John Tortorella wanted him, Glen Sather wanted him and the vast majority of the Rangers universe (media and fans) acknowledged he was exactly what this team needed last summer. Now, Brad Richards is proving the supporters right and the few (misinformed) doubters very much wrong.
Richards has been far from perfect in his first year on Broadway and hell, Scott Gomez outscored him when comparing debut regular seasons but there is no doubting Richards’ impact on a young Rangers team in his first year. He’s every bit the leader that was hoped for.
Clutch: Richards has come up big all year long as his nine regular season game winners show. He’s leading the team in scoring in the post season and is making crucial plays all over the ice. In the triple overtime win it was his feed that set up the Gaborik winner. It was Richards who came up big in game five with the goal and in the same game check the video for number 19 back checking and breaking up plays in his own zone. Richards, in short, is a leader for the Rangers and right now he’s absolutely earning his large and long contract.
While Richards 66 regular season points were a full-season low mark since his rookie year it’s crucial to note his impact in the dressing room and the influence he has had on the younger players. Then there is yesterday’s Tortorella press conference where the coach spoke of the relationship between the two – something Torts rarely admits to. Besides, 66 points is hardly a bad season, far from it in fact it’s just Richards has different standards. Now, he’s living up to those standards at the most important time of year.
When judging the Rangers (and the Richards acquisition, in the short term) it’s important to consider this: would the Rangers be poised to enter the conference finals for the first time in a generation had they not acquired Brad Richards? Despite a team full of promise, Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik, there is only one answer and that’s no. Once again, Glen Sather has appeared to make the right decision bringing onboard the leading light to lead this cast to brighter things. New York stardom is Richards’ to take and its richly deserved. So far.