“Mike Richards Is The Best Two-Way Player Of His Generation”

That title, is a rough transcript of the praise given to Mike Richards by Joe Beninati and Darren Eliot in last night’s Game 2 between the Penguins and Flyers.

That’s some pretty high praise, if you ask me.

To recap, Mike Richards just completed his third year in the league, and offensively, he has put up 141 points in 211 career games. I don’t remember if it was Beninati of Eliot who uttered that line, but I was taken aback when I heard it. I usually tune out the whoever is calling the game, but this quote was heard loud and clear. Thanks to The Pensblog for the update on who actually was calling the game.

So Mike Richards, who has done squat in this league, is now the best two-way player of his generation, being players aged 25 and under.

Hockey minds get their panties in a bunch whenever praise is given to Sidney Crosby, despite the fact that he’s actually accomplished something in the NHL. A scoring title and a plethora of trophies should be more than enough to back claims of Crosby’s skill. Which is why I’m appalled that there’s no attention drawn to this fantastic quote from the Versus broadcast of Game 2.

Offensively, Mike Richards has scored 28 goals in his best (current) season. Jordan Staal, in his rookie campaign, scored 29. Plus, Staal is regularly called on to kill penalties. I’d argue that Staal is a better two-way player than Richards. Case in point, the empty net goal scored to seal last night’s win. No, Richards wasn’t involved, but Staal’s defense was highlighted. With one less guy on the ice and nursing a one-goal lead late in the game, Staal showed more desire to get the puck than anyone wearing orange, while the Flyers controlled the puck. Your team is losing, you’ve brought an extra attacker on the ice, and you get beat by a kid on a team who DOESN’T NEED to score. If I was a Flyers fan, I’d be outraged at that pitiful display.

It can even be argued that Sid plays good defense, despite everyone understanding that he’s an offensive force. Therrien has used him to kill penalties, albeit to hopefully create shorthanded opportunities, but he’s out there. Also, the way he uses his lower-body strength to protect pucks can be seen as a defensive maneuver. We always hear about how teams with the lead like to dump and chase in order to keep the other team from gaining momentum, and to finally wear them out. Sid’s ability to protect the puck with his stance and leg-strength is just as defensive a move as a dump and chase tactic. The other team gets worn down trying to fight the kid (another one in this “generation”), and Sid can take time off the clock playing this defensive style.

Mike Richards is a good player. I want to take nothing away from what he’s accomplished and the way he is dedicated to defense. But any hockey fan should be disgusted at the unwarranted praise given by the Versus broadcasters. Richards is clearly one of the top young talents at playing offense and defense, and he should be commended for his efforts. But to use the term “the best” to describe Richards is disturbing…

…at best.

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