2014 Season Review: Mike Richards
Mike Richards Corsi, 2008-2014
|Team||GP||Corsi Relative||Corsi On||Expected Corsi||dCorsi|
This review will have some unflattering things to say about Mike Richards' time in Los Angeles, so let's take a moment to remember Richards at his best. He's highlighted on Philadelphia's 2007-08 usage chart (bubble size represents time on ice per game, bluer is a more positive relative Corsi, redder is more negative):
Those are very difficult minutes - brutal zone starts (far more extreme than anyone on the Kings received this year) and poor quality of teammates (3 most common linemates: Joffrey Lupul, Scott Hartnell, R.J. Umberger). Nevertheless, Richards managed an excellent +4.7 Corsi relative. Throw in his penalty-killing excellence and that's a premier defensive forward (although for some reason he wasn't nominated for the Selke until the following year).
2008-09 wasn't as good - the minutes got a bit easier (though still tough) and Richards didn't do quite as well as them. He probably didn't deserve his Selke nomination that year. He was still very good, outperforming his team despite difficult assignments.
In 2009-10, the Flyers' usage chart looked like this:
Although Richards is not exactly having an easy time of it, the extreme defensive deployment is gone. He got much better support (3 most common linemates: Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell). Despite all these advantages, Richards' Corsis remained around where they had been the past two years.
Since Richards was now posting about the same Corsis in much easier minutes, some decline was clearly happening. Things got a bit worse in 2010-11, when Richards' minutes stayed about the same but his Corsis slipped below the level of the team.
Still, you can see why LA made the trade. Despite a somewhat worrying downward trend, Richards was only 27 and had mostly been an excellent second-line center at even strength, to say nothing of his contributions on special teams.
Richards in LA
2012, Richards' first season in LA, was a complete mess by the advanced stats. His -16.3 dCorsi is the worst any LA player has ever put up in the behind the net era. How did Richards manage that? Well, even with not-that-difficult minutes, Richards basically submarined the Corsis of any forwards he ever played with. Seriously, check out his with-or-without-you. (I listed every forward he spent at least 50 minutes with except Jeff Carter, whose "without Richards" data is corrupted by his time in Columbus):
Mike Richards WOWY, 2011-12
|Corsi% With Richards||Corsi% Without Richards|
That's brutal. Even the arrival of Nolan and King didn't really salvage Richards' season - he was still doing way worse than the team around him (and Nolan/King both did way better without Richards). Richards missed a few games with a concussion, but I don't think that explains it - his Corsis were terrible even prior to that. Maybe it was a continuation of his earlier decline, combined with a slow adjustment to a new team and conference (as you can see, the Kings were constantly trying new line combinations, which probably didn't help).
We'll skim past the 2012-13 season (in which he was a bit better, but still mediocre) in order to arrive at the advertised purpose of this article, Mike Richards' 2013-14 season.
The good news is that things have gotten a little better for Richards in LA since the rough start. The Kings no longer give Richards tough minutes:
Richards faces somewhat above-average competition but gets among the most sheltered zone starts on the team, right up there with Muzzin and Toffoli. I don't want to make too big a deal out of the sheltered zone starts because they're not that far from the team average (as I've mentioned before, the Kings don't use extreme deployments). But it is worth noting that unlike Muzzin and Toffoli, Richards is not exactly crushing his assignments.
Richards' -4.1 Corsi rel is fifth worst among Kings forwards (ahead of Stoll, Nolan, Clifford, Lewis). Of the six forwards he spent over 100 minutes, all but one were worse without him than with him (the lone exception being Lewis). These are mediocre numbers that indicate he's not driving play, but at least they're not anywhere close to the mess that was 2011-12.
Richards did much worse in terms of GF% than Corsi% because he had a terrible on-ice shooting percentage at even strength. That also contributed to his low point total. See this article for more on Richards' scoring; the short version is that, even though he's had low on-ice sh%s for two years now, I think regression to league average levels is likely. Expect a few more points next year.
So over the past three years, even strength Mike Richards has been at best a bit of a liability, at worst a complete disaster. But Richards has always been very, very good on the penalty kill. I don't like using single-year special teams data (too random), so I'll combine the last three years to get a decent sample of how the PK does when certain forwards are on the ice (excluding Carter's 2011-12 in order to remove his Columbus data):
Los Angeles Forwards at 4v5, 2011-2014
|Shots Against/20||Goals Against/20||On-Ice SV%||4v5 Points||TOI|
I wouldn't worry too much about the goals against and on-ice SV% data - the former is in large part determined by the latter, which is probably all randomness (so no, Colin Fraser is not an amazing penalty killer). The shots numbers are enough for me to say that Richards is really good at penalty killing. The shorthanded offense has dried up recently; Richards only managed 2 4v5 points in 2013-14. Historically Richards has unparalleled in that area (from 2007-2014 Richards recorded 26 4v5 points; the next best guy has 20).
For the sake of completeness, I will also include the equivalent chart for 5v4, where Richards seems to be much less of a difference maker:
Los Angeles Forwards at 5v4, 2011-2014
|Shots For/20||Goals For/20||On-Ice Sh%||Points/60||TOI|
Not much to say here; Richards has probably been unlucky but even so, he's average at best in this department. Also, good lord, get Dwight King off the power play, this is not what he is good at.
Minor demerits because it's against Ondrej Pavelec. Pretty sweet though.
Roman Emperor Comparable: Caligula
The Roman people were excited when the unpopular emperor Tiberius died in 37 and the youthful, handsome Caligula (ruled 37-41) ascended to the throne. Then Caligula started proclaiming himself a god, named his horse to the Senate, and basically revealed to the world that he was a crazy person. Similarly, people were excited when LA traded for Mike Richards. Then he went and posted a -16.3 dCorsi. Goddammit.
The penalty killing is helpful. But most of the game is played at even strength, where Richards has been a liability for three consecutive years. He's 30 now; while I think his puck luck will rebound next year, his talent is likely only to erode further from this point onward. I think it's very unlikely Richards ever returns to his Philadelphia level of play; and if he can't do that, he's not worth paying 5.75 million a year. The Kings are advised to get out of his contract while they can, because Richards' age 31-36 seasons do not look promising.
Regardless of my wishes, Richards will start the 2014-15 season with the Kings. He was famously demoted to the fourth line last year. I'd advocate moving him up to the third line (perhaps centering King and Williams). If the Kings insist on keeping Richards around, they need to at least give him a chance to succeed.
Richards gets a D. A bit harsh I know, but Richards is a highly paid forward, of whom much is expected, and he didn't deliver.
Grade Mike Richards' season.