I think this warrants a separate discussion. A disclaimer: I was wary about the prospect of signing Richards in the spring due to his concussion, but was eventually won over and consider his signing a terrific contract.
Now let's try to assess how he compares to the other centers in today's NHL. The top 20 point getters of past season are pasted below.
GP G A P
1 Henrik Sedin VAN C 82 19 75 94
2 Steven Stamkos TBL C 82 45 46 91
3 Brad Richards DAL C 72 28 49 77
4 Eric Staal CAR C 81 33 43 76
5 Ryan Getzlaf ANA C 67 19 57 76
6 Jonathan Toews CHI C 80 32 44 76
7 Ryan Kesler VAN C 82 41 32 73
8 Anze Kopitar LAK C 75 25 48 73
9 Mike Ribeiro DAL C 82 19 52 71
10 Joe Thornton SJS C 80 21 49 70
11 John Tavares NYI C 79 29 38 67
12 Matt Duchene COL C 80 27 40 67
13 Joe Pavelski SJS C 74 20 46 66
14 Jeff Carter PHI C 80 36 30 66
15 Sidney Crosby PIT C 41 32 34 66
16 Mike Richards PHI C 81 23 43 66
17 Nicklas Backstrom WSH C 77 18 47 65
18 Jeff Skinner CAR C 82 31 32 63
19 David Krejci BOS C 75 13 49 62
20 Mikko Koivu MIN C 71 17 45 62
Out of the top 20, only 5 averaged above a PPG: Crosby, Sedin, Stamkos, Getzlaf, Richards. (Datsyuk was above a PPG as well but came in at # 21, so 6 centers at a PPG or above.)
Other established career or borderline career PPG players in Richards' mold: Malkin, Thornton, Staal, Kopitar, Backstrom, Spezza.
One could argue that the above constitute the top 12 centers in the game. Of course, you can make a case for Towes, Kessler or Stastny in favor of someone like Spezza, for instance, but on the whole it seems like a fairly complete list. Let me know if I missed someone.
Now, where does Richards fit for you? For the sake of a practical argument let's focus on production over the next 4-5 years. For me, the list would be:
Crosby, Malkin, Datsyuk, Stamkos, Getzlaf, Richards. In that order. To me, Richards is on par with the likes of Kopitar and Towes -- a bona fide No. 1 center, but a notch below the truly elite players like Crosby or Datsyuk. And yes, I'm taking playoff production into consideration, which is why I would take Richards over Sedin or Thornton, every time.
Right on par with Backstrom, Lecavalier, E.Staal, Getzlaf, Briere, Stamkos, Zetterberg. Not with the elites that are well over a PPG, but right on the cusp.
The one stat that jumped out at me from that screen was his +/-. I know it's a contested stat, but his -61 is by far the lowest of anyone on that list. Digging a bit deeper, 46 out of those 61 came in the span of two seasons (2006-2008) on a terrible Tampa team.
Physically weak in his own end, struggles at getting the puck up ice, but has top 5 offensive instincts, maybe even top 3 (behind Sid and Malkin). Very good shot. Good PP work.
It depends and what his team needs. On a weaker team, BR can be a non factor for 60 minutes save like a couple of nifty plays. In that regard he is behind plenty of centers who is more of a force every shift; gets his team up ice, can wear a elite center on the other team down etc. That's not Brad Richards. He ranks low in that regard. But for a team like ours who need a PP and someone who can make 25-30 goal scores take another step -- he is more important.
Not on Crosby, Sedin or Stamkos level, but right in the mix with everyone else.
I have a problem putting Sedin ahead and calling him elite (as some are - not saying you) since he's neither clutch nor elite and Brad is clearly clutch so I take him over Sedin every time.
Performing when it counts is a much more important consideration than PPG stats alone. The Sedin's are stat compilers and were absent for much of playoffs - especially at crunch time. Also see Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and the value of clutch vs. regular season stat compilers given their ultimate worth in Philly.
So as a whole Brad is way up there as a center. He's basically a borderline PPG player and a Cup MVP - that puts him in rare territory behind very few guys - Crosby, Datsyuk (who is a FAR better player than Sedin and I probably take him over Crosby as an overall player), and Getzslaf (another stud center who delivered in the playoffs and beats on Sedin in a head to head setting).
Id say at center there is Crosby at #1, and then everyone else.
IMHO Hes right on par with the rest, but, obviously, older than some.
I don't really see how Crosby is in a tier of his own above Stamkos and Sedin, particularly Stamkos because you can't play the "Crosby's linemmates aren't that good" card when Stamkos would play with Downie and Purcell for half the season. Are you including endorsement deals or something?
How the hell is B Richards ahead of Staal? I'd also put Toews and Kesler ahead but I can understand how a 15 year old looking at stats wouldn't.
The whole 5,6,7,8,9,10,11, and 12 rankings are a giant cluster**** -- the difference between these players are marginal at best.
It's also pretty hard to rank Toews. He had his first real "star" offensive season this year; first year breaking 70. He does a lot of things that don't show up on paper, obviously. When he consistently puts up 70-80 points, he should definitely be ranked a bit higher, but it's early. Amazing player, still.
As for Kesler, that's a different story. I don't think he'd be nearly as successful carrying a team offensively, as opposed to the Sedins dealing with the opposing team's #1 defensive units.
Also, the last bit is unecessary.
Last edited by Brian Boyle: 07-02-2011 at 07:12 PM.