THINGS AREN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

So now, it’s how can I improve this team, and what’s available? And not blow your brains out, as far as throwing around first-rounders or Brayden Schenn or something.”  – Dean Lombardi, March 2010

… Welp.  So much for THAT, I guess.  So much for staying with the plan, so much for being patient, so much for staying the course, so much for letting the nucleus of the team grow together.  I guess it was time for this team to … blow its brains out.  So, a trade was made – an overrated trade for an overrated player, made by an overrated GM.  It’s astonishing in its symmetry.  Lombardi, perhaps sensing that time is running out on him after five years of painfully modest results, decided to do something to entertain the masses instead of doing what was best for the team, both in the short-term and in the long-term.  Things certainly aren’t what they used to be.

This isn’t meant to be a knock on Mike Richards, who is quite a good player – an excellent second line center, with the capability to play on the first line in a pinch.  Richards does just about everything well.  He can score some goals, he’s a fine puck distributor, he’s physical, he’s good defensively, he’s versatile enough to be used in all situations, and he has the experience of being a team captain.  Take away some of his puck distribution and add some goal-scoring ability, and you’d have a perfect description of Dustin Brown.

Richards, last four seasons:  112 goals in 6489 minutes, 1.04 goals per 60 minutes

Brown, last four seasons:  109 goals in 6302 minutes, 1.04 goals per 60 minutes

So, Brown and Richards have scored goals at about the same rate, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?  That’s because team context has to be considered as well.  Richards, over the last four seasons, has been 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 5th on his Flyers’ teams in goals, while Brown has been  1st, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st on his Kings’ teams in that same span.  This serves to illustrate part of the problem that I have with this deal.  Here we have a player, Richards, who has clearly benefitted from a better supporting cast than Brown has, and thus appears to look better than he really is – when, in fact, the difference between he and Brown is very minor.  This is why I see Richards as an overrated player.

However, by reading around online, one might think the Kings had just acquired the new Great One; that it’s 1988 re-loaded – that Richards is the man who is worth abandoning the plan to build from within, and that he turns the Kings into instant contenders – very much like the talk was regarding the Kings’ acquisition of Wayne Gretzky 23 years ago.  There’s a small problem with this mindset, however.  I knew Gretzky.  I saw him play.  Mike Richards is no Wayne Gretzky.  Gretzky was worth the price the Kings paid way back when; he was worth it from a talent standpoint and he was worth changing the philosophy of the franchise, to a certain extent.  Richards is not worth it, from either standpoint.  Things aren’t what they used to be.

Let’s take a look at the throw-in in this trade – Wayne Simmonds.  It was common knowledge that Wayne suffered a decline from 09-10 to 10-11, but what I don’t feel was so commonly considered is that the man was just 22 years old last season.  Did the Kings (or any of their fans) actually believe that this decline was going to continue, and that we’d seen the best we were ever going to see from him?  And, beyond that – how does Simmonds stack up to Richards, even with last season’s decline?

Simmonds, even strength, last two seasons:  2069 minutes, 29 goals, 40 assists, .84 goals per 60 minutes, 1.16 assists per 60 minutes

Richards, even strength, last two seasons:  2346 minutes, 32 goals, 36 assists, .82 goals per 60 minutes, .92 assists per 60 minutes

Now, that’s tough to look at, isn’t it?  Mike Richards, an established so-called “great player”, is getting outscored at even strength over the last two regular seasons by Wayne Simmonds – a player who is, for all intents and purposes, just starting out.  Now, if one wants to argue that Richards is a better defensive player than Simmonds, I won’t disagree.  But, Simmonds is pretty good in his own right.  If one wants to argue that Richards brings more intangibles than Simmonds, I won’t argue that, either.  But Simmonds has showed every sign in his short career that he’s a gritty and tough player who’s more than willing to go to the populated areas of the ice, and does so with no fear.  Simmonds was part of the most dynamic Kings’ line in the playoffs against San Jose – his scoring chance numbers (20 for, 21 against) in those playoffs was the best ratio of any Kings’ forward – but that isn’t even the point.  The point is that we were seeing a niche being formed with three young forwards on a line, working together and improving their levels of ability.  So, if you thought that the performance of Kyle Clifford in the playoffs (which largely was a result of that line’s overall work) made Simmonds somehow “expendable”, then I’m afraid you’re missing the point entirely.

