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Under Pressure: Mike Richards

Aug 1, 2014, 8:45 AM EST

Mike Richards Getty Images

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Los Angeles Kings, we pick … center Mike Richards.

Sometimes a player is judged based on more than just the goals, assists and points he puts up. Even beyond the simplest numbers, there are facts and figures that matter more and more when it comes to forming opinions, and few things can drive feedback down quite like an athlete whose play doesn’t seem to match his pay. Much like Roberto Luongo (during his time with Vancouver in particular), Richards’ contract carries an expensive price tag ($5.75 million per season for a guy seemingly penciled-in for the third line?) and scary term (the deal expires after 2019-20), thus inspiring terms like “anchor” and “albatross.”

The defending champions are designed so near-immaculately that the 29-year-old’s deal sticks out like a sore thumb; add that to the a rejected opportunity to get out of it and every underwhelming Richards shift will only frustrate a subset of fans that much more.

With all apologies to Jonathan Quick (the other Kings player with a polarizing contract) and Justin Williams (a guy who might get squeezed out after this upcoming contract year), Richards is an easy choice for this feature.

The uncomfortable thing is that he’s highly unlikely to impress anyone expecting the 70+ point production of his peak years in 2007-08 (75 points) and 2008-09 (80). Really, his best chance of appeasing anyone is to appeal to hardcore fans and/or those who are more likely to empathize with his challenging situation.

Ideally, he can at least be more of an asset as a defensive forward with some upside. As this intensive study at Jewels from the Crown shows, his underlying numbers aren’t as bad as you might think when placed in the proper perspective, so maybe it’s a matter of adjusting expectations.

People forget that the Kings would have to pay Richards plus another player to take his place, so a buyout isn’t as cut-and-dried as it may seem. Still, it’s simply more fun to hammer on this situation in the simplest of terms.

As far as his team is concerned, Richards can be useful if he ups his offensive production a bit and continues to carry a heavy defensive workload for the Kings. Will he be valuable enough to justify that $5.75 million? It’s difficult to imagine such a scenario, which might miss the point.

That said, more than a few people will expect more than what Richards is probably capable of providing, so expect him to be in some high-pressure situations next season.

  1. bodallasss - Aug 1, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Personally I would love to have richards on my team. Regardless of whatever numbers he puts up he’s a guy who can play on your first line or your fourth line. On the powerplay or the penalty kill. Its that kind of durability that wins championships. The kings would have been fools to buy him out. Having Mike Richards on your hockey team instantly makes you tougher, deeper, and harder to play against.

  2. erbaker67 - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I agree 100%. Also, if they did buy him out, who can the Kings bring in that will bring that toughness and durability. As you said, I would want him on my team. Is 5.75 really that bad if the cap keeps going up?

  3. patthehockeyfan - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    “Still, it’s simply more fun to hammer on this situation in the simplest of terms.”

    Fun? For whom, O’Brien?

    Sorry, guy. But, what a crappy article. Is it a coincidence that it appears the day Richards has the Cup in his hometown? And, on the day PHT spotlights the team?

    Albatross. Anchor. One bad regular season. ONE! He’s a bum! Let’s throw him to the wolves!

    It’s good to see that you’re smarter than Dean Lombardi, O’Brien.

    • anthj99 - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:50 PM

      This ‘article’ or blog made me feel like I was reading hockeybuzz.

  4. scout202sport - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    His contract #’s are massive compared to his individual stats. However, everything has gone right for the Kings so why mess up a good thing. He’s a proven winner and makes the people around him better. I really admire DL for keeping him and not gambling on someone else who might,or might not help the team win.

  5. flyingswede - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    He himself said he needed to come into this season in better shape than last, I expect him to have more of a jump in his skating and stories like this will add to his fire.

  6. phtjoey - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    i’m a fan of richards, and it’s difficult to criticize lombardi and the kings organization for not buying him out. i always believed in moving players when they are on the downside of their peak. i think richards is there because at 29 years old his foot speed is slow and will get slower. can they get 1 or 2 more good years out him? kings are betting on it, and hopefully it works out for all parties.

  7. 19to77 - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    I feel like we’ll be reading some version of this article every offseason until his contract expires… but to quote Dean Lombardi himself, without Richards they wouldn’t have won that first Cup. Maybe it burns them later. Hell, it runs ’till 2020. It almost certainly will. But they won two Cups with Richards playing important roles. Whatever else happens, it’s already worth it and always will be. Two Cups. The first two of the franchise. End of story.

  8. i1theinternet - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    Considering guys like Dave Bolland and Brooks Orpik each got 5 years @ $5.5m AAV on the UFA market this summer, 6 years @ $5.75m cap hit (and an average salary that will actually be lower than that going forward) for a guy who can play on any line and has been a part of 2 Cup runs in the last 3 years doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.

    http://capgeek.com/player/741

  9. terrier92 - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    The kid had a very strong playoff performance. May not have put up big numbers but played a very solid two way game and set up some great scoring opportunities. Was very noticeable in a positive way. BTW not a fan boy comment just my observation

  10. kodyknight2821 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Won’t be surprised when Marc Andre Fleury is the next player who is “on pressure”

  11. kodyknight2821 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Won’t be surprised when Marc Andre Fleury is the next player who is “on pressure”

  12. kodyknight2821 - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Under*

  13. nyking1963 - Aug 1, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Quick’s. contract is polarizing?
    Do you just make things up as you go along?
    Quick’s AAV is less than several other goalies in the NHL and he’s won 2 cups. Just plain silly.
    As for Richards, his play in the playoffs was reason enough to keep him.

  14. ludacrish05 - Aug 2, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Really? Him and his team just won another Stanley cup… Article makes no sense

  15. paulerhythm - Aug 2, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    With the cap rising year after year, 5.75M is very reasonable for a player like Mike Richards. He’s a winner and does everything ask of him. He plays the PP, PK, centers the 2nd to the 4th line, is a great face off man, is defensive and just a great character guy. He’s well worth the 5.75M!

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