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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    • 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.

    • 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….)

  • 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.

    • fran huckzky

      Unless you have some inside information you shouldn’t be throwing stones. Abuse of any substance is unhealthy but there is a big difference between sniffing illegal drugs and having a couple extra brewskis. Just because you heard something from a buddy who is a friend of the stickboys second cousin, doesn’t make the rumor true.

    • Jay (not J)

      What wold have been the reaction around the city if in ’85 or ’86 half the team got busted at an afterhours party in a local downtown restaurant? It could have happened and it could have destroyed the boys on the bus and their legacy. The media were different back then and law enforcement was different, but people were the same.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hemmercules

    I say give him the tryout, see where his head is at.

    Worst case, it doesn’t work out and they send him on his way.

    Best case, he’s serious about a healthy return and they get some centre depth for a year on a super cheap contract.

    Any team that takes a chance on him will have him under the microscope, I can’t see him being a detriment while trying to revive his career. Just dont go signing him longer than a year.

    Lander needs some new scenery for a few weeks if you ask me.

    • Zarny

      And what exactly would that wrong message be?

      Don’t take painkillers?

      There is a lot of transference is the comments. Stoll was busted for cocaine; not Richards. There is the “dry island” incident, but otherwise there is really nothing to suggest partying was the problem with Richards.

      Which is why I think you have to be a lot closer to the situation than any fan to make the call.

      Richards has never been called a “cancer” in any locker room. Players like Giroux have commented how well Richards treated them.

      And he might just send the right messages to young players – such as what not to do. Or how fleeting an NHL career can be.

      Funny how so many worried about sending the “wrong message” would trade for Seguin in a heartbeat – a player whose team literally had to post security outside of his door to prevent him from partying all night – in the middle of the playoffs.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    So everyone is saying he would be a virus in the room.

    One thing about the 1 Jr gold medal, two time Olympic gold medal winner, 2 time Stanley Cup champion, is in the room he was amazing. He would lift guys. Ya he messed up, having some problems. It’s a pass for me but he is not a monster, 90 % of the NHL does drugs they just don’t get cought

    • Lofty

      Agreed that perception and reality are not the same.

      Todd Burtuzzi (DET), Mike Ribeiro (NSH) and Tyler Seguin (DAL) are a few perceived problems that worked out well for their teams.

  • 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.

  • 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”?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Leaking5w-30

    I see a lot of trashes on comments that mention trading the first round pick. Why is that?

    Are we honestly okay with having another top 3 pick? I think this 9 years going onto 10 years of losing has made Oilers Nation enjoy being winners at the draft but consistent losers when it matters most.

    Love Hall and Nuge, but face it, Yakupov is a bust. I used to be a huge supporter of him but give it up already, the guy is a mediocre at best player and there are about 10 other players in that draft who are better. Would the oilers not love having Lindholm instead of Yak right now?

    • CMG30

      Problem is that a 1st rounder is not enough to land what this team really needs: A top end defenseman who’s ready to go. But, by trading it the team could be giving up another first overall for short term help.

      If the right deal comes along I’m sure Chirelli is open to trading it, but there is tremendous risk in doing so. I felt that the Oil should have traded last years first for help on D. Good thing they didn’t or we wouldn’t have McDavid.

  • Zarny

    I would not have considered Richards with his terminated contract; but it merits consideration now.

    I think you have to be a lot closer to the situation than fans are to make the call right now.

    His drop-off is Captain Obvious. He’s lost a step in a league where skating is paramount. Physical deterioration due to style of play? Lombardi’s comments indicate physical conditioning was a concern. Lifestyle choices could certainly be a factor too; but he was busted for Oxycodone, a painkiller.

    The appeal is the character Richards has shown on-ice. He won 2 Cups in LA and not as a passenger. He had an edge to his game the Oilers sorely need. He was the type of player to be named Captain at 23 y/o and was a world class penalty killer.

  • 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.

  • 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