Simmonds is three and a half years younger than Richards.  Do you know how much can change in three and a half years?  Less than three and a half years ago, the Kings were selecting Drew Doughty in the draft.  Remember that?  How much has changed since then?

Speaking of how much things can change in time … let’s now take a look at Brayden Schenn – a guy who is, arguably, the best player not in the NHL; arguably, the best prospect in the game today.  In a supposedly “stacked” Kings pipeline, Schenn was the most promising of them all.  Brayden is just 20 years old right now; he’s six and a half years younger than Richards.  Both Schenn and Richards played four years in junior, from ages 16-20, so we can make a pretty decent comparison between the two:

Schenn, regular season and playoffs in the WHL:  267 games, 366 points, 1.37 PPG, +102

Richards, regular season and playoffs in the OHL:  274 games, 348 points, 1.27 PPG, +75

Now … it’s very dangerous, I think, to place labels on players.  Saying that someone will be a “future superstar” – what does that even mean, really?  It’s absurd.  But, there are those who have said that Brayden Schenn’s potential is to become a “future Mike Richards” – just as absurd, if you ask me.  Schenn could be a complete bust in his rookie season, he could put up a season comparable to Richards’ rookie season, or he could surpass Richards entirely.  But, what we DO know right now is that Schenn has done everything possible to qualify himself as a player who belongs in the NHL right now, as much as Richards earned it years ago.

Putting a label of “proven” on Richards and a label of “maybe” on Schenn to somehow rationalize that the Kings needed to make a deal like this now is ridiculously simplistic and goes against everything this franchise has stood for over the last five years.  And for what?  A guy who compares unfavorably to Simmonds in even strength scoring, a guy who compares unfavorably to Brown as a goal scorer?  Now, you might say, “well, J.T., there’s more to hockey than even strength scoring and overall goal scoring”.  True.  But, what are the Kings’ most pressing needs???  Even strength scoring and overall goal scoring.  Again, don’t get me wrong, here.  Richards is a good player.  Is he THIS good???  No, he isn’t.  Richards is good on the draw – but is he as good on the draw as Stoll, the man who will be taking fewer draws next season as a result of this trade?  No, he isn’t.  Richards is great on the PK – is that an area where the Kings were desperate for help?  No, it isn’t.

The Kings gave up way too much.  And, I haven’t even addressed the 2nd round pick that they also gave up.  They were, in my view, taken to the cleaners.

Now, I understand the excitement and the testosterone that flows around a team’s fanbase when a good player is acquired in a trade.  Just look at the reaction here, for an example – the people are definitely entertained.  I’m also not against going out and getting good players.  But, at what cost?  The Kings are apparently shedding salary by dealing off Ryan Smyth; wasn’t that going to put them in position to acquire talent without giving up two of their most promising young players, or at least to lock up all of the so-called “core players” and ensure they would be progressing in this organization for years to come?  I can’t believe that the mindset and philosophy that so many of those who constantly voiced “In Dean I Trust” over the last several years has turned 180 degrees in less than 24 hours, and I can’t believe that I’m one of the few people who is wondering what in the hell happened to building the organization the right way and believing in the talent we’ve produced.  Wasn’t I supposed to be the “anti-Dean” guy?  Wasn’t I accused over and over again of not “seeing the big picture” and not being “patient” enough with Lombardi?  Things certainly aren’t what they used to be.



