Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brad Richards Failing His Jump To Superstardom

In 2003/04, it looked like Brad Richards of the Tampa Bay Lightning was well on his way to a Hall of Fame hockey career. He turned 24 late in the season in which he won the Lady Byng Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy as he won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning. After the lockout year, he followed it up with another season where he scored a career best (to date) 91 points. Since that point, things have begun to slowly turn sour.

Richards fell to 70 points last season and has 33 points in 38 games so far this year. His offense is slowly dropping off. Worse, he has done very poorly defensively. Currently, Richards has the worst +/- rating in the entire NHL at -20.

Tampa Bay plays their "big three" offensive players excessively. Vincent LeCavalier, Martin St Louis and Brad Richards are all among the top five in the NHL in total ice time among forwards in the the league (Richards ranks first). Tampa usually plays LeCavalier and St Louis together leaving Richards and whomever are his wingers of the day as the other line. Brad Richards has not been good enough to carry that line by himself. Maybe the problem is too much ice time and not enough high quality linemates. For the ice time Richards has had, he should be more productive offensively and not allow as many goals by his opposition.

Tampa Bay would be better off without overplaying Brad Richards. Tampa needs to give some of his ice time up to their other forwards like Chris Gratton, Michel Ouellet, Vaclav Prospal and Jan Hlavac. They are capable depth players who can handle more ice time and be successful. Brad Richards seems incapable of successfully handling all the ice time he has been given. He has done very well in the past, but since John Tortorella has begun to overplay him, his productivity has dropped. It would be best for Tampa if they could give him a chance to play in the situations that made him a star and not in all situations including those where he is not so well able to succeed.

When the Lightning overplay their big three forwards as much as they do it is likely that one will break down. It isn't Vincent LeCavalier that is breaking down, he is the MVP so far this year. It isn't Martin St Louis who is playing very well also. It is Brad Richards who is showing the signs of breaking down. He is no longer on track to be a likely Hall of Famer. His production is not worth the ice time he is given. Given less ice time, Richards might find the game that he is slowly losing.

Good post. It's ironic - usually goalies are the ones overplayed and go bust - but Tampa seems to be going bust in both ends right now.
1) Feaster has been the worst of any GM in handling the salary cap. The Richards contract (the Max at the time) is just one example.
2) By making his team so top heavy salary-wise they had no/little room for a real goaltender. As is evidenced, you can have the scoring champ and still suck if you have bad goaltending
3) If Richards was making 3-4 mil, fewer would notice his underachievement
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