Player evaluation: Richards
This season: 74 games, 18 goals, 26 assists, plus-3 rating.
The good: Richards’ contributions can’t simply be measured in his offensive numbers. Beyond those, Richards did exactly what Dean Lombardi hoped he would, particularly in the playoffs. He took some pressure off No. 1 center Anze Kopitar and brought some balance to the Kings’ lineup. After a long, baffling stretch in which Richards didn’t seem to be himself, Richards very much lived up to his reputation as a playoff winner. Richards had four goals and 11 assists in 20 playoff games, and was a tenacious puck-pursuer as well. Richards’ versatility and creativity on the power play also makes him invaluable.
The bad: The world will never know, because hockey players will never be totally honest about such things, but how much did Richards’ concussion impact him? Richards missed three weeks of game action after a hit from Florida’s Sean Bergenheim. Upon his return, he scored a goal in each of his first two games, but after that, Richards went through a mystifying drought. He went 25 consecutive games without a goal, and from Dec. 26 until March 16, Richards scored one goal. Richards looked uncertain of himself and his game at times, but said he felt healthy. If the concussion wasn’t still a problem, then what was the problem?
Going forward: In fairness to Richards, it’s worth noting that for much of the season, he didn’t have consistent, productive linemates. At one point, he had Jarret Stoll, a natural center, on his right wing. At another point, he centered rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, who had a total of six NHL games between them. After the Kings acquired Jeff Carter — and after Carter settled in — and when Dustin Penner emerged as a second-line option, Richards looked much better. That’s probably not a coincidence. Given a full season of health, and productive linemates, Richards should have a much better all-around season.