After today’s morning skate and yet another line jumbling putting Brad Richards on the fourth line, coach Joel Quenneville remarked “It really doesn’t matter what line he’s on. We expect consistency”.
Fortunately for Quenneville, there are a few numbers out there that Richards has accrued to this point in the season that might indicate just what kind of player he’s getting.
58.3%, 65.54, +50
These numbers are Brad Richards’ even strength Corsi share and CorsiFor per 60 minutes of even strength ice time, both of which are career highs alongside a net difference of +50 in shot attempts while on ice. Compare that to a 51.29% share, 61.12 CF/60 and a net +10 for #2 center for life Andrew Shaw. Combining this information with Richards’ putrid 44.8% faceoff win rate shows that not only has he been good at keeping the puck, but also has been doing so in spite of not starting with it.
Above are Richards’ points per 60 minutes at even strength, and then overall. To put these in perspective, these are the best numbers Richards has posted since his last year in Dallas, which saw him put up 2.51 and 2.98 points per game in the same situations, leading him to score 77 points and make him the prize of that summer’s free agent market.
The most ice time Richards has spent with any one skater at even strength has been Bryan Bickell, and the above number is only about 40% of Richards’ overall total of 160 minutes during those situations. Relatively speaking only one of the six players who have spent the most time on the ice with Richards has been a forward, which speaks to the rotating cast of wingers he’s been in between. And a closer look at chart in the link provided shows that his “With Or Without You” numbers are mostly consistent across the board, some slightly better without him, some slightly worse, but no wild variance to suggest Richards being carried by anyone else, which is emphasized by just how little he has played with the same group of forwards.
Patrick Sharp and Brad Richards’ share of possession for the 43:18 they played together 5v5 prior to Sharp’s injury. It’s almost like when these two proven scorers both over the age of thirty spoke of their chemistry in training camp they had an idea of what they were talking about.
Now, even in spite of presenting all of these numbers, a counter argument could be made that Quenneville is putting Richards in the right positions to succeed and is keeping him fresh by playing him less at even strength than even Michal Handzus played on average last year (seriously). But even if that’s accepted as being true, Richards’ numbers relative to Shaw certainly warrant him getting more than a period’s worth of #2 center wingers and deployment, and given his performance this year even when compared to his pedigree over his career, he’s certainly earned it.