WWYDW: A Professional Tryout for Mike Richards

Edmonton’s depth at centre is not good at the moment. With Connor McDavid on the shelf long-term, Edmonton has been employing all of Mark Letestu, Anton Lander and Andrew Miller at centre; that trio has now combined for 42 games but not a single even-strength point.

With that in mind, does it make sense for the Oilers to offer free agent centre Mike Richards a professional tryout?

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Peter Chiarelli2

Back before the Kings terminated Richards’ contract, the Oilers were discussing the possibility of a trade with Los Angeles. Via ESPN’s Katie Strang:

The team was already in the process of trying to trade him — discussions were in place with both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames — but Kings general manager Dean Lombardi immediately informed both teams upon learning about the situation that he had no prior knowledge of the incident and halted those talks, according to a source.

Circumstances have of course changed. This was all before Richards was charged with possessing a controlled substance. At the time, Richards had a brutal long-term contract, and the Kings were undoubtedly offering Edmonton incentives in exchange for taking on his onerous cap hit. The ugly cap hit is gone, but the legal trouble and lack of sweeteners may leave the Oilers without any interest in the player.

However, those trade talks do suggest that general manager Peter Chiarelli saw Richards as being capable of playing some role on his hockey team. It’s possible he still sees him as a potentially useful player in Edmonton.

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Yea or Nay?

Shrugging Veronica

Richards will be in court on December 8, but a recent report published on the Toronto Star website suggests that won’t be the end of the matter:

Hymie Weinstein, who is acting as an agent for the Toronto-based [lawyer David] Humphrey, said Richards “will certainly not be saying anything while this matter is before the court.” Weinstein said he expects Richards to plead not guilty, and that he believes the Dec. 8 hearing date will be pushed back “months and months and months.”

A long delay would afford Richards the opportunity to play in the NHL this season, and to start getting his career back on track.

At his best, Richards was a top-line two-way centre who could play in all situations, both aiding the power play and killing penalties. In 2008-09 he posted career-best numbers, scoring 30 goals and adding 50 assists in 79 games played.

He hasn’t been at his best in recent years. He was a minus player for three consecutive seasons in Los Angeles, and his underlying numbers indicate that was no fluke; the Kings were legitimately a much worse team when he was on the ice. He managed 41 points in 2013-14 but fell to just five goals and 11 assists in 53 contests last season. Recently he hasn’t been a strong two-way player or offensive option.

As always with What Would You Do Wednesday, we turn to the comments section for the answer. Would you bring Richards in? Why or why not?

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  • vetinari

    Think we should pass. Season is likely toast and Richards best years are behind him. Also don’t want Richard’s stupidity to infect the young Oilers in any way, shape or form.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      X2. why didn’t the Oilers just re-sign Derek Roy? at least his speed hasn’t diminished as much as Richards has, he’s a good pro and he doesn’t come with the baggage that Richards does.

    • Jay (not J)

      If those kids are going to find trouble, they don’t need Mike Richards to show them around. Frankly, if any of them are the sort who are likely to go in for that sort of thing they are probably already well on their own way.
      Mike Richards may never be the offensive player that LA thought they were trading for, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have something to offer the Oilers. The guy has had to learn some hard lessons. He’s seen his career hanging by a thread and he’s also seen the other extreme. I don’t know much about the guy’s personality, but if the Oilers brass feel that he can contribute on the ice they might find the mentor that this team has been sorely lacking since the Sykora year.
      Lots of good people have been pinched for recreational drug use. Making a quick judgement on a guy that could possibly help this team only hurts the Oilers.

      • vetinari

        Quick judgment? His production has been dismal for years and he now has criminal charges pending that confirmed to his former team that it was the best time to terminate his contract and move on. No quick judgement here.

        Think it’s a coincidence that more than one King has had trouble with the law in the past few years and that the Kings now have a player conduct officer to help guide the team?

        Richards can’t help this team on the ice and he can’t help this team off the ice.


        • Jay (not J)

          I think that it’s pretty obvious what happened to his production in the last few years. He would have to prove on the ice that he still belongs in the NHL. I don’t really see what you’re trying to say about the Kings and coincidence so I will just leave it. Your final assessment is completely unsupported. Oilers management has a responsibility to the team and the fans to look deeper than last year’s headlines.
          Grant Fuhr is an example of a guy who got into trouble with the law and the league regarding substance abuse. When he came back he was much better than when he left and he managed to extend his career as well as set himself up well for a post playing career.