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17 replies

  1. They didn’t trade Wayne Simmonds, they traded his rights. He was an RFA and until we know exactly what WS reps were asking contract-wise, there is no way of knowing what his “value” was at the time of the trade.

    I hope that M Richards is better off the ice here in LA than he was in Philly. That, to me, is the only potential negative to this deal. The Kings didn’t break their philosophy by getting this guy, he is exactly the kind of guy that fits here. You remarked about his similarities to D Brown, and I agree. Whats bad about that? Would I trade Schenn, the rights to Simmonds, and a 2nd rounder in a weak draft for Brown. Yeah, probably.

    Your assessment is fair. But all trades are full of questions more than answers, and right now with the off season just starting there are lots of gaps yet to fill. This will be a good fit for the Kings in my opinion.

  2. So first you say this is a positive move, bring on the season, etc… And that the positives outweigh the negatives since we have no idea what Schenn will become and the top level of Night Train….. And now you write that MR is overrated and Schenn and Simmonds were too much to deal!

    Dl did what he said he would do. He built the organization into a deep talent pool, and traded from that talent for something better. Look at the Red Wings, same model. Develop talent so you can sell that perceived talent for the real deal. And if you can’t sell it, use it. I this case, MR is breed than Schenn and Simmonds are now. The Kings can fill a 3rd line spot from Manchester, and Schenn, one day might be a good #2 center. MR already is. The cap difference is negligible since a rookie Schenn comes in at over 3 million a year. He may be good but the kings have the oices to make the next step. and they still have a pretty good potential #2 in Loktionov. So they dealt from strength and got better.

    • Two different writers dude. There are several contributors on this site. Read the author headings.

      • I honestly never notcied that. Thanks for bringin it up, for some reason I just thought is was one passionate Kings fan with way too much time to write.

        • Lol. No, but that would be impressive!… And sad.

          Surly is one person (me), Scribe is another. Now we have JT Dutch (the writer of this article) contributing, as well as the occasional article from a group of 2-3 other writers.

  3. You know, I can understand you not supporting this trade – I had mixed emotions at first as well – but there were a couple things that bugged me about this post.

    For one, you cherry pick certain stats to make your argument and that’s not only unfair – it’s downright deceptive. Second, you attack fans who believed in DL and his slow, patient rebuild plan for continuing to support him now that he’s taken a more aggressive approach… but what about you? You attacked him all along for the same plan and now you continue to attack him when he’s supposedly strayed from it? (I’d argue that he hasn’t) You’re doing the exact same thing as the people you’re criticizing, only reversed.

    Now on to Richards himself. I think the stats you used to compare him to Brown, Schenn and Simmer, as I mentioned, are extremely misleading. I’m a fan of GVT – which accounts for offense, defense, shootout prowess, offensive ice time, PP ice time, short handed ice time, strength of competition, strength of teammates, durability, etc. – so I’m going to use it for comparison here since I think it’s a very reasonable apples-to-apples comparison.

    The Kings top 6 forwards in GVT last year were Kopitar (18.9) , Brown (12.9) , Stoll (12.1, largely because of his shootout prowess), Williams (11.8), Smyth (6.5), and Handzus (5.2). Simmonds was 7th at 4.7. Mike Richards finished at 14.5, which would have easily put him as the second best forward on the Kings. By the way, the three players who finished directly in front of Richards? Rick Nash, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The three right behind him? Mike Ribiero, Alex Semin, and Ryan Getzlaf. Now, I’ll grant you that his numbers are slightly inflated because he was so healthy (only one game missed) and GVT is a cumulative number (which is why Datsyuk’s GVT is lower than expected), but is that really a bad thing? Dude is skilled on both ends, tough as nails and durable. He is a top 30 or 35 forward in the league, and in a league with 30 teams, it’s pretty awesome to have two of these guys centering our top 2 lines for a long time to come.

