New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game One

I understand that Brad Richards has not played well for the Rangers in the eyes of John Tortorella. There’s a reason he’s been demoted and given minimal minutes. But now it’s come to this:

With this move, we’re left to believe one or a couple of a few things about the well-compensated captain’s situation:

A) John Tortorella is right right in his assessment that the Rangers are better served with Brad Richards not playing at all. They’re better off with Arron Asham, or Mats Zuccarello or whoever they decide is more deserving than him.

B) John Tortorella is right that he’s not playing well, but wrong in healthy scratching him because he’s at least better than whichever 12th forward you plug in for him.

C) John Tortorella is entirely wrong (and has likely hurt the play of Richards, or at least the team, with his management of him).

D) John Tortorella likes attention.

Personally, I subscribe to B. I also subscribe to C and D, though. “Over-coaching” is a word that springs to mind.

The point that I made on the podcast about Richards was pretty basic: if you’re John Tortorella, you either believe that Brad Richards is a good NHL player playing poorly, in which case you should play him because good players who’ve been playing badly will have an over-correction of sort to get back to their average (or at least will play closer to how they normally do),


You believe the player playing badly is just a bad hockey player, in which case this “bad” is normal and you can expect to see more of the same and therefore no correction.

Brad Richards is not a “bad” hockey player. Quite good, in fact.

If Richards has been playing bad (it’s tough to tell given his usage of late, tough to get into a game as a skill guy playing eight minutes), then it’s only a matter of time before he has a good game. By putting him in the stands, you avoid getting the guy’s bounce-back games, piss him off in the process, and in Tortorella’s case, probably make one of your last Become The Center of Attention moves of your time with the Rangers.

I think making him a healthy scratch is intentionally fielding a lesser line-up, which is putting yourself ahead of the team as coach, which is selfish and wrong.

And you?

Comments (28)

  1. I bet Gaborik is happy as hell that he got shipped out of there, and when Richards gets bought out this summer, resigned by another team for a reasonable cap on a short term contract, he’ll be just as happy to be out of there as well.

    • There’s no way they buy out Richards. Trade, maybe, but I doubt it. Odds are Torts is done (if they lose this next game) and that a new relationship will start with the new coach. First liners aren’t easy to replace.

      • You wouldn’t expect them to bench him either, but they did. And who is going to trade for Richards when they can wait for a buyout and get him for less time and less money. Rangers either keep him or buy him out. Rangers either expect him to bounce back, or they don’t.

  2. I think Richards is good hockey player whose been playing bad all year. Half of his goals this year essentially came in garbage time of the season. I’d rather have Stepan and Brassard centering my top two lines and since Clowe is apparently healthy enough to play again he is the better option for a fourth liner than Richards.

  3. Blow the team up, time for a rebuild. Lol. Start with sather, torts, richards, and go down the line trying to get some younger guys. Maybe we can find a coach, or assistant coach, or staff member/assistant to try and fix out PP, because after YEARS of not getting things to work, a larger change is required.

    • I see this team as already pretty young. You’ve got 2 young and talented centers, and a few solid wing players as well. not to mention a, when healthy, d-core. “blowing the team up” is such an overused and innappropriate phrase. There is also some talent in the bottom six, with a solid line forming of lugs in dorsett-boyle-pyatt.

  4. B) John Tortorella is right that he’s not playing well, but wrong in healthy scratching him because he’s at least better than whichever 12th forward you plug in for him.

    Option B. I get bringing in Haley, Powe, Newburry, and re-inserting Clowe. The Rangers need passion and have to find a way to match up against Bostons big guys. They’re getting beat along the boards constantly.
    I believe Asham is a healthy scratch as well. It’s his job to play tough and win those board battles. And he hasn’t.
    But Richards? Cmon Torts? You need his playmaking ability and potential scoring touch.

    Torts will be deemed Genius or Clown by the end of the night.
    He’ll unfortunately get fired or Rangers win out this series. Dominate the Pens, and then bring home the Cup. Tortorella gets a statue outside MSG, and Richards gets PO MVP.