  • Oilfan69

    One of the biggest requirements in building a winning team is to have character guys in the locker room.

    I am not impressed with Richard’s character.

    A definite, no thank you.

    • Kevwan

      Character = winning

      The LA Kings won with Voynov, Carter, Richards, Brown, Stoll, etc. Heck they even had Penner, who I like, but who is constantly criticized for being lazy and of poor character (not my opinion).

      Some of these guys have modest character issues. Some of these guys would be serving 10+ year prison sentences if they were black teenagers instead of rich white guys. Either way it discredits the idea that character (defined in this case as being a good person) correlates well with winning Stanley cups.

      Heck Pat Kane has a Conn Smyth, and whether you think he’s recently guilty or not, he did beat up a cabbie and has a long history of Douchebaggery credited to his name.

      That said I’m not even pro-Richards, I just think the idea of character tends to get a little bit inflated.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        Penner was in Mactardeds dog house for being lazy. He was also the only 30 goal scorer the oilers had seen in years. I dont think his character was ever in question. He’s a really intelligent guy who was always great with the media and fans.

        • Dwayne Roloson 35

          I think I make it pretty clear in my post that I don’t have issues with the guy’s character.

          That said you make it seem like MacT is the only guy to take issue with him. Fact is every team he has played for, other than Anaheim when he started, have publicly questioned his commitment to both fitness and playing hard, even when he was scoring goals.

          Edmonton did it, true.
          LA did it. It’s why they didn’t keep him around.
          Anaheim did it during his second run, that’s why despite all his talent and upside he couldn’t hold down a spot on the wing with Getzlaf and Perry.
          Washington did it to.

          It’s also why he hasn’t played in the NHL in 2 seasons despite only being 33.

          So I stand by my original point, even though I’m a fan of his and very much appreciated him as an Oiler.

        • chickenStew

          Are you sure you are qualified to be commenting on character issues while throwing around the name “Mactarded”?

          You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • chickenStew

            It helps if you have character of your own.

            Would you call MacT, “Mactarded” in front of Joey Moss?
            Would you say that if you had a mentally challenged family member?
            Do you think that everyone that reads the comments on here has the maturity level of a teenager?

            This place has found it’s lowest common denominator this year.
            We’ve got one Bozo making fun of people’s kid’s sexuality, we’ve got another making fun of disabled people. What’s next? Race? Religion?
            If you think you can just bark away with impunity about this stuff, forget it. I’ll call you out on it every time, and rightfully so.

            It would be a shame if this site was lost because of a few ignorant commenters and a few weak moderators.

          • S cottV

            This just in… There’s ignorant people in the world that go onto the interwebz and make insulting comments.

            Thanks for bringing this to our attention, And I support your 1 man mission to rid this interwebz page of such childish and insulting behaviour. Who knew there would be such people in the world?!?!

            Let’s make this page a Eutopian example of respectful interwebz behaviour!!

          • Mooseroni

            Bugger off, he apologized, and your being pretty rude yourself there chicken. Go be politically correct somewhere else and threaten to shut down THEIR websites. This isn’t the CBC.

          • chickenStew

            Did I hurt your feelings?

            I don’t give a crap if you don’t like what I had to say. I’ve been here from the start and I’m not going anywhere.

            It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about being plain old correct. Nobody apologized, they just kept chirping. I’ll chirp back. Problem?

            I happen to have both of the targets of the insults in my immediate family. It’s hard enough for them in this world without unthinking ignoramuses using slurs for all to hear on a daily basis. If I have to defend my kids on here instead of talking hockey, I will. Meanwhile, you can go back to polishing your truck nuts, or whatever you deem important in your world.

          • Gregggggg

            Anyone with half a brain can tell that he was joking. No I’m not taking a shot at disabled people with my “half a brain comment”.

            You act like he went on a tirade, making fun of disabled people.

            Keep fighting this great moral battle though.

            You’re like the guy who gets offended at a stand-up comedy show.

          • ubermiguel

            Sadly, use of the word “retarded” (or its variants) generally ends only when someone in their family has a developmental disability. Apparently even Oilers fans that should know better don’t seem to get it. I happen to like the Nations for the generally intelligent and respectful (if irreverent) commentary and would hate to see it devolve into a typical internet comment board.

