The shock is still wearing off on Philly fans after Thursday’s franchise-altering trades. While many fans were not surprised with the Carter trade to Columbus, captain Mike Richards was traded less than an hour later to the Los Angeles Kings. Being a big Richie fan and realizing that his t-shirt and jersey joins my Gagne one (and possibly my Carcillo shirt), it was a hard pill to swallow. Not to mention that I was receiving all this news on my phone because I was in the parking lot at the Susquehanna Bank Center (Tweeter/E-Center) hanging out with my fellow Parrotheads getting ready for a Jimmy Buffett concert. I was more shocked than anything, realizing that by trading BOTH Richards and Carter, the Flyers shipped their two first round picks from the 2003 draft that have been the makeup for the future of the franchise for years. However, as much as I liked Richards, I understand the move and we got a good return for the trade. LA gets a top-six center that can play anywhere and will love partying in their town (had to slip that in). We get a great prospect in Brayden Schenn, and some grit on our back end with Wayne Simmonds likely filling a 3rd line role this upcoming season.
Jeff Carter’s trade brought a good return too, with Voracek filling a much needed void at winger and getting the 8th overall pick to draft a good two-way center. Even with the result of the trade, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. I was looking forward to seeing Richie captain a few Cups during his time here. I had visions of a grizzled Mike Richards in his early to mid-30s with salt and pepper in his playoff beard laying hits and scoring shorthanded goals to win a Stanley Cup. It sucks, but things happen when you get swept in the playoffs after expectations are high. While there are plenty of reasons to miss Mike Richards when hockey rolls around next fall, with the help of my memory and Youtube, here are my top five.
1. Leading with Heart; “The Shift”
The media had field days over Mike Richards’ apparent lack of control over the locker room and not being vocal enough. That wasn’t his style, and he used his play to lead by example. While I saw a fire missing from Richards this year when he was scoring (probably due to his injury), you can’t judge a guy from one season. Who will ever forget “The Shift”?
I recounted this shift in my post-game post (lame pun) when the Flyers went on to win that game and clinch the conference. What more could you ask from the guy then? He literally took the will out of the Canadiens on their powerplay and the Flyers cruised with 3 more goals to win the game 4-2. If that never happened, we could have been heading to Montreal for a Game 6 and who knows what could have happened. Remember when he broke Krejci’s wrist and the tide turned in the Flyers’ favor the following game for the biggest comeback in franchise history?
Mike Richards has his wrinkles and faults like other players, but I don’t think it is ever fair to question the guy’s heart.
2. Never Backing Down; Competition with Crosby
Crosby’s rise to NHL stardom revitalized the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise after coming close to being sold to another city/league. Richards played with Crosby in juniors, and he has stated before that he never really liked him. The rivalry with the Penguins grew fast within a few seasons and it was always highlighted with Richards vs. Crosby. We know Crosby scores more and has more raw talent, but the intangibles like hard work and physicality that made Richards our guy made him a worthy rival to Crosby. Sadly, we never got to see the two square off in a traditional hockey fight… But they did have some words and slashes during the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals.
Richards was always a competitor and would go at it with anyone in order to spark his team. He went at it with star forward Alexander Ovechkin a few times, including his first NHL fight against him during the 2006 pre-season. And then he fought that dirty devil Matt Cooke.
3. Scoring; Powerplay Wiz
I’ll never forget my attendance at the 2009-2010 home opener where he scored a hat trick in the second period against the Capitals. While he would never be confused with a Sedin or Malkin with his point scoring, he amassed 349 points in six NHL seasons with the Flyers, including 2006-2007 when his season was shortened due to injury. And he also scored 50 points in 63 career playoff games with the orange and black, which isn’t too bad for the guy who did as much defensive work as anyone else. His first playoff goal is probably his most memorable, scoring on a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway.
4. Penalty Kill
One of the most dangerous guys to give the puck to while on the powerplay, that’s for sure. He holds the record for most 5-on-3 shorthanded goals with three. And he broke the record against the Rangers, how sweet it was.
Search Mike Richards shorthanded goal on Youtube and you get 75 results. Not saying he has that many, he has 23. But 23 shorthanded goals in six seasons AIN’T BAD at all. Besides scoring goals on the PK, he was a key forward in all of our defensive zone schemes and blocked shots with the best of them. He provided a scoring threat while shutting down the league’s top powerplay units. It’s no mistake that he was one of our elements in being top of the league in penalty-killing for a few seasons. It takes heart and determination to play on the penalty kill and powerplay every game while playing first line minutes, and it was just another thing Richie did while he was here. They’re going to love him in LA.
5. Just Being Plain Awesome
A copout for a fifth reason? Maybe. But there were times that Richie just pissed awesomeness and no one was complaining about his faults as young captain growing into his job. There are a lot of reasons why I loved Mike Richards in his time here, but my man crush on him wasn’t limited to how many points he put out every night. He was the prototypical Flyer in the way he carried himself on the ice. He let his playing do the talking, and his swagger out there was just enough to get under players’ skin when playing. He got the short end of the stick this year between getting over-assessed in penalties in the playoffs and was goaded by many fans for his play/presence this year. But now he’s moving on to LA, and I hope people realize how much he helped this team in his time here.
How about when he out-hustled the Hawks in the Finals in Game 4?
When he hit David Booth?
How about Colin White?
And here’s a small montage of some of his best footage made last summer:
Plain and simple. Mike Richards was a great Flyer, a good captain, and he will be missed by many. He’ll be back in the Wells Fargo Center shortly into the regular season as the Flyers host the Kings on October 15th. We’ll miss you Richie, have fun kicking ass with Handzus over on the West Coast.