Brad Richards showing last year is in the past
It was clear that last season, Richards struggled and did not live up to his contract. This is the main reason why during the off-season, the Rangers had to think about buying out the 33-year-old center.
Even with a bad season in which Richards had 34 points (11 goals and 23 assists) in 48 games, was a healthy scratch for two playoff games and did not look confident with the puck or even in general, the Blueshirts decided not to use their buyout on Brad Richards.
While many Rangers’ fans believed that it was not a good idea because of the way Richards performed last season, this non-move may turn out to be a blessing for both Richards’ and the Rangers’ organization. In fact, through the team’s first three games, the decision to keep Richards is paying off so far.
While the Rangers are 1-2 to start the season, Richards has been one of the team’s best players so far. He leads the team in goals with three, has not been afraid to shoot the puck and has been visible in every game so far, something that could not be said last season.
Richards has also shown some improvement on the power play. Instead of passing the puck off or turning it over, he has been a lot more confident in handling the puck and has not been afraid to put it on net.
When it comes to Richards, none of this should be a surprise. He was a player that got misused by former Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella and with Tortorella now gone, Richards is playing like he has a new lease on life in the NHL while also looking a bit like the Richards of old.
New Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault is more than likely the main reason for Richards’s quick start this season. As Vigneault continues to learn about this team, Vigneault will place more of an emphasis on offense and creativity with the puck, two things that Richards thrives on.
With a new coach, also comes a new power play. While the Blueshirts have struggled with the man advantage to start the season, Richards already has a power play goal and if he can play on the power play like he did with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars, there is no doubt that Richards is going to produce.
Vigneault has also made Richards a top line player with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. With these two guys on his sides, there is no doubt that Richards is going to get a chance to move the puck, be creative with the puck, put the puck and net and produce.
With a new coach and a new system in store for the team as they move along this season, Richards’s slate has been wiped clean and he is now doing everything he can to show that he is worth all the money the team is paying him.