It’s probably obvious that when a team signs a marquee talent it expects a substantial return on it’s investment. However, as we have seen in the past, that hasn’t always been the case with the Rangers. Think back to dark, dirty years without play-off hockey at the MSG and you’ll lose count of big name players simply collecting cheques and giving little in return. These days it’s different. Brad Richards was the right addition at the right time for a club with so much in the way of a bright future.
Even if Richards ‘only’ hits 27 goals and 65 points (the totals he’s on target for), his on-ice presence has resulted in greater depth, team’s having to focus on more than one line – spreading the defensive coverage – and the arrival of another winner in the organisation. Team’s can learn to win, but there’s no harm in accelerating the learning process by adding a proven winner to the mix. Providing the foundations are set.
The Rangers have drafted well and appear to be a young, tight-knit group that play hard for each other. Brad Richards isn’t just a quality player, but he seems to fit in the team dynamic too. He’s influencing the young players like Stepan and Anisimov, he’s a positive guy that is more than happy to share the limelight (Broadway hat anyone?) and he is someone that gladly assumes responsibility. Depending on what your opinion is on long term contracts in a cap world there really is nothing to dislike about the Richards signing.
The Rangers have the best goaltender in the world and a burgeoning core that is growing together. When the team added Marian Gaborik to the mix they added an elite goal scorer to a bunch of kids still growing. Then they continued to grow. This summer when Richards came on board this club (and the roster) had matured and Richards was added at the right time. The club appears ready to take the next step towards being a contender and the way the team has played recently; far from perfect but never rolled over, proves that the mental strength required to win is there. Richards adds to that mentality.
Richards’ totals may not be brilliant (although they are far from bad), but his impact has been significant. His goal against the Ducks in Sweden was decisive: thanks to that goal 2 OT losses looks better than one solitary point. His game winner against Montreal helped avoid what would have been a second collapse in a week and he has been relatively consistent all season. He has done it against the good teams too. He’s contributed offensively against the Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Canucks – all play-off bound teams. He doesn’t disappear when the quality of competition increases.
This team has flaws, naturally; it isn’t as skilful as the Penguins or Caps, nor is it as potent as some other clubs on the power play, but Richards improves both aspects on the Rangers. If this club goes on to have significant success, there’ll be a few milestone moments that will be looked on as being critical.
Drafting Henrik Lundqvist way back in 2000, Callahan in 2004 and Marc Staal in 2005, not to mention the culture change – and youth emphasis – that has gone on under John Tortorella are all crucial moments/periods in recent Rangers history. Adding Brad Richards (the right player, at the right time) may be another of those seminal moments that make this club a winner. Here’s hoping.