Brad Richards

The Rebirth – And Return – Of Brad Richards

On June 20, 2014, the New York Rangers rid themselves of an underachieving veteran who was, in the eyes of many New Yorkers, killing their chances of winning a Stanley Cup. Brad Richards received a compliance buyout from the Rangers with six years remaining on the nine-year, $60M million contract he originally signed in 2011.

New York fans had reasons for their want for more from the star center. Richards posted 46 goals and 151 points in 210 over three regular seasons in New York. And in the playoffs, in spite of his relationship with former Rangers coach John Tortorella, Richards found himself in the doghouse frequently. He registered only 28 points in 55 Stanley Cup Playoff games as a member of the Rangers, and was a healthy scratch for the last two games of the 2013 playoffs.

That relationship with Tortorella started in Tampa, where Richards will return this week as the enemy.

In 2004, with Tortorella behind the bench, Richards set a record with seven game-winning goals in a single postseason on his way to winning the Conn Smythe. He also won the Lady Byng that season.

Brad Richards Conn Smythe

Richards time in Tampa ended on Feb. 26, 2008, when the Lightning traded him to Dallas (with Johan Holmqvist) for Jeff Halpern, Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and fourth round pick in the 2009 draft.

The regular season treated Richards well in Dallas, where he put up 227 points in 220 games. Unfortunately, he only appeared in one postseason with the Stars, in 2008 after he was acquired via trade. Dallas advanced to the Western Conference Final that season, led by Richards’ 15 points in 18 games (only Mike Ribiero had more points in that postseason for the Stars). Detroit would eliminate Dallas in six games in those conference finals, however, and Richards wouldn’t play another postseason game in a Stars sweater.

Richards was the big prize in 2011 free agency, and the Rangers felt they had found the missing piece to their championship puzzle. But the up-and-down tenure of Tortorella failed to produce a champion and one season of Alain Vigneault produced a trip to the Cup Final – that lasted only five games.

On the first day of free agency in 2014, Richards was a 34-year-old facing questions about his future. He could have looked for a multi-year deal, but opted to sign a one-year contract for only $2M with the Blackhawks.

To say the 2014-15 season was a glorious success for Richards wouldn’t be completely accurate. Chicago had hoped he would come in and cement the center position on their second line after posting 51 points with the Rangers last season, but Richards saw his production slip to the worst full regular season numbers of his career (12 goals, 25 assists in 76 games). He averaged 14:53 on the ice per night and won 48.4 percent of his faceoffs this year with the Blackhawks.

But in these playoffs, unlike his time in New York, Richards has been worth every penny of the bargain contract he signed on the first of July.

Heading back to Tampa, where he reached the peak of his career 11 years ago, Richards comes in playing his best hockey of the year. Thanks to the multiple overtime games, Richards is averaging 17:29 per night and has 11 points in 17 games, good for fifth among Blackhawks forwards.

Richards was an undeniable key to the Hawks getting past the Ducks in the Western Conference Final. He posted seven points in the series, and registered a point in six of the seven games; he finished with two helpers in the series finale.

With some of the game’s elite scorers coming into this Cup Final, depth players will be a key for whomever wants to come away with the game’s ultimate prize. Richards excelling in a supporting role may, ironically, bring him back to the heights he enjoyed in a Lightning sweater as the key to Tampa’s offense more than a decade ago.

17 thoughts on “The Rebirth – And Return – Of Brad Richards

  1. Great write-up Tab and compelling success story for both 91 and the Hawks. I have been on the record as big fan of both his and the Vermette signings by Bowman as our strength up the middle is best it’s been since at least the ’10 Cup if not including it. Will see how the finals stack up against TB, but like our chances. Hawks in 6.

  2. …Brad is similar to Toews in accomplishments….he has the heart of a champion…glad to see his comeback….

  3. His record in Game 7’s is truly remarkable. Nice to see his strong contribution against the Ducks. As Tab notes we will need more of that in order to knock off Tampa. History shows that successful teams get contributions from up and down the line-up.

  4. Hawks didn’t have that much of a potent offense in the regular season. For on reason or another. They’ve stepped it up as a team in the playoffs.

  5. I’ve always like the Richards signing, and was a huge fan of the move. Richards is an elite passer w great hands and thought he would fit well w this team.

    One thing that can never be overlooked is how an accomplished vet will play when given a chance at a chance for the cup. Rozy and Zus are great examples, in 2013 neither had a good regular season but once it mattered both were playing at a unbelieable level. The Hawks dont win in 2013 without those 2 guys. Richards has taken a page out of that book.

    TB lineup is extremely top heavy. Their bottom 6 scored 1 goal against the Ramgers last round, and 21 goals by their top 6. The Hawks will need Richie if they want another cup. I expect Richards will contribute and the Hawks will take home cup number 6!

