I feel like the span between these posts about Brad Richards has become smaller and smaller as the season passes by, which, for obvious reasons, is not a good thing for the Rangers' big free agent splash this past summer. Richards was brought here for several reasons, but the most prevalent included his playmaking abilities, his presence at the point on the powerplay and his leadership. While the leadership has been there all year long, the playmaking and powerplay production have not.
When asked about Richards, head coach John Tortorella repeatedly states that Richards needs more time to break out of his funk and get going. For example, when Torts was questioned on why he again used Richards in the shootout on Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres despite Brad being 0-for-7 on the season, the coach said that Richards is the type of player who will eventually overcome his struggles if he continuously is put in the same situations over and over.
Well, at what point does repeatedly putting Richards in the same situations begin to hurt the team? This shootout thing is getting ridiculous, especially since one shooter could basically decide the outcome of the game. Richards’ attempts, to put it quite bluntly, are pathetic. He trots in and takes as soft of a shot as the goaltender has faced on that particular night.
And why, if Tortorella is for giving players multiple opportunities until they succeed, was Sean Avery never given the proper chance to show that he can perform on this team? And when he did, Sean still found himself being demoted. There’s a bit of hypocrisy going on there in the coach’s logic, no?
Richards now has just two points – a goal and an assist - in his last ten games, and as of late hasn’t even been noticeable on the defensive side of the puck. At least earlier in the season Richie was putting in work in his own zone and was scoring a clutch goal every now and then. But just two points in ten games for a playmaker? To me that’s simply unacceptable and if anyone else went on a slump like that, I can guarantee that they would be buried on the fourth line, maybe save for Marian Gaborik.
Faceoffs are about the only thing that is going for Richards now, which is important, but faceoffs didn’t make the top three in my list of why he was brought to New York earlier.
Maybe it’s the past relationship from the Tampa Bay years that has Tortorella so hell-bent on continuing to put Richards in key situations, including the powerplay. Richards’ performance on the powerplay this year, especially in recent games, has been ugly. He struggles to control the puck at the point, his passes are often off the mark and his lackadaisical attempts at gaining the zone on his own are worthy of a benching in my opinion.
Yet we still see him out there each and every time the Blueshirts are given the man advantage, and we still see him out there each and every time they go to a shootout. Tortorella needs to end his love-fest with Richards now and light a fire under the guy’s rear end, because two points in ten games is not worth a $60 million contract by any stretch.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been pleased with the job Tortorella has done with the Rangers this season, but the Richards situation is stretching too long. Something’s got to give.