The Rangers haven’t been able to replace Brad Richards

Richards finished third on the team with 51 points last year

We’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning the loss of Anton Stralman, whose departure has coincided with a drastic drop in possession numbers. We’ve also talked about the impact losing Brian Boyle has had on the penalty kill and on faceoffs. Heck, we’ve even reminisced about Raphael Diaz.

But one key veteran has been quickly forgotten since his forced exit just days after the Stanley Cup Final.

The buyout of Brad Richards was a foregone and necessary conclusion for the Blueshirts, who were in desperate need of cap space and had one final chance to shed the remainder of his albatross contract without being penalized.

Richards’ skills are most definitely in decline and this is not an argument that he should have been kept, but there is a gaping hole in the middle where Richards was once a mainstay.

Say what you want about Richards’ game, but his 51 points ranked third on the team last year. After a slow start, Richards has posted 11 points in 18 games this season, nearly the same scoring rate as last season. Richards’ replacement, Kevin Hayes, has steadily improved and has a very bright future, but he’s posted just five points this year. Hayes will surely pick up the pace, but there’s no way he’ll come close to matching Richards’ production.

As Dave likes to say, the concept of top-six forwards is very outdated. Teams now carry three scoring lines and a checking trio. Last year, the third line in name of Benoit Pouliot, Derrick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello often outplayed and outproduced the top two lines. This season, Hayes, Carl Hagelin and Anthony Duclair/Lee Stempniak haven’t been able to do the same.

Hayes’ production might be fine for a No. 3 center behind consistent juggernauts like Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, but it’s problematic behind a still recovering Derek Stepan and Brassard.

Unlike the Stralman mistake, there’s not much Glen Sather could have done to prevent this. Richards had to go, and the only viable replacement on the free agent market, Mikhail Grabovski, proved to be far too costly, especially in a package deal with Nikolai Kulemin. The trade market was never a realistic option, as any move for a center would have gutted the lineup and farm system.

The hope was that J.T. Miller would put up decent offensive numbers, but that appears to have been wishful thinking. For now, Hayes’ growing pains are just something the Rangers will have to live with.

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  • Richards had to go, we all agree on that point. He was way over paid for the results, and he was well on his way down hill!!!!!

    Hayes is more of a natural wing, where he played while in college, and should be moved back there. He has done a reasonable job though, considering he plays musical chairs with different wings from game to game. How is the poor guy going to develop any chemistry with anyone??

    No one even mentions Lindberg any more. He was the MVP of both the regular season, and the PO while home in Sweden. He is a solid two way player, as are most of the Swedes. Why not try this kid out, what have we got to loose??

    Lastly Miller. AV doesn’t seem to like this kid for some reason. He is NHL ready, and should be given a real shot. Move him to 3C, with Hayes on the wing along side of Hags, that would be a nice line. If he doesn’t pan out, then move him.

    Bottom line, management should look at all their options, see if they have the tools to compete, if not move these kids along to get the necessary help needed!!!!!

    • I agree with your points, but I also feel Slats needs to make a decision sooner rather than later. We need a center. We seem to have some depth at wing with the kids. We may even dangle Talbot, but either way, I feel we need a center before Christmas, so he has time to gel with his linemates. While Hayes is okay, the line of Hayes/Hagelin/DuClair scares no one. Add in a line of Moore/Glass/Stemp and half of our offense needs a bit more than cones on the ice to defend (joking). May be time to think big. Stall/Hags/Talbot to Dallas for Seguin/Gogligowski and a pick.

      • There are definitely pieces we can afford to lose and targets out there who would be excellent fits in NY… but no way on earth Dallas lets Seguin go for that package or anything close.

        He’s been mentioned here before, but a guy like Ryan O’Reily from COL would be at the top of my Christmas list.

        • I agree that would be a difficult deal for Dallas, but they are going nowhere and could use 3-4 near ready prospects to get them ready for next year.

        • While I would like ROR, the Av’s are most certainly feeling the departure of Statsny as hard as we’re feeling the departure of Stralman, I doubt they’re going to give up another center/winger like ROR so soon after losing Statsny

          • I agree with you. There is the potential that his volatile contract situation with Col mgmt could play in the favor of the other 29 GMs though. Here’s to hoping…

  • Blame Olivia Munn.

    Just like Justin Verlander’s distraction since he hooked up with Kate Upton, Richards had not just lost that crucial step in his last year as a Blueshirt, he also seemed preoccupied.

    As Walt adroitly pointed out, BR was overpaid and underachieved. Not even Torts, given their lengthy relationship if not a Cup triumph in Tampa could motivate Richards.

    The rookie Hayes has acquitted himself rather well, despite playing out of position.

    But yes to Walt’s suggestion: give Lindberg some time in the bigs. And let’s figure out the JT Miller conundrum before the kid’s ruined. Like Hayes though, he seems more predisposed to wing than center.

  • I want to see Duclair-Hayes-Stempniak as a 3rd line with sheltered minutes, like last year’s third line. That should help a bit.

    • Yup…that sounds good. To me, Hagelin would be just as good if not better than Stempniak in that role. Better speed / possession #s (I would assume).

      In a perfect world, your suggestion above would leave Hags available for ‘4th’ line duties with Moore and Fast, which we could deploy like last yeat >70% D zone starts against opponent’s top compeition.

      I’m pretty confident that shutdown unit could get the puck up ice pretty efficiently and eat up some crucial minutes for us.

  • On my list of things that are wrong with the team, the absence of Brad Richards doesn’t make the top 25.

    • I don’t think the point of the article was lamenting his departure, as much as it was pointing out the inability to fill the void left by his absence.

      • I agree about the point of the post. I just don’t think that Richards’ absence has left a “void” as much as a donut hole.

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