Jul 28, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT
It’s been a whirlwind last few days for new Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards. While he was traded to L.A. from Philadelphia just over a month ago in June, the talk of late has surrounded his days in Philadelphia as an apparent party boy that wasn’t taking his role with the Flyers as captain seriously and leading to him (and Jeff Carter) finding their way out of town.
While Richards has done his part to rebuff those allegations, the time to move forward is now. Richards finally had a chance to sit down and talk with the media in Los Angeles and get off on the right foot with Kings supporters. While Richards was one of the top men in Philly, he joins the Kings where a top center is already in place in Anze Kopitar and an old friend and teammate will join him in Simon Gagne. Having former Flyers head coach John Stevens as an assistant to Kings coach Terry Murray helps make the transition easier as well.
As for Richards, he is eager to get things going in Southern California and get a fresh start.
“It’s always easier coming in when you know the system and not to have to learn the Xs and Os and there’s more focus on learning who you’re playing with,” Richards said Wednesday in his first formal meeting with the local media.
“When you don’t have to learn the system, it makes things a lot easier going through training camp. You’re not thinking too much as you normally would .. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing that’s going to help me get adjusted to L.A.”
Getting to play alongside former teammate Gagne and Kings captain Dustin Brown as well as Kopitar and Justin Williams as well will make life easier as well. As for the party boy talk and allegations that are trying to follow him to California, Richards is doing his part to move on from that and focus on Kings hockey. The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott finds out that Richards is still smarting from all that.
Richards, who planned to fly back East on Thursday, said he looked forward to having a lower profile here. He said he didn’t know why he was traded but downplayed a recent Philadelphia Daily News story in which two unnamed Flyers said his hard partying was a factor.
“It’s tough sometimes seeing these articles or hearing some things that are said when you know that they aren’t true,” he said. “It’s almost mentally draining when you keep having to back your story up off the ice, defending yourself when people say things that aren’t really correct.”
Learning his lesson from these stories, true or not, should only help Richards stay intense and focused in L.A. Having Richards play in the Western Conference, where the play is a bit more physical and demanding thanks to travel and competition level, should help Richards look like one of the top centers in the game once again.
His physical play and scoring ability in Philadelphia helped set him apart in the East, but in the West he should thrive going up against other similar players. While his play on the ice will determine how he’s perceived, this change of scenery for Richards could prove to be the best thing for his career.
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