The price the Blackhawks paid was cheap enough for a veteran center with good Corsi and Fenwick numbers.
But some of my initial problems with Brad Richards are he’s 34 and I’m not sure he can can keep up in a Western Conference that is better and faster than the East he just left.
No, Richards can’t be slower than Michal Handzus. No one can. And no, Patrick Kane couldn’t score fewer even-strength goals skating alongside Richards, but I question whether Richards physically can skate alongside the speedy Kane and surprisingly fast piece of scoring sinew that is Brandon Saad.
Second-line center appears to be the spot for Richards, and my question is, why?
Richards has lost more than half his faceoffs the last three playoff seasons and was so abysmal against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final that he was dropped to the fourth line. Didn’t the Hawks already have enough centers who were abysmal against the Kings?
Then, after that tumble down the lines, Richards was paid about $20 million by the Rangers to leave, and apparently take Andrew Shaw’s spot.
Shaw centered Kane and Saad to produce the only reliably dangerous line the Hawks had at the end of their failed Stanley Cup defense.
Not that Richards isn’t a solid playmaker, but Shaw worked in that spot because he doesn’t need the puck. After the faceoff, Kane pretty much plays center on that line, and everybody else can go to the net. The rambunctious Shaw goes to the net like it’s his birthright.
I figured Shaw would center Kane and Saad for, I don’t know, 20 games, while Teuvo Teravainen got acquainted with the smaller North American rinks playing for Rockford.
We know Shaw and Teravainen can keep up with Kane because we saw it. Richards, not sure. Doubtful, even. If you watched the opening of free agency, centers were all the rage in the Central Division, and they’re younger and faster than Richards.
Paul Stastny signed with St. Louis. Jason Spezza was traded to the Stars, who also landed Ales Hemsky. Matthieu Perreault jumped to the Jets. The Wild acquired Danny Briere last week.
Stastny was the center I wanted the Hawks to sign. He’s 28, fast and dangerous. The Blues got him for $7 million a season. The Hawks didn’t have that salary-cap room, nor did they make room.
So, the Blues got better, but at least the Avalanche got worse. Got slower, too, with 37-year-old Jarome Iginla signing a three-year deal.
I’d like to be wrong about doubting Richards’ ability to fill a longstanding hole for the Hawks, but I won’t be convinced until I see it next April, May and June.
Oh, and by the way, there is a potentially telling part of the Richards signing: He has played the point on the power play, which might come in handy if there’s anything to the Patrick Sharp rumors.
Oh, and one more thing: I know this has nothing to do with the NHL, but despite the result, Tim Howard, your table is ready.