    Which brings me to my next point… you do realize Richards is only 26 right? It’s not like they were destroying their youth movement to go get some past-his-prime former star. This guy is a star NOW and is JUST entering his prime. It’s disingenuous to claim that this is the same-old, same-old Kings who mortgage the future for a publicity stunt player. Richards is now part of the “core” group, along with Kopi, Doughty, JJ, Quick, and Brownie. In 5 years, this core will STILL only be 28, 26, 29, 30, 31 and 31 respectively. The way I see it, Lombardi is essentially stating that the core is set and that its Stanley Cup window opens NOW and will be open for the next 7 or so years.

    Furthermore, the pipeline is still littered with potential stars and useful players, so it’s not like we emptied the cupboard here. Plus, we couldn’t possibly use ALL of these prospects in the future. DL used what was his biggest bargaining chip – players with potential – to improve a team that is ready to win RIGHT NOW.

    Finally, you say he’s not a good fit because he duplicates what the Kings are already good at. I disagree. I think he merely fits in perfectly with what they’re already trying to accomplish. While he’s very good defensively (dGVT was 3.7 – 43rd amongst forwards), he is even better on the offensive end (oGVT 11.3 – 31st among forwards). This is exactly the kind of guy the Kings needed – one with offensive creativity who is still defensively responsible. Where he’s weak is in the shootouts – somewhat unfortunate considering we’re sure to be losing Handzus – but come playoffs, that won’t matter.

    Look, I’ll grant you that Richards is not a superstar. He’s merely an excellent player. But we did not mortgage the future for him. We gave up a *potentially* excellent player – maybe even a star player – and a good role player, but Simmonds is easily replaced (yes, as much as I liked Simmonds, I believe him to be overrated) and Schenn wasn’t going to see his potential for another 3-4 years most likely. DL made a bold move and by doing so made a statement that the Kings time begins right now.

    • Well I had this whole nice big response planned out but now I don’t want to write because I just read It.

    • Very well thought out post, and absolutely agree that the clock starts now. I’ve wondered about how I feel about this trade overall, but the one thing I am sure of is that the gauntlet has been tossed with this Richards deal, by DL. I think, by Deans own admission, it started with Penner, and I have a feeling he’s not done yet.

      The main reason he lost his job in San Jose is because when the team got to the point where the Kings are now, he didn’t make that leap to make the bold moves, and that criticism has followed him to LA for the last few years. I still have a wait and see attitude with Richards, but there is a legitimate reason to be encouraged by this trade.

      I do feel better about it being Richards, this season, than I ever thought I would feel about Kovalschmuck last season.

      • I agree. Kovalchuk never sat well with me, and I felt at the time that we dodged an enormous bullet when he signed with NJ (and obviously still feel that way). His character, game, and style seemed to be in complete opposition to what the Kings were trying to build.

        Richards, OTOH, seems to fit in with EXACTLY what the Kings have been trying to build.

    • For one, you cherry pick certain stats to make your argument and that’s not only unfair – it’s downright deceptive.

      … Yes, using actual goal totals overall and 5-on-5 is certainly “cherry picking” stats. You’re right, I had to look far and wide for numbers to use in my post. “Goals” is quite the obscure statistic in hockey.

      Second, you attack fans who believed in DL and his slow, patient rebuild plan for continuing to support him now that he’s taken a more aggressive approach… but what about you? You attacked him all along for the same plan and now you continue to attack him when he’s supposedly strayed from it?

      … Like I said, I’m not against acquiring good players. The best move for this franchise was to rid themselves of Smyth’s cap hit (which has been done) and then take their chances in going after someone like Brad Richards. That way, they wouldn’t have to rid themselves of their best prospect, for starters.

      I’m a fan of GVT

      … I don’t think GVT is necessarily a bad metric, but when I see an Offensive GVT rating for Claude Giroux at 10.5 and Richards at 9.3 while Kopitar is at 9.6, I’m convinced that the metric is still overrating players who are surrounded by better teammates, which has been the main problem with this metric since it was originally unveiled.