            Edit: oh and on the actual topic at hand Richards has unresolved legal issues and is on the downside of his career. If hockey insiders say he’s an amazing locker room leader and mentor then maybe you take a flyer on him, but if not he’s a pass.

          • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

            Al lot of people keep at you when we all have used derogatory terms we regretted later. You maned up and owned it. I’m good.
            I like a lot of your comments and I like your passion for the team. I would sit with you at a game anytime. (sadly the last hockey team in my state Traded Gretzky over a bet so no Oilers games for me)

            Edit I feel like I just won the lottery with comment #99!

        • S cottV

          How do you know that Penner is really intelligent?

          I saw him one time walk past a little kid who wanted an autograph so maybe all the other times he was great with the fans but that time it looked like he could have stopped and signed.

          • dangersuede

            And I suppose that you called Craig McTavish MacTarded by listening to him as well.

            I know Craig.

            You can comment on his hockey career but to so low as to call him Mactarded is not called for at all.

            There is probably a web site that accommodates people like you.

  • Oilfan69

    There’s just so much that’s unknowable about this situation. It’s plain that Mike Richards had or has a serious substance addiction problem. These things are normally kept far away from public view, but Lombardi’s emo open letter all but spells it out:


    It really comes down to whether Richards is well again and recovering. The answer to that is not publicly known.

    If he is, well, maybe. But Lombardi complains in his written statement about being lied to and let down. So who knows.

  • If we’re talking about a professional tryout, I say we should go for it.

    I doubt that it would get much beyond that, given Richards’ recent history but it will come down to performance. Everyone was up in arms when the Oilers didn’t bring in Ribiero, who arguably had as much or more baggage than Richards.

    If he comes here with something to prove, let’s get him on a one year deal and milk it for 30-40 games – then maybe he can be jettisoned at the trade deadline.

    Odds are strong that he won’t be able to beat out a guy like Lander or Miller, however, and a PTO would at least tell us he isn’t worth signing.

  • Oilfan69

    We have Nuge, Drai and Hendricks + Lander and .

    The C depth looks okay right now unless we run into injuries. So we’re not desperate. It’s always nice to add character and experience.

    I don’t know his reputation. If he’s not a bad person to have around, I’d be good with a PTO and 2-way contract and it would give him an opportunity to prove he’s not a wash up.

    Offering a short-term 1-way would require some back ground checking and some face to face time with him.

    • CMG30

      So too, I would imagine, a good number of other NHL players have problems. The only difference is their problems aren’t public. In Richards case, the only reason these issues blew up was because the Kings needed an excuse to get out from under his onerous contract.

      I have no doubt Richards could be a serviceable player, maybe even an upgrade if played at the correct level on the depth chart. Still, the Kings have a difficult road ahead to defend the termination of his contract and I suspect that they will not be successful.

      Before I would take on Richards, I would need ironclad assurances that Edmonton wouldn’t be stuck with his original contract should the NHLPA win. (From someone other than MacT’s CBA advisors….)

    • Soiled Trousers

      Very good question and if we could read Mac-Ls mind on it we would have a pretty solid perspective of his synopsis of his season to date and his prospectus of the remaining games we have left,maybe give us a tell regarding his evolving valuations of what he has to work with.

      If we believed bringing in a high-risk Player with relatively raw wounds would help put us over the top to make the Playoffs Richards might make sense.

      If we believed this was under all circumstances being treated as a valuation and development year to accommodate a thorough and complete indoctrination of the Roster by Mac-L and his philosophies and concepts well then depriving an upward tending internal prospect of opportinity and then bringing in an established high risk Center who could likely provide a consistant statistical output albeit mediocre would not make sense.

      Very introspective and probing question JW,well done.

      I personally believe Stolly and Richards both have a very solid and deep understanding of the internal systemic processes which carried the Kings forward in 2012 to the Stanley Cup and which have completely changed their fortunes around for this decade.

      I gave Stolly this same consideration not so long ago and ultimately I ended up on the fence personally because I already know what tactical data Stolly gave Sutter and his Teammates so the risk to me was not tenable,but were I the Oilers or another NHL Team who DID NOT have a clue what the Kings have been doing internally System-wise I might seriously consider throwing Stoll or Richards a life-line.

