Bad Brad, or Bolt of Genius?
Critics complaining about the money Tampa Bay spent on Brad
Richards need to pipe down and get a reality check, according
to TFP Columnist Greg Wyshynski.
(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Those who are taking Tampa Bay
General Manager Jay Feaster to the woodshed for signing
center Brad Richards to a five-year, $39 million
contract have no idea who they're dealing with.
is a money man. It's been his calling card for the
entirety of his career, going back to his days when he
cut his teeth as an attorney for Hershey — you know, the
a hand in pruning the money-losers from that empire,
while encouraging investment in the financially viable
assets in order to maximize success.
Richards is one such asset for the Lightning. He was a
70-point man for the two seasons preceding the lockout, and
blossomed into a 90-point player under the rules changes.
He's been the most consistent of the Bolts' offensive stars (Vinny
Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Vaclav Prospal and Fredrik Modin).
In a few years, he's going to be mentioned in the same breath
that Steve Yzerman and Mike Modano are today: a top-line
center that puts up stellar numbers even if he isn't making
the highlight reel every night.
There's no question that if the NHL is going to continue to be
the league it was this season, Richards is an essential player
for Tampa. He was second in the league to Joe Thornton (40) in
powerplay assists (39), and that's with the Lightning's
powerplay in the bottom third of the league (16.7% conversion
Meanwhile, he was tied for fourth in the league with four
short-handed goals. Richards is a multi-faceted player in a
league that demands it; the fact that he has 39 career playoff
points in 39 playoff games and a Conn Smythe on his mantle
aren't too shabby either.
But I think the critics of the Richards' deal know all of
this. They're ticked off because Feaster has sent the top
salaries for free agents into the stratosphere, affecting
everyone from Zdeno Chara to Patrik Elias. They're ticked off
because the new CBA was "supposed" to prevent teams from
putting all of their money into a select number of offensive
stars, which is what it appears Feaster is doing.
To those critics, I ask: What was Feaster supposed to do,
Richards was going to be an unrestricted free agent after next
season. He would have made a killing in arbitration this
off-season anyway. If Feaster doesn't ink him to this
contract, Richards is taking similar money from Philadelphia
or Calgary or New York as a free agent. Every GM in the league
wanted a shot at Richards. Feaster did what he had to do.
And now he'll continue to do what he's always done, which is
eliminate the investments that aren't paying off. St. Louis
made $6.5 million for 61 points. Pavel Kubina made $2.6 for a
minus-12. Sean Burke and John Grahame combined to make about
$3.8 million; look around the league and tell me that they're
Richards already helped Tampa Bay to one Stanley Cup. Keeping
him in the pivot was essential to keeping the Bolts in
contention for another one, no matter the price.
...This injury to Barbaro had me thinking – is it too
late to put Eric Lindros out to stud?
...Understatement of the Week: Gary Bettman tells The
Canadian Press that he's not concerned the final four are all
small-market franchises. "I don't spend much time looking for
symbolism," Bettman said.
Yeah, no kidding, Gary. That's why years after the division
and the conference names were desecrated, I'm still worried
that we're only a few seasons away from seeing the Conn Smythe
renamed "The Burger King Whopper of the Playoffs Award."
...Dwyane Roloson is, by far, the most intriguing story
of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here's a guy who's gone from
splitting time on a trap-happy Minnesota team to nearly
leading the Oilers to the Stanley Cup. He's shaken the rap
that he couldn't thrive away from the Wild's defensive
stranglehold and has posted stellar numbers (2.13 GAA, .932
save percentage). Many expect he'll resign with Edmonton. If
I'm the Red Wings, I forget about reuniting Mike Babock with
either Martin Gerber or Jean-Sebastien Giguere and see what it
would take for Roloson to roll into Motown.
...Dean Lombardi and Marc Crawford are a dream team if
you're the Los Angeles Kings. One is a general manager who can
build a winner and who may never have the contract headaches
he had in San Jose under the new CBA; the other is a coach
who's only missed the postseason once when he's had a team for
a full campaign. My only concern is what Crawford's going to
look like after a year in the California sun; that man is a
...Mainstream Media Hockey-Hater of the Week: John
Rolfe of Sports Illustrated wrote a piece on that
publication's Web site recently, comparing the ratings for
playoff hockey to those of the World Series. "The ice-cold
reality is that hockey in the U.S. is a niche sport. 'Twas
ever thus. The NHL matters where it matters, but that is still
enough to live on comfortably if the league manages its
coffers wisely. The perception of failure only rears its
hideous mug when the notion that the NHL must attain NFL- or
MLB-like status is entertained."
Talk about your back-handed compliments; was that the
sportswriting equivalent of "that dress looks great on you,
considering how huge your butt is" or what?
His argument that, in the U.S., hockey is a niche sport is
preposterous. Thirteen American cities — coast to coast,
border to border — averaged over 16,000 fans per home game
this season, the first after a work-stoppage. If the argument
is based on television, well then all you've proven is that
for the last 25 years the NHL still hasn't figured out how to
televise a sport that plays so damn well in the arena.
Look, hockey isn't a completely national sport. In fact, the
UHL just basically raised the white flag in the Southeast,
yanking two teams from Virginia after past failures North
Carolina and Tennessee. But the sport is thriving in Oklahoma.
It's thriving in Texas. Kansas City will have an NHL team
before the city ever hosts a Super Bowl. None of those regions
are going to remind anyone of Moose Jaw.
Here's my question for Rolfe and his ilk: if both Tampa Bay
and Florida outdraw their baseball counterparts this season,
as they are currently on pace to do, can we officially begin
to call Major League Baseball a niche sport in the Sunshine
Wyshynski, also the Sports Editor of The Connect Newspaper, is
a columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Washington
Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.
His book, "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports
is now on sale.