The Los Angeles Kings will head into the 2013-14 season with high expectations after a strong followup to their championship campaign that saw them reach the Western Conference Finals, much better than their champion predecessors in recent years. They have one of the top cores in the league in place, play in a defensive oriented system, and are as deep as anyone in the league.
Right in the middle of all of the reasons to like the Kings as a Stanley Cup title contender once again this season is Mike Richards. Heading into his third full season with the club, this might just be Richards’ best with the team yet. With a couple of seasons of inconsistency, after a year to adjust in 2011-12, followed by a lockout-shortened year, Richards has a chance to put together a strong year for the Kings in 2013-14.
Richards has been a player that the Kings have rolled out in every situation in his time with the team. He’s a member of this team’s core, and a strong option as a second line center behind Anze Kopitar. He was sixth in minutes overall as far as forwards are concerned, fourth among forwards in power play minutes, and the Kings don’t hesitate to roll him out on the penalty kill either.
What you get from Richards isn’t a mystery. He’s a solid two-way center capable of putting up points in the right situation. Heading into the 2013-14 season, there’s a reason that Richards could be heading into his best year as a member of the Kings. He might not hit 80 points again, but he’s capable of getting in that neighborhood.
When the 2013-14 season gets underway, Richards will be playing between Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli, at least to start the year. Carter looks primed to return to his 40-goal scoring ways after a brilliant season, and Toffoli is a pure offensive talent. Those players on either side of him bodes extremely well for Richards as the season draws near.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Kings get out of Richards. He hasn’t been completely healthy in his time in Hollywood, which is part of the reason that he’s disappeared for stretches. With the offensive talent book-ending his line, though, there’s no reason to think that something like a 70-point season couldn’t be in the cards for Mike Richards in 2013-14.