Philadelphia Flyers' Mike Richards Requires Surgery on Hand, but Thumbs Are Fine

April WeinerCorrespondent IMay 10, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 02:  Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on May 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Ever since the Philadelphia Flyers were ousted from the playoffs in a four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins, the team has been pummeled with questions: What went wrong? What should they do now?

We may have gotten the answer to the first question. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren announced today that five players will need offseason surgery, and that Jeff Carter (hip), Scott Hartnell (hip) and Chris Pronger's (back) statuses are still being determined.

Andrej Meszaros will have surgery on his wrist, Kris Versteeg on a stomach muscle, Blair Betts on a finger, Michael Leighton on his hip and captain Mike Richards on his wrist—an injury that has bothered him since training camp back in September.

Holmgren said that doctors cleared Richards to play through the injury, but believes that it may have negatively affected his faceoff performance as well as his shot. After all, Richards only scored one goal on 43 shots in the playoffs.

Despite news of a season-long wrist problem, that is not the most controversial Richards news of the day. That honor belongs to Richards and his Twitter account.

Last night, CSN Philly's Flyers beat writer Tim Panaccio published an article spreading the rumor that Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Mike Richards have a strained relationship. He said that, according to sources, the two weren't even speaking by the end of the season, speculating the source of tension was another possible reason for the Flyers troubles at the end.

Laviolette and Holmgren were quick to squash that rumor.

“Mike is a good, quiet leader. When he is going and our team is going, he is usually the guy in the forefront leading the charge. Since I’ve been here he’s done a good job. I can’t speak to how he handles you guys (the media), but I can tell you in here the players respect Mike," Laviolette said.

Holmgren's words showed obvious frustration at the latest rumor regarding his captain and coach, with one sentence even being unpublishable. "I don't know where all this is coming from. You guys know Mike. He's a quiet kid. He's a hard guy to talk to sometimes, for anyone. Probably even his closest friends. He's just a quiet guy," Holmgren said.

Richards did not speak to the media. However, he did give his opinion on Twitter. "Tim Panaccio thinks I'm moody and withdrawn with him. Maybe because he writes articles that are no where close to being true," Richards tweeted this afternoon.

Those words caused quite a stir, prompting CBC's Elliotte Friedman to say that, perhaps, Holmgren should look to make a captain change. 

"If I was Paul Holmgren, I'd ask Mike Richards if he wanted to drop the 'C' for an 'A' because the interaction between Richards and the Philly media is painful to watch. Richards takes the questions very personally and everyone might be better off if he did it less often and simply concentrated on playing. This move happened years ago with Eric Desjardins and Keith Primeau and it can happen again with Richards and Chris Pronger," Friedman wrote.

This isn't the first time that Richards has had a problem with the Philly media or had his captaincy questioned. And it probably won't be the last time.

However, Richards was given the "C" before the start of the 2008-09 season, his third year with the team. Surely upper management understood Richards' reserved personality and had no problem naming him captain in spite of it.

After all, teams don't win championships because of their captains' interactions with the media. They win championships based on hard work, dedication, teamwork and a bit of luck.

In Richards' still young career, he has already won a Memorial Cup, Calder Cup, World Juniors gold medal and Olympic gold medal with his respective teams. Richards was named captain of the Kitchener Rangers after that Memorial Cup victory and was captain of the Team Canada WJC gold medal-winning team—testaments to his leadership skills.

Oh, and his coaches, teammates and anyone who followed the Flyers during the playoffs last year saw the huge role that Richards played when the Flyers came two games shy of a Stanley Cup win.

It is kind of ridiculous to think a team should strip its captain of his "C" because he is uncomfortable dealing with the media. The Flyers seem to recognize that and have accommodated Richards. Pronger has spoken to the media more frequently, as the team's media representative, with Richards leading the team on the ice and in the locker room.

Even Pronger seems to have a love/hate relationship with the Philly media. He just does a better job of giving it back to them because he gets it.

Finally, Richards is still young and will get better at dealing with the media. He even seemed to be more comfortable with his dealings this year at times. He also seemed to embrace his inner Chris Pronger, with Pronger-like quips in response to questions.  

Richards has always let his actions on the ice speak for themselves. Once he gets the surgery to repair his wrist, he will be able to return to that and that should settle this matter—for a short while at least.