Over the next month or so, we'll be grading each player that played a role for the Stars in the 2009-2010 season. At the end of each feature, you get to select the overall grade for each individual player. This is something we'll continue doing each season, and is a tool we can use to determine a player's progress year by year.
Key Stat: Richards had the highest BTN rating on the power play (5.10) among Dallas Stars who averaged more than a minute of TOI on the power play.
The Good: Richards was by far the most productive offensive player on the Stars this season. His 91 points matched his previous career best (with Tampa Bay in '05-'06) and was seventh-best in the entire NHL. Other than staying healthy, the jump in points from last season had a lot to do with his emergence as a force on the point of the power play unit. Paired on the point with Matt Niskanen and Stephane Robidas, Richards led the team in PP TOI/G (5:04), power play goals (13) and power play assists (27). For some perspective, the next highest in each category was Mike Ribeiro (3:32 PP TOI/G), Brenden Morrow (9 power play goals), and Ribeiro again (15 power play assists). Richards 14 penalty minutes also got him nominated for a Lady Byng award. Richards saw his stats increase across the board, other than plus/minus.
The Bad: There is a huge disparity between his performance at home and his performance on the road. At home, Richards scored 55 points and was +7. On the road, Richards scored 36 points and was a putrid -19. A lot of this had to do with matchups - at home, the Stars got first change and could match Richards against more favorable lines. On the road, Richards often faced against the top lines. Among the total Stars losses, Richards was a -31. When the Stars won, Richards was +19. So it's safe to say that as Brad Richards went, so did the Stars offense. Luckily for the Stars, Richards didn't have many bad streaks.
The Bottom Line: Brad Richards was the best Dallas Star this season, hands down. His massive contributions to the power play and consistent point production kept the team in the playoff hunt all the way to the end of the season. There's no question that Richards stepped up and became a leader for this team on the ice. His brilliant, almost Jedi-like (yeah, I went there) vision on the ice led to great seasons by wingmates James Neal and Loui Eriksson. In fact, we saw just how influential Richards can be when Neal's play slowed after being removed from the top line. The worrisome thought for Stars fans is the idea that Richards might not be here much longer. Because he is a UFA after this season, the Stars will try to sign Richards to an extension as soon as the ownership situation clears up, or else trade him at the deadline. But it seems that Richards enjoys playing in Dallas, and both sides seem confident they can work something out. Stars fans know that this is a totally different team without Richards playing down the middle, and hope he can repeat his performance next year.
The Vote: Rate Richards below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.