Not just numbers

March 14, 2012, by

You always have to overpay for talent in free agency regardless of the talent bought, but especially for elite talent. With that simple hockey assumption out the way let us discuss Brad Richards and his arrival on the Rangers. His numbers are important (obviously), but he’s not just about the stat line and should not be judged as such.

With a little luck and some extended form (and anyone who has watched the Rangers recently shouldn’t discount such a run of form) Richards could still flirt with a 70 point season. NO, it isn’t the heady 90 point years he’d recently put up with the Stars, but look back at how many players hit the 70 plateau the last few years – not many. Twenty four players broke 70 points last year, 30 the season before and roughly the same amount in 08-09. It’s not a mark that many reach. I’ll wager Richards puts up a few 70+ seasons as a Ranger.

That said, Brad Richards is beginning to do what he’s, in part, been paid to do – peak at the right time. His best play as a Ranger is coming now, as the Rangers look to win the conference. It’s coming at the tail end of the regular season as we head in to the playoffs, it’s coming as the pressure from behind has never been more intense this season.

Richards is playing exactly as the free agent packaging avertised. He’s carrying the puck with confidence, distributing it intelligently, displaying his wicked wrist shot and using it with frequency. Oh, and anyone doubting his big moment ability may have overlooked his 8 game winning goals which, just happens to be tied for second in the league. Again, statistics can be twisted to cater for a writer’s argument just as I have done to an extent here.

Richards is not all about the numbers. When the Rangers acquired the veteran they also bought a winning attitude. They bought experience and an ability to play under immense pressure – such as the big lights of Broadway (almost a point/game at home). They bought a player to show the other Rangers how to win when it mattered. Carl Hagelin’s interview during the Canes game was telling, as was Richards’ comments reference Hagelin afterwards.

Apparently Hagelin is making plays he’d never thought of making recently – since forming a line with Richards coincidentally. While Hagelin is a quick learner Richards is a quality and willing teacher – crucial on this team and shown also in the huge development Del Zotto has undergone this year.

Richards has made this team more skilled, deeper down the middle, given the team an additional veteran leader and has naturally added to the team’s offensive production – crucial against the likes of Thursday’s opponents. Also, think about this: you think it’s a coincidence that the first year of Richards being in NY is the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth that the Rangers are challenging for the President’s trophy?

It’s fair to argue, as some will, that the Richards deal will only be a true success with either a Cup (several would be nice) or extended playoff runs littered throughout the almost decade long deal. Hey, free agency is an overpayment. That said, Richards is having a good first year on Broadway, he’s making a positive impact – so let’s not nitpick that he’s just a one-time All Star hey? Richards’ is here to stay and that’s a good thing. So far Richie can only be judged as a success whether you’re judging numbers or not.


  1. Chuck A. says:

    Engblom interviewing Richards on NBC after the win last night:
    Engblom: “What do you try to do on your line with Gaborik and Hagelin?”
    Richards: “Keep up.”

  2. Scully says:

    I’ve watched most of the games this year (*** you Time Warner & MSG for needing Jeremy Lin to put the Rangers games back on television when we’ve been 1st in the conference since December) and at times Richards has indeed looked invisible but, really how many players not nicknamed “The Great One” or “Super Mario” go through an 82 game season without having a few invisible nights. His goal numbers are right in line where you’d love them to be. His assists are down which is partly his play and partly the play of the wingers he’s been paired with from time to time (cough* Brandon Dubinsky and his 10 minutes of ice time last night cough*). Dubinsky knocks aside (who I am still a fan of), Richards is having a just fine season and like Chris is saying, this is the time of year you want him playing this kind of hockey.

    Also I know Richards is getting knocked since he’s the new big-named free agent but, let’s please remember the dude took LESS money to come here and signed here on the 1st day of free agency, openly stating that this is where he wanted to play.

    • Chris F says:

      You had me at Lin…

      Great point, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one that was ticked off that it took overblown Linsanity to force a deal between MSG and TWC…

      Rangers get no love.

  3. Walt says:

    Richards is worth whatever he is being paid!!!

    When the season started, I posted that with Richards on this team, Gabby was going to have a good bounce back season, because teams can’t just concentrate on him alone. Gabby has had a very good season, all-star at that, and now skating with Richards, and Hags, what a wonderful line this is turning out to be.

    Without Richards, you don’t have this line, and teams put their checking line on Gabby. This is reason enough to justify his salary, period! In addition, ask the kids on the team, about the value Richards brings with him, as a mentor, teacher, and leader. Enough said!!!!!

  4. Sioux-per-man says:

    I could care less about how many points Richards puts up, as long as he gets the Game winning Goal. HA.

    He brings so much more to this team. A Stanley Cup Champ, a Conn Smyth winner to the Playoffs, a Broadway Hat – don’t under estimate what team building this little thing has brought to all of us inside and outside of the locker room. The mentorship of not only Hagelin, but also Del Zotto’s. He has turned into our top scoring Defenseman on the rise.

    Richie has brought alot more than what shows up on his personal stats. The best stat that he has brought to this team is 1st place in the EAST.

    This team hates to lose, more than it loves to win.

    HaGaR line will out score Sid the Kid THIS Thursday, and the next Thursday in April!!!

    I’m thinking Hags goal this year is to get Richie his first Hat Trick. It could happen.

    We all bleed blue, but this year we bleed a little more. This is the year! We are on the quest for the cup!!!

  5. HARLEMBLUES says:

    WOW,two games that’s all it took. Free-agency is overpayment based on what facts. Owners can be stupid i argeed. they don’t have to overpay they chose to. BR must LEAD us to the cup not just be on Hagelin waiting for Kreider at playoff time,yes this year speed + skill kills.