Let me start this article off by establishing a few things: I respect the New York Rangers' Brad Richards tremendously as an athlete and as a person. On a personal level, his tireless efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy completely outside of the media spotlight were beyond admirable, and is something I will not soon forget.
I’m simply elaborating on a scenario that, quite simply, I did not anticipate at the beginning of this season.
Richards, as an alternate captain and as an individual athlete, has been disturbingly missing for the large majority of this season.
It’s hard to believe that just one season away from countless clutch goals and a very admirable postseason, we are looking at a player who has notched a mere 11 goals and 23 assists in the 2012-13 regular season. Even in a condensed schedule, that’s not the production we’ve come to expect from Richards—and never mind what he is being paid and the expectations that come with that.
In 20 postseason games last year, Richards had six goals and nine assists. This year, in exactly half as many games played, he has one goal—and zero assists.
I don’t know the last time I’ve seen such a rapid decline in a Rangers player in just one season. For too long, the New York Rangers have had the reputation of acquiring veteran players on the decline, grossly overpaying them and fading into irrelevancy.
I really didn’t think Richards would become the next star to do just that.
Will Richards return as a Ranger in 2013-14?
And so I am left to wonder if the Rangers would actually benefit from scratching Richards in Game 4—and beyond, God willing the Rangers find a way to win against the Boston Bruins this series.
Richards is currently slotted as a fourth-line center and is most likely the most expensive fourth-line center in the league.
Let’s not even get into the fact that a player with the skill and veteran presence of Richards should never play so badly that he is deserving of fourth-line status. And we all know how well former Ranger Marian Gaborik took to his brief fourth-line status.
In his place, I am proposing inserting Kris Newbury, part of the Rangers “taxi crew” that is on standby for the postseason should injuries or other adjustments be made necessary. Newbury has a very physical edge to his game, and quite frankly, it would fit in a very physically demanding series against the Bruins.
NBC Sports Network analysts Liam McHugh and Mike Milbury suggested removing Richards from the power play this series due to his ongoing struggles, but clearly something more should be done.
It blows my mind that Richards, a player with 900 career games played and 816 points in the regular season, could be so lost, both on an-even strength and power-play scenario. And although it’s a distant memory at this point, he even won the Stanley Cup with the same coach he is paired with today.
How is it so hard for him to snap out of the funk and find his game?
The Rangers have potentially one game left to make adjustments in a desperate attempt to keep their season alive. If John Tortorella wants to send a message to his team and to Richards, this may be part of the solution.
One thing is for sure: If Tortorella doesn’t send Richards a message for the remainder of this season, general manager Glen Sather might be sending a very different one: compliance buyout.