    • It’s interesting that everyone always wants to bulk up to play the Bruins, I’ve always thought that the best way to beat a team like the Bruins is to be fast, skilled, and disciplined, the idea being that you try to exploit their weaknesses rather than trying to beat them at their strengths. Unfortunately, the NHL officials often decide ahead of time that being disciplined against the Bruins isn’t going to be an effective strategy, but that’s another issue.

  5. ” we’re left to believe one or a couple of a few things about the well-compensated captain’s situation”

    Wears an A, not the C.

  6. Two things, for me, come to mind.
    First, one downside to Tortorella’s famous honesty with players seems to be that he also takes stuff a bit personally, which often leads to press conferences where he throws a player under the bus in a way that seems pretty spiteful. His little tantrum about Hagelin on the PP the other night is another example. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s angry that Richards hasn’t stepped up his game after sliding down the depth chart, and his healthy scratching in an elimination game in the second round on home ice is largely just Torts being a jerk and taking a swing at Richards instead of focusing 100% on the quality of his line-up. Did ripping Hagelin’s PP skills do anything to help his team? Maybe, but I’m gonna guess ‘no’. Put the Richards healthy scratch in the same column.

    Second, it’s possible that he’s trying to reduce the odds of getting fired this summer for the impending 2nd round sweep. Torts is also a guy with a reputation of being a good coach that often ‘loses the dressing room’, since his style doesn’t mix well with a bad season or two. Scratching an expensive, top-6 guy like Richards in a key game is good PR if you’re a coach on the chopping block. It points the finger at Richards, obviously, but it also points the finger at the GM which is particularly important for a team that made several significant trades in the past 2-3 years.

    • scratching richards just to protect his own back seems a bit petty and unprofessional, especially at this level. With that said, we are discussing John Tortorella

  7. For all the offence the guy brings, Richards is terrible defensively. Take a look at his +/- over his career: god awful! His best year, the year he had 91 points with Dallas he was a -12. What does that tell you? If he’s not scoring he’s a liability…and in fact he’s a liability even when he IS scoring. He’s a -3 so far in these playoffs, second-worst on the team.

    I’d be willing to bet the move to NYC and the ridiculous $$ (his full salary this season, if it had been the full schedule, would’ve been $20 million!) has combined to mess him up and cause him to lose focus. I’d probably lose focus too if I had that kind of dough in NYC w/ all those gorgeous models running around there.

    I think Torts has made the right decision and Richards will be bought out after the Rangers are knocked out. Bet on Toronto making a run at him…he’d probably look good with Kessel on his wing and Carlyle breathing down his neck to keep him honest.

  8. One thing I think is important in this case – Richards and Torts to have a long, and from all appearances good, relationship. I highly doubt Tortorella, no matter how big a prick he is in real life, does this to Richards lightly. I dont necessarily agree with the decision, because Id always rather have a declining skill guy on my fourth line (especially when paired with a young skill guy like Kreider) than the next interchangable non-productive grinder. Still, Torts it does seem like Torts is probably overreacting and shooting for a miracle.

    So of course what will happen is the NYR will go 4-5 on the PP tonight from a bunch of lucky bounces, and this will drag on to the weekend, where they will get demolished in Boston.

    At the end of the day, unless something truly shocking occurs, the NYR have been beaten in every area of the ice by the Bruins. The B’s have been faster, quicker (there’s a dfference), smarter, and stronger. Richards is just one of the problems.

  9. Amazing how right after the trade deadline, the guys who scored (Clowe, Bassard, etc.) all hadn’t been coached by Torts yet.

    You can tell that Richards, hell most of the team, is spending too much effort on the ice thinking and not skating.

  10. Richards played hot at the end of the season and is a very talented player who clearly no longer responds to Torts style or system. I think Torts should have shocked the world and promoted him to first line center. Shake up all the lines and then sit back and see what happens.

  11. If you’ve been watching, Richards has been awful when on the ice. He needs to sit. Good on torts

  12. Can we healthy scratch Tortorella? This guy’s act gets old fast.

    Given the way he’s treated Hagelin and Richards in the past week, a few guys in the Ranger dressing room may be a little de-motivated. I don’t believe a guy at that level consciously tanks in playoff game, but, damn, it would be hard to be enthused about playing for this jackass when the going gets tough.