  6. It almost seems senseless to play the regular season. Does anyone even remember who led the Western Conference or the Central Division? What place and how many points did the Hawks and Tampa Bay finish with? So many people moaning and groaning that the Hawks wouldn’t make it out of the first round and whining “I can’t wait for this season to get over”.

    Go Hawks!

  7. Big fan of Richards.

    Obviously didn’t get 50+ points or skate with 88 for the whole year but depth down the middle wins championships. Replace Handzus with him on last years team and they’re looking for their 4 Cup in 6 years.

    Let’s go Hawks!!!

  8. Interesting to read the Richards article from July. The comments were all filled with uncertainty:

    Who would leave, Oduya or Leddy? (Leddy looks better with NYI, but imagine skating Keith 35+ minutes when Ledpipe ended up in Q’s doghouse)

    Will Q roll four lines again? (Yes, because Desi and Shaw > Bollig and Smith)

    Will Q remain overly loyal to old veterans? (No, see ya Timonem!)

    How will CHI compete with the worldbeaters from STL, DAL, and LAK down the middle? (2/3 didn’t make the playoffs)

    Who are these Rockford players picked off the scrap heap, like Labrie, Bass, and Darling (WHO??? Lol)

    Never doubt the Blackhawks

  9. RyanDale / DropThePuck / Frolik:

    Great comments all. Problem is, those who jump to conclusions somehow never come back to fess up and say “I was wrong”.

    And they’ll do it again and talk out of their ass again because their philosophy is “But like duuuuuuude. it’s the internet duuuuuuuuuude, anyone can say whatever they want, I don’t have to be accountable for what I say duuuuuude” although somehow I think spelling accountable or understanding what the word means might pose a slight problem.

    But seriously, nice to see a proud vet like Richards being a vital contributor at the most important time of the season … may it continue for 4 more wins!

  10. I liked this signing from the beginning, I also think 80 is going to prove to be a valuable pick up in the finals as well.

    Also playing 26 & 5 the last 2 games has given them some confidence as they are going to be counted on for “some” minutes. Although I’m pretty sure neither of them saw the ice in the 3rd period last night am I right….?

    44 is now in the role of mentor & coach…..

  11. Bravo to Richards! A classy pro. He may not have scored as much as he wanted to this year, but he was huge at the dot, and we needed that even more. Watch for him to make some noise against the Bolts.

  12. Good point, Hof.

    I know I’m not infallible. I thought Teuvo wasn’t ready for playoff hockey after Game 2 vs. Nashville. I thought Saad was invisible against Anaheim in games 1 and 2. Thank God I was wrong!

  13. Richards has been playing very well for a while I believe Hossa and his workout and preparation and his age two years older than Richards has had a big impact on him plus he was not called in to “Save the day” so he had time and room and patience to fit in. Smart guy on the offensive end, really stepped up his physical play too, finishes his checks, He and Hossa have a year or two in them yet and both deliver.

    And YES Tab, very nice write up where do you have time to do such a deep article?


    da mook

  14. I don’t think the importance of being strong up the middle can be diminished. Anyone remember the Kane experiment when he was put in center because there was no one else?

  15. Tab, great article. While people may want more production from Richards, the Hawks don’t have the 2004-2011 version. Richards is a consummate pro who plays big. He playoff performance has been spectacular to me. Additionally, if Hossa stays on his line…I am thinking the wily veterans might get a little chemistry which could spark both of their play…which is a little scary to think.

    Seeing Sr. Brad’s comments in the previous article about Richards after his signing, made me think of one of his favorite statistics last season. Handzus, while playing often on a line with Kane (would usually start the game and then get shuffled around so I know it wasn’t lock-step) had no assists throughout the regular season as his primary 2C. I am pretty sure Kane might not have scored a goal in the 2013-2014 regular season with Zus on the ice. Richards had 7 helpers on Kane goals in ’14-’15. To me, Richards did his job fairly well this year. He helped prevent the need from pairing Kane and Toews exclusively throughout the regular season while also providing depth up the middle.

  16. I loved Richards’ quote after game 6 when asked what it was like having Kane moved off his line and up to the top line. “I get to play with Marian Hossa instead.” Further proof that the Hawks have an embarrassment of riches and even Brad Richards realizes it.

    His signing in the offseason was met with a collective shrug and an “ok, nice cheap deal if he has any gas left in the tank.” For much of the regular season it didn’t look like it but he has been playing nicely in the playoffs. Not glamorous but doing his job and doing it well. Minus missing the gaping empty netter at the end of Game 7…

    Not a lot of Stan Bowman hate on the board these last few days. Another finals appearance heals all wounds, eh?

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