Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brad Richards Jersey Card

Let's not kid ourselves: Brad Richards is no longer the point-per-game player he was five times in his career and will likely not win another Conn Smythe Trophy like he did in 1994 nor be invited to another Team Canada - so his odds of capturing another World Cup title (2004) or bronze medal (2000 World Junior Championships) are slim to non-existent - but winning the Stanley Cup for the second time last year as an add-on to an already strong Chicago Blackhawks team means his clutch experience (he had also won it in 2003-04 with the Tampa Bay Lightning) is something teams value nowadays.

That is why the Detroit Red Wings signed him to a bonus-heavy contract last summer. Sure, he may not be used in the role that was meant for him when he signed, but he's picked up his points output a bit and currently stands at 23 points (9 goals) in 58 games on the low-scoring Wings. He's eighth on the team in points despite having missed 15 games, and among those players, is one of only four with a positive +/- with Dylan Larkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Tomas Tatar. Yes, even captain Henrik Zetterberg, the team's leading scorer with 44 points in 72 games, stands at -6.

The NHL has pretty much reached parity and all playoff-bound teams will be competitive; it won't be an easy road to either Conference Final, but the usual ingredients for success remain: good goaltending (half-check, as both Wings goalies can be very good but do not have the pedigree of a Ben Bishop or a Henrik Lundqvist), going in healthy (check, what with Niklas Kronwall returning), good coaching (check), good leadership (check), and luck (we'll see).

And Richards is a part of that leadership group, with Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall. The Wings are one team I never wish ill to though I do not straight-up root for them; they're an Original Six franchise who seems respectful of its players, its fans and its opponents - they seem like a classy organization. I respect them, but I will root for the Montréal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Hawks, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers before them.

Here's Richards wearing the Bolts' black (then-away) uniform from the pre-lockout era, from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 1 set and Shooting Stars sub-set featuring a white game-worn jersey swatch:
It's card #S-BR in the series.

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