      The Flyers last season had four players with 60+ points, of which Richards had the fewest goals of the group. The Kings had exactly ONE 60+ point player – Kopitar.

      Which brings me to my next point… you do realize Richards is only 26 right? It’s not like they were destroying their youth movement to go get some past-his-prime former star.

      … Of course I realize that. They let go of two players who won’t be nearing their prime for several years for a player who will be past his prime in several years. Wasn’t worth it.

      Furthermore, the pipeline is still littered with potential stars and useful players, so it’s not like we emptied the cupboard here.

      … That remains to be seen. I’ve yet to see anyone as promising as Schenn was in the Kings’ organization. I’ve also seen players like Moulson, Purcell, and Cammalleri get moved and go on to have success elsewhere. At some point, it would be nice if the Kings stopped providing young talent for the rest of the NHL and started keeping some of the better young talent for themselves.

      Simmonds is easily replaced

      … Yeah, I was waiting for that. So who, exactly, replaces him? The Kings top six, as it stands now, is Kopitar-Richards-Williams-Brown-Penner-Stoll. Handzus is likely gone. What does their new third line look like? What if the Kings need a player to step into the top six because of injuries, as what happened last season?

      DL made a bold move and by doing so made a statement that the Kings time begins right now.

      … If by “bold” you mean “desperate”, then yes he made a bold move. And, as for the Kings’ time starting now – are you sure? We can start holding him accountable for wins and losses now, right? He’s run out of excuses now. I don’t want to hear the same crap in May of 2012 that we’ve heard for the last five years.

  4. Mike Richards smokes, drinks and pops pills in Philly. He’s only after the snatch and according to reports, he treats the trainers and equipment managers like trash. He may be a good player on the ice, but off it he’s Jason Allison part II.

    I hope Lombardi ships his substance abusing ass to CLB for Nash. It’d be funny to see Richards and Carter try to find a decent night life there.

    I’m willing to bet one of two things happens with the arrival of Richards. Doughty will become an alcoholic or Doughty will contract an STD.

    I’m with you JT. I would have rather kept Schenn and Simmonds.

  5. Though Loktionov is regarded as a top 6 or bust player, I’m curious to see how his game develops over the coming years. It seems like Lewis will be a good replacement for Stoll on the third, but who knows? If Lok could play the third and keep Lewis on the fourth, That’s still an incredible run down the center.

    Ultimately, if we didn’t have Loktionov in the system, who has actually played more games in the NHL than Schenn and looked better doing it, it would hurt more. But it doesn’t feel too bad.

  6. The part where you compared Simmonds to Richards was entertaining, at least. Missing quite a bit of context about what kinds of players they are as a whole.

    Richards is an elite two-way player who takes on the toughest competition year after year and still produces. He is one of the best penalty killers in the game, pots shorthanded goals, and puts fear into the hearts of his opponents with his hits. Simmonds, while beloved here, would never have been selected by Team Canada for those qualities. Richards was.

    Phil nailed it. You’re not even beginning to look at the complete picture stats-wise. It’s no wonder fans become resistant to the idea of advanced metrics when people like you sprinkle in just enough one-dimensional info to make it seem like a thorough analysis, yet manage to draw conclusions which are so far off the mark.

    Try to approach the data without an agenda. You might be surprised.

  7. Overreacting and looking at stats purely rather than the big picture paints just as foggy of an image as being a blind impartial Richards fan with Flyer goggles on does. I am sure there are plenty of grinders that could have comparable stats to star players when you strip them of all their meaning, but it doesn’t mean anyone is going to want them over the star player. I like how much research you put into your stats and arguments JT, I really do, but you use them incorrectly and you constantly take Dean out of context. You really need to back up a couple of steps and take a look around you, because once you get fixated on a small detail and think you got something, you become so incredibly focused on it that you forget what’s around you or what even your argument is pertaining to anymore.

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