  13. My knee-jerk reaction is: well of course – it’s Torts! Why expect the rational when he can be playact being a shock jock?

    But, Richards has been playing poorly as of late. A producer who doesn’t produce is a waste of space, BUT he’s still more skillful than your average bottom 6. I agree with Bourne that eventually Richards will catch fire, and then his current predicament will be only have the notoriety of furthering his reputation as being streaky as opposed to just plain bad at times.

    A couple thoughts based on other responses:

    1) Richards’ +/- may be a strong indicator of his poor execution of defensive play – if this is so, then it makes Torts’ irratibility with him more understanding – have the Rangers ever been a high-scoring team under Torts? Not in my opinion.

    2) Richards was hot at the end of the season – is he streaky, and his bad luck is making what would otherwise be a mid-season slump very costly in a shortened season? I’m not too familiar with Richards’ tendencies from opening game to season-closer, but given that he was scoring oodles of points at times, I’d hesitate to say that he’s not a good player. Aging? Sure.

    3) Torts and Richards knew each other from their Tampa Bay days – perhaps this was too happy of a past to have going into New York. Different culture, players (St. Louis and Lecavalier). Only this time, when Richards shows up, he’s supposed to be the Rangers’ personified best shot at a Cup win instead of just a very good depth player.

    Anyway, Torts obviously has his reasons that he doesn’t share – so if we knew what they were, he may be getting support, but on the face of it, it’s a dumb move to bench Richards. I wouldn’t be surprised if Richards asks for a way out of town come golf season.

  14. This is a great assessment of the situation. I don’t know what more to say about that. I actually forgot he was their Captain. Is this unprecedented?

  15. good point brought up on the podcast today, “you need scoring and you bench a scorer?!”. Worked well enough yesterday for the Sens and Conacher. Too soon?

  16. Another option is that it’s more about the long-term picture. Torts has lots of ups and downs, but one thing he has done is bring accountability to the Rangers’ locker room. This may be one manifestation of that.

  17. Brad Richards should be the #1 centre on this team, skating with Nash on the wing. Going away from that to begin with from the get go during the season, and going away from playing him with Gaborick before that, was stupidity. Plain and simple. Where do most of us think the TRULY great coaches in the league would be playing the guy?

    As a Ranger fan who listens to all the games on MSG Radio, I think it is fair to say that Tortorella fucked this team up all season long and deserves to be fired. For the past two seasons in particular he has had a great group of players, including the best goalie in the league and powerful offensive weapons. Add his charming and selfish personality to the equation, and to quote BB King “the thrill is gone, baby.”

    Considering this is an elimination game, this is a low blow to Richards. To me it seems so off the rails over the last few games how hard Torts has thrown 19 under the bus, when historically he would never back off him. Richards has always been a top class guy, he was one of the main reasons they made the playoffs down the stretch, and also led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, while scoring his usual pile of GWG’s. To sit a former top six Team Canada forward, Conn Smythe winner, and perennial top set up man tonight is a fireable offence.

    I hope it happens right after the game.

  18. How many other Rangers have won a Conn Smythe? You would think Torts would want to play him out of this funk considering this kind of high end ability and experience.

  19. anyone want to remember he won the cup with tampa? and oh don’t forget that conn smythe thing. rather have him on the ice than on the bench and yes this is posted after their lucky overtime win. ranger fans who think this was a good idea need to learn a little more about hockey

  20. I’d say after tonight we won’t be seeing Richards’ act any time soon…

    • I’ll go on the record with a Messier strength guarantee that Richards plays game five and every other game from here on out for the rest of his NYR career.

      Those who believe otherwise are seriously underestimating a player who’s least productive season – this year, when along with the rest of the NYR he could not score regularly and posted his lowest ppg since his rookie campaign – is still better than most of the players in the world.

  21. Option E. This was missing from the original list…

    When you run out of other options, you hit him where it hurts the most. Ice time. Torts decided to embarrass the player, since nothing else had worked so far.

    Not the biggest Torts fan, but a gutsy call. Not a big Richards fan at all. Find him lazy for long stretches, with a tendency to ‘show up’ in a contract year. A load of natural talent, but something is just missing…

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