Whether you love him or hate him, Brad Richards is a key piece for the New York Rangers. When he is playing well, he makes the Rangers a complete team with great depth down the middle. He also helps their power play tremendously. But when he is struggling, the Rangers struggle, especially on the power play.
Richards was the whipping boy last season for most Rangers fans. He came into the lockout-shortened season out of shape and got off to a slow start. He blew a chance to play with stars like Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik. He ended up being benched for the Rangers’ last two playoff games.
Many people speculated that the Rangers were going to buy out Richards. Glen Sather chose to hang on to the former Conn Smythe winner. Richards has responded well under coach Alain Vigneault. He reached the 20-goal plateau for the second time in three seasons as a member of the Rangers.
Richards has still had his ups and downs this year. He goes through long stretches where he doesn’t score goals and makes bad decisions. When he isn’t scoring, he also makes poor decisions on the power play.
Richards isn’t going to be relied upon to be the player who once scored 91 points in two separate seasons. He is going to be asked to be a secondary scorer, but still must put up points. His greatest contribution must come as the quarterback on the power play. The Rangers are going to face a tough path if they expect to go far in the playoffs. If Richards is hot going into the playoffs, it will make the Rangers a real threat. He is the key to any deep playoff run.