      I believe it was Stoll and few individual teammates who ADDED SOMETHING NewAge to Sutters recipie which sparked the Kings renewal in 2012….and I believe that since 2012-2013 every NHL Franchise has been trying to solve what the Kings/Hawks have cooking,monopolising the last FOUR Stanley Cups between them provides us with some evidence that there is Process continuity to what both teams are doing in terms of overall System Management methods over the long term which is catalysing their consistant Championship results once they hit the Playoffs.I am not saying the Kings/Hawks use identical Systems,I am saying they use a specific System Management Process which is unique and which is Player driven,one Stoll and Richards could have intimate information on.I am 100% sure Stolly is fully indoctrinated to the finer points and judging by external indications he and Richards may have more than bad habits in common.

      The substance abuse issue does not come into play for me because of the stringent policing the NHL and has in place post-disclosure,players are monitored incessantly and very closely,maybe these Pro Leagues let the men down by not being pro-active enough to begin with , but when it comes to curative efforts the NHL is a world-leader in terms of helping their Players recover from injuries and illness.

      You see I clearly remember Jarret Stoll as an INDIVIDUAL stepping outside of the Box and implementing Possesion/Transition tactics on a DEFENSE -FIRST NHL Team where this was not by any means the norm late in the 2012 Regular Season,shortly thereafter I watched his entire Team begin to execute these same core value Possesion/Transition tactics,turn their entire season on a dime and walk to the Stanley Cup using these KISS NewAge tactics to deadly effect.

      It was SPECIFICLLY Jarret Stoll I saw manning the swing-man position on the boards in the corners of the n-zones in 2012 directing Possesion/Transition focused fire-missions for a DEFENSE-FIRST Team which normally relied completely on defensive structures and did NOT focus on a Possesion/Transition style which utilises the up-speed late support and the creative zone traverses.It was Stoll orchestrating the first Kings executed KISS sympathetic-rebound free-flow managed playactions in the o-zone in 2012 which mated PERFECTLY with the Kings n-zone Transitions. ONE MAN sparked this evolution in LA in 2012 and IMHO it was Jarret Stoll who very well could have confided completely in Richards over time.

      On 2nd thought Richards doesn fit and neither does Stolly now….because the NHS Hammer and Anvil System has been released,it is as KISS and traditional as it gets and is a Possesion/Transition killer.No need to scalp anything now,just Stand-Up and project primary strength from your d-men and take way the transition lines ,lock them out of your d-zone ,shrink the rink,format your offense inside the 2-zone Devils PhoneBooth to optimise skill/speed players and use the aggressive fore-check to deny d-zone exits and aggessive back-check to deny n-zone 2ndary regroups and you win against any Possesion/Transition System.

      It took some consideration but nope we dont need Richards,we need a big strong Forward who can deny zone entries physiclly with body mass ,use his good speed and immense stride and reach to fore-check and back-check in the shortened 2-zone Devils PhoneBooth optimally like Pouliot and dominate the face-off circle like Jumbo Joe in the Devils PhoneBooth,looks like Bogdan Big-Rig Yakimov might get a look.Not asking much from him are we…lol.

    • This makes so much sense.

      Would give Yakupov someone familiar to work with, is probably much more sound mentally than Richards, has some connection to the team, and would likely be just as cheap of an option.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    As a recovering addict myself, any criminal charges helped with motivation to stop using. Highly doubt he’s looking at jail time but it probably is In the back of his head. To me he deserves a chance if he’s sober and level headed. Now is he good enough to help the team? I have no idea

    • Leaking5w-30

      Thanks for sharing

      If Richards is taking his recovery seriously then he deserves a shot. It’s also worth considering that if his drop off in LA was addiction related he might be ready to return to form. I agree with outer posters that a 2way deal that lets him get his feet in the ahl would be worth considering.

      The upside is if being clean is all it takes to make him a 20 goals two way center, and he is willing to stay clean. Then it is a win for everyone. And if he stays clean he becomes a special type or roll model.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    I’d have called in James Sheppard first. Google tells me he’s playing in Switzerland now, though.

