NAME: Mike Richards
Regular Season Statistics: 82 Games Played – 31 Goals, 31 Assists, 62 Points. -2
Analysis: Where to begin with the regular season version of Mike Richards? The captain of this Flyers team showed his true colors as the season came down to the final stretch, but until he picked his game up when it mattered, plenty of fans – myself included – were looking at Richards as lacking what it took to captain this squad. There are some qualities of Richards that go overlooked amidst the criticism, however. He did compete in all 82 regular season games, at least giving the Flyers a consistent captain on the ice for the duration of the regular season. Richards also plays in a way, when he’s at the top of his game, that is reminiscent of a certain former Flyers captain named Clarke used to play back in his heyday. By that, of course, I mean Richie disregards his body and is willing to make whatever type of sacrifice it takes in order for his team to win. Another pretty solid aspect to Richards’ season was his 31 goal output, the highest of his National Hockey League career. If it weren’t for questions of motivation and work ethic from time to time, Richards would be on that Clarke-type level in the minds of Flyers fans. However, as he picked up another Bobby Clarke Trophy during the team award ceremony, Richards is quickly showing that his old reputation is merely that and he is progressing forward nicely as a member of this team.
Postseason Statistics: 23 Games Played – 7 Goals, 16 Assists, 23 Points. -1
Analysis: Remember all those questions we had about Mike Richards in the regular season, and even questions based off last seasons performance in the postseason for #18? Remember when we weren’t entirely sure if Richie could carry the load? Well, the captain proved us all wrong – myself, especially – en route to one of the more sensational Flyers postseasons in team history. Richards averaged a point a game as he became only the second Flyers captain (Eric Lindros, 1997) in the past two decades to lead the Orange and Black to an Eastern Conference title. In doing so, Richards created perhaps one of the best memories in Flyers postseason history, when he single-handedly destroyed Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final to set up a goal that would tie the game at one a piece, and set the path for the Flyers to steamroll Montreal and move on to the Stanley Cup Final. It was a historical postseason for the Flyers and their fans, and Mike Richards was as big a part of it as anything.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Reasoning: The lone reason for the “-” is due to the fact that Richards had some questions about his determination frequently during the regular season. His postseason performance was something of the folklore variety and he certainly established himself as perhaps the most essential key to the core of the Flyers for years to come. He showed everyone during this postseason that he can be “the guy” in Philadelphia and that he most certainly can bring it every night to the rink. I personally was a hater of Mike Richards until the series against New Jersey. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate what he did for the Flyers, I just didn’t feel like his heart was totally in it to justify him wearing the “C”. Well, about five minutes into Game One of the New Jersey series, my mind was changed. Instead of a guy that seemed to be lollygagging behind the play and just going through the motions, I saw a player who was simply not going to let his team lose and do whatever it takes to make sure his squad got a very important win on the road. For me, that told me all I needed to know about the maturation of Mike Richards. That, of course, was simply: we have got ourselves a captain.