This time last year, Mike Richards was the NHL’s pariah.
At the dawn of 2016, signed by the Capitals, he became Brian MacLellan’s low-risk experiment.
And today he is an inspiration, a story to tell your kids: Everybody falls down sometimes; the trick is to get back up.
|12.2||time on ice per game|
|51.8||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|47.1||5v5 goal percentage|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2015-16 season. A short description of each chart:
Only 47.1 percent of goals (+8 / -9) during Mike Richards’ 5-on-5 shifts belonged to the Capitals. That is disappointing and mostly the fault of the Caps’ lowly 4.8 on-ice shooting percentage.
And that is the only downer I can summon about Mike Richards’ 2015-16 season. Everything else, as far as I’m concerned, was a goddamn triumph. Even if he didn’t see success according to the scoreboard, Richards’ comeback season was inspiring. It’s a memory I’ll treasure.
Early in the new year, the Capitals signed Richards, formerly of the Kings (and formerly formerly of the Flyers) to a reclamation contract. Richards’ history with drug abuse loomed over the deal, and then it evaporated completely.
Ten days later, Richards was taking shifts. He stabilized a wobbly bottom line with his decision-making, going as far as to pull Tom Wilson up from the realm of disaster (46% possession) into the realm of somewhat mitigated disaster (48%). After the deadline, paired with Daniel Winnik, the Caps had an exceptionally strong bottom line.
But he just couldn’t score. Even by the standards of Richards’ last few seasons, five years after he dropped out of the 20-plus goal club, Richard’s paltry 2 goals in 39 games (with 4.3 percent individual shooting) was disappointing.
It was just finishing though; Richards generated chances on pace with other (non-Kuznetsov) centers, but got burned on turning those chances into goals.
If the Caps front office imagined Richards as a potential riser, a guy who could step into the scoring lines and give them some offensive bite, then this was signing was a miss.
But in every other possible way, I’m so happy about Mike Richards I could throw up. And only a small amount of that joy is based on fancy stats. Bigger to me is the idea that giving second chances is both a moral good and a good idea.
Almost one year ago, Richards was toxic, thrown to the curb by his former employer. Today he’s an unrestricted free agent who has proved his mettle, resilience, and character.
And he did it in a Washington uniform. Whatever happens next for Mike Richards, I’ll always grateful for that.
What’s next for Mike Richards? Is he due for a raise? And where?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
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