    This is a tough one. On one hand a PTO is a negligible risk, and Richards has a history of being able to perform in the NHL at a high level, albeit a pretty distant history. Presumably his next contract is going to be two-way, league minimum, also low-risk.

    On the other hand, you’re talking about a guy who has a reputation as a hard partier, may or may not be a drug addict, who is currently going through a legal proceeding, and who’s next offense is going to see him out of the league and possibly in jail.

    I can see why the redemption narrative has merit, especially on a team that took in Craig MacTavish after what he did and saw him become a pillar of the organization. But how far do you really want to stick your neck out for this guy?

    I don’t think I would do it. If they’re that desperate for a depth centre I would put out some feelers on whether they could get someone’s AHL tweener for future considerations. Someone like Drew Shore from Calgary, or Marc-Andre Cliche from Colorado, Travis Morin or Curtis McKenzie from Dallas. Michal Bournival out of Montreal. Boston’s gotta be about at the end of their rope with Alex Koklachev about now. They’ve got Max Talbot in the minors too. Could even talk to Toronto and see what the return of Marcobello would cost.

  • ahbrown_42

    Not like we have to pay him millions just for a tryout. I don’t see the downside in having Richards come up on a tryout basis. It was only that back half of the season 2 years ago and last year that he struggled mightily and that could be the result of substance abuse or whatever he was up too. Now, he been working out and skating looking to get back in the NHL. I really don’t see a downside. When your as bad as the oilers shouldn’t you try anything? Ya never know

  • brian_d

    Given his baggage and lack of production in recent years, I say no. He’s got the “Sam Gagner” ceiling, I believe, and that isn’t worth the risk.

    On an unrelated note, have the writers of ON considered following WWYDW up with “WIWDT–What I Would Do Thursday”?

  • camdog

    The last two seasons Richards game has been equal to that of Gordon, Letestu, or Lander.

    If the team needed a 4th line centre that could win draws and kill penalties I might take a shot at him though.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I’d give it a try.

    I can’t believe a successful PTO would result in anything more than a 1 year deal for less than $1M. He could turn into a long term option for 3C, stranger things have happened.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    If we wanted a third line centre who can score, why wouldn’t we have kept Derek Roy?

    He’s great with Yak and hasn’t got any of the baggage Richards has.

    I can’t believe Chia was ever actually seriously interested in trading for Richards.

    And if he was because he thought we lacked a third line scoring centre, why wouldn’t he have kept Roy?

    The guy would have been cheap to sign.

  • Kevwan

    As Strudwick said in the mailbag –

    “I would give him a chance but it would be starting in the AHL for a month or two. He would need to show he has some speed and tenacity back. He was a very good NHL player for quite a while but that doesn’t come back because he wants it to.”

    If he can stay clean and sober, train hard, and show that he still has some talent left then he can help the Oilers or get traded for assets.

    If he doesn’t do all of the above then show him the door. Minimal risk-reward for the team.

  • Ready to Win

    Why not give a PTO to an ostensibly motivated player who has won at all levels and would very likely be a better option than Anton Lander at this point? The upside is worth it IMO

  • Kevwan

    Reality is most players in the league use some form of medication ,not just Richards.When competing at this level the body goes through so much.The long road trips several games in very short periods Many players play in vast amounts of pain.Unfortunately western medical believes in medications and surgeries
    Richards maybe,slats always gave second chances.When you sit in 30th place something must be done.Lander and Letestu are not good enough.The previous regimes and scouting staffs screwed this team up royally.
    Every year by December no chance at playoffs completely unacceptable.Trade next years first for a real defenceman.Taylor thanks for taking this team on your back You are becoming captain material ,keep it up.

  • Ready to Win

    I think a more productive move would be a trade involving Fayne (or some other D that doesn’t look like he’s part of the future here); it would help reduce the log jam on D and would probably bring back a better asset than a player whom no NHL team wants.

  • Kevwan

    If Lander and Miller have 0 goals and 0 assists and 0 points in 18 and 6 games this year why not send them to the farm and give someone else a chance. It is not fair to put Yakupov on a line of plugs. What a waste of talent. We all know what Yakupov can do when playing with talented players. Yakupov should be on a line with Hall and Draisaitl until McDavid is healthy. Yak has only 1 assist in his last 5 games; he had 7 points in his first 6 games with McDavid so the coach can get the Oilers scoring some goals by promoting him or not.