'Pancakes' Penner. Combined the two of them have nine goals. Stoll has 1 goal in 17 games, Penner 2 in 24. 

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Simmonds has recently been lining up with Rinaldo and Schenn, but he has played significant time on lines with Read, Couturier, Briere, etc. etc. In short, he has had a lot more help then Richards. Read, Couturier, and Briere all have more goals singularly then Penner and Stoll combined.

It's no secret that in the NHL linemates benefit from each others play, and before Gagne went down for the season Richards had 20 points in 24 games with his friend and former Flyer teammate. Penner and Stoll have been bad all season for the Kings, and since returning to the lineup from a concussion, Richards has had the chance to slot in at center with them. His play has followed suit with six points in 21 games.

2) Situational minutes


Simmonds for the first time is playing power-play minutes. It was one of the main reasons that his interest in the Flyers was so high. He was going to have a better chance in offensive situations then he would on the Kings, where he logged incredibly limited power-play time over his three years' time.

He is planting himself in front of the net on one of the best power plays in the league (currently fourth), with the likes of Giroux, Hartnell, Jagr, etc. The Kings PP is a meager 21st in the league.

Simmonds has six power-play goals and 10 power-play points. That is 20 even strength points in 51 games. On pace for roughly 34 even strength points in 82 games, which is essentially the average he had with the Kings over the last three seasons (23, 40, 30). A production total that people were fine trading away to get Richards in the first place.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

How many extra points do you think Richards would be tacking on if he was centering Hartnell and Jagr on the power play?

3) System and Coaching

The Kings defense first system is smothering to offensive players. Severely smothering. The last 3-4 years they have finished near bottom of the league in team offense, but make up for it in top five finishes in the defensive aspect of the game. With more emphasis put on defense first, especially for a center, you're going to see his production slip. Look at the players who have come in and left from Los Angeles. Ryan Smyth is a good example. He looked washed up and done. He had his lowest ever point total in a full season last year with L.A., but is on pace to break that in Edmonton. A year older, and on arguably a less talented team, but with a more wide open system. Ponikarovsky had only five goals and 15 points in 61 games last season and currently has nine goals and 20 points in 54 games on Carolina, and New Jersey. Dustin Penner came from a wide open Edmonton system, where he had 32 goals in 2009-2010 and 21 at the time of his departure the following season. His struggles are often noted in Los Angeles, having scored just seven goals in 66 games. Again, arguably less talented teams with better or more open offensive systems have increased the production of former players. It's not science. The Kings are incredibly stifling in terms of offense.

The Flyers are the exact opposite. They average the second highest goals per game, and sit at 21st in goals allowed per game. 

Richards' production, realistically with the system L.A. has, was going to slip. And in the reverse role Simmonds, obviously was going to increase.

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4) Injuries

Simmonds has remained healthy. Richards had a concussion—one of the toughest injuries to recover from in hockey. And since his injury, his pace has dipped incredibly and many in L.A. have suspected he is playing injured. As noted earlier, he has only three goals since returning from his injury (20 games.)

 

It's for all these reasons I feel it is not fair to compare the production of Simmonds to Richards in a realistic manner.

If you want to compare value, I think that is completely and 100 percent fair. And I think that it is almost equal at this point. Richards has brought a great depth to L.A.s center group, but also has brought forth a realization of deficiencies. While that is a bad thing currently, it's a blessing in disguise for L.A., who now needs to pursue more skilled players to accompany Richards.

Simmonds has brought depth and grit to the Flyers PP and forward crew. And he is most definitely a valuable asset that can chip in offensively.

It's an incredibly transparent argument, to me. And it's one that has fantasy fans jumping all over the back of Richards and Dean Lombardi. While Richards is not free of blame by any means, the idea that the Richards trade was a mistake is foolish.

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