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Brad Richards is the Rangers’ X-factor

Aug 27, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT

Brad Richards Getty Images

To call last season a rough one for Brad Richards would be an understatement.

In just his second season into a nine-year contract with the New York Rangers, he was logging time on their third and fourth lines while going through a season-long slump. On top of that, he wound up being a healthy scratch in the playoffs.

The Rangers thought that reuniting him with his former head coach in Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, would give them the No. 1 center they’d been looking for since Mark Messier hung it up. Instead, Tortorella was fired after last season and Richards was nearly a compliance buyout.

Now, Richards heads into the new season with new lease on life after avoiding a buyout.  Another former coach of his, Alain Vigneault who worked with him in Prince Edward Island (see Elliotte Friedman’s No. 3 thought here), joins the fold with the dream of sparking a Rangers offense that went dormant under Tortorella.

With that promise and those hopes, Richards becomes the team’s major X-factor.

If Richards can find his offensive game again, like he had in his first season in New York where he had 66 points, the 33-year-old may find the buyout talk to be just an ugly moment gone by. After all, playing alongside Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan has its benefits and Richards can still be productive.

Then again…

If last season’s disaster was the first sign of his skills heading down the mountain and the Rangers are staring right into a similar situation that they had with Chris Drury, GM Glen Sather will take his lumps like a tomato can in a prize fight.

Signing a high-priced free agent to play for and have chemistry with a coach you fired two years into his deal won’t look good on anyone, especially with a team that has more than a few big re-signings left to make.

If Richards can’t find his stride under Vigneault this season, he’s almost assuredly going to be a compliance buyout next summer. If he makes it and the Rangers push for a Stanley Cup, everyone wins. If not, it’s likely Richards who loses out.

  1. villi5ed - Aug 27, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    The reality is that even if Richards has a career year, the chances he will be bought out next summer are asrtonomically high. The hit of his remaining contract is so onerous that the NYR will have little choice if they want to win a Cup in the four or so seasons that Lundqvist is likely to be all-world. And if God forbid Richards gets hurt and is therefore unable to be bought out next June? The franchise will be in free fall for a long time to come.

    • stepanup - Aug 27, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      Agreed, injury is the only way Richards isn’t bought out. I shudder at the thought.

  2. 19to77 - Aug 27, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    I don’t see why people are calling last year a “disaster” for Richards. In a full 82-game season his scoring pace works out to 58 points. Is it good production from a guy with his salary? No, but if that’s a “disaster” then so was his first season as a Ranger. Only 66 points, not much of a difference – and Torts wasn’t playing him in the bottom six at all that year.

    • gospitfires - Aug 27, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      you cant just do that and say this is what he would have. he was declining towards the end of last season and was benched in the playoffs for his inability to skate and play D. If you cant skate in this league anymore, your not gonna be in the league very long.

  3. thecheeman - Aug 27, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    “Brad Richards is the Rangers X-Factor”

    Hardly. Chris Kreider is.

    If you play Richards on the first line and the power play you’ll squeeze 50 points out of his lifeless corpse but he’s neither physical or fast so it’s going to hurt the team’s overall identity.

    If Vigneault gets a full training camp with a weapon like Kreider, which in fairness to Torts he never did, that’s clearly your X-Factor. Teams have to plan around him. Nobody will be planning their game around Richards’ shifts next year.

    • hockey412 - Aug 27, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Teams have to plan around him. Unless you are Brooks Orpik. Then you plan right through the boy.

  4. malvaren18 - Aug 27, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    This guy would fit perfect with the Edmonton Oilers

  5. LampyB - Aug 27, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    Agreed. He tanked when it counted most last season. Two seasons ago he pulled decent points, but was hot and cold all season long…after having a really slow start.

    Rangers need to dump this guy, he’ll only pull points on a top line, and his numbers are inflated because of his linemates. Just not worth it…

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  5. N. Backstrom (1156)