I can't say that I am a critic of Brad Richards' play.
But I can't say I'm a fan yet, either.
My biggest problem with trying to define what Richards is to the Stars is that nobody really knows.
We have seen glimpses here and there, but just not enough to convince us that he is one of the most important players on the team.
And maybe that will come this year.
Richards joined the team in a 2008 trade, and was only so-so in the regular season. He was still battling the effects of mono and trying to fit into a whole new team, a whole new conference, a whole new way of life. He was very good in the playoffs (with 3-12_15 in 18 games), but still not the defining player on the Stars. Last season, he was very good once again on a team that struggled, but he just never seemed to wow.
And that's where I am probably too critical. Richards in 68 regular season games in Dallas in which he was not under the best conditions, still had 18 goals and 41 assists for 59 points. He is a 70-point player in a normal regular season (and that has been fairly rare in Dallas over the past five or six years). The team clearly missed him when he first broke his right wrist in February and then his left in March.
He is a very good player. He is a very quiet, consistent player who makes your team better
But he makes $7.8 million, and I can't seem to get past that point.
In a salary cap world, Richards has one of the highest cap hits in the NHL. On a Stars team on a budget, Richards takes up more than 17 percent of the expected $45 million payroll. It's not his fault, obviously. He signed the deal with Tampa Bay a few years back, and the Stars gladly accepted his contract when they traded for him. But it's still a hurdle I have to clear in my mind.
I think it's also a hurdle Richards has to get over. He still is trying to find his place on this team, and the injuries of last season didn't help. With a new coaching staff and new administration, expect Richards to be a more featured player this season. While Mike Ribeiro still will be the leading playmaker, and will probably still get the top offensive minutes, Richards should get more time and more responsibility. With Sergei Zubov playing in Russia, I honestly believe Richards will take over and run the power play from the point.
He's done it in Tampa Bay, and he's the best option the Stars have right now.
I also think that if he is on a line with players like Loui Eriksson and Steve Ott, Richards will be used a great deal as a checker against the other team's top line. That should give him more ice time in more critical situations.
In that sense, I think it should be an exciting season for Richards and an exciting season for fans who still aren't sure what to think of him.
I believe Marc Crawford will run an up-tempo system. I believe he will lean heavily upon on his star players. And both should help Brad Richards this season.