2011 NHL Offseason: Why Not Resigning Brad Richards Will Kill the Dallas Stars
Since the end of the 2008 season, superstar centre Brad Richards has wowed crowds throughout the Lone Star State with his puck moving ability and scoring touch.
Richards was traded at the trade deadline from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Dallas Stars alongside goaltender Johan Holmqvist for a 4th round pick in 2009, centre Jeff Halpern, winger Jussi Jokinen and goalie Mike Smith. The transaction still stands today as one of the biggest trades in Stars history.
Fast forward to 2011 and things are very different in Dallas than they were four years ago. Missing the playoffs for two straight seasons under bench boss Mark Crawford led to Crawford's unceremonious departure in April.
Also, since the beginning the season, Stars owner Tom Hicks has been trying to sell the team to a revolving door of prospective buyers. The financial situation in Dallas is believed to be the leading cause of why Richards will spend next season out of the gold and green.
What kind of impact will this have on the Stars next season? Read on and find out why not resigning Brad Richards will kill the Dallas Stars.
A Weakened Offensive Attack
The Stars offensive production has been steady and reliable over the past few seasons, despite struggling to make the playoffs for the last two years.
While not all the offensive credit rests on Richards' shoulders—the team does boast other playmakers like Brendan Morrow, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro—it is tough to imagine a team without Richards' dependable offensive skills.
Last season, Richards put up an amazing 77 points, 28 points of those being goals (stats taken from dallasstars.com). The year before, in 2010, Richards posted an impressive 91 points and 24 goals.
Filling this kind of a gap will be tough given the importance of good offense in today's NHL.
Losing Ground Against Tough Divisional Rivals
The Pacific division is the best division in the NHL right now.
With four out of the five teams qualifying for the postseason, the fifth being Dallas who sat one point out in ninth place, things have changed along the West Coast for the NHL.
The Pacific division is packed with high octane offenses and sharp goalies. The Stars led their division for most of the season, only to fall in the final months and allow the San Jose Sharks to claim the divisional champion crown.
Losing Richards means that the Stars have one less playmaker on their side—extremely dangerous given the presence of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, among other current NHL hotshots.
With the rumour mill swirling that Richards may end up in Los Angeles, things suddenly look even bleaker in Dallas.
Loss of a Fan Favourite
After the departure of Mike Modano at the close of the 2009/2010 campaign, fans in Dallas were left with only a handful of well known and long tenured players to choose to replace Modano.
Enter Brad Richards, whose on ice play and classy off ice reputation made him an instant favourite amongst the Stars' faithful.
It's no secret that attendance has wained in Dallas since the start of last year's season. According to Stars blog Defending Big D, attendance dropped a staggering 18 percent in 2010/2011.
Granted the economic situation in Texas as well as the Stars repeated losing seasons will contributed to a blip in home ice support, but 18 percent puts the Stars in the basement of the NHL attendance records.
The fans in Dallas need as many reasons to attend games as possible, and losing Richards is not only a poor on-ice decision, it is a poor business decision.
On a lighter note, perhaps team captain and 2010 Winter Olympian Brendan Morrow will finally get the respect he deserves.
Stress on Drafting the Next Richards
Drafting is key to replacing Richards. With few teams willing to give up playmakers these days, the Stars should look to their own development team to scout out young players who can be groomed to become a top six forward.
Last year, the Stars selected American goaltender Jack Campbell in the first round. While that pick was merited given the need for a strong backup to Kari Lehtonen, many fans felt the Stars were not paying attention to the need to stay young offensively.
This season, the Stars hold the fourteenth overall pick. With a draft class that includes players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jonathan Huberdeau, the 2011 NHL Draft will be crucial to filling the hole left by Brad Richards.
While speculation is that the Stars will use their first round selection to draft a blueliner, currently the towering defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak leads the pack in that regard, the team must pay attention to the boards come draft day. Should a pick like Mark McNeill or Sven Bartschi still be available, the Stars war room must seriously consider abandoning their defense-first mentality.
Unfortunately, when it comes to drafting, it's a crapshoot. The number of successful players that come out the early rounds of the draft is a complete lottery from year to year, but the Stars must take a risk on a strong forward to try and lessen the blow of losing Brad Richards.
The future seems pretty well decided in Big D as of this week.
General manager Joe Nieuwendyk has officially stated that Stars will no longer pursue Richards after giving the centre multiple contract offers, all of which Richards has refused.
The speculation as to where this winger will belong next season is beginning to run rampant, and will continue to be headline news heading into the offseason.
It seems like the only thing the Stars can do is pray Richards heads off to an Eastern Conference team and will not be a threat to the team's quest for a playoff spot in 2011-2012.