There is no rumour mill like the Toronto rumour mill. We can all agree on that. And, right now, Brad-Richards-to-the-Leafs is in the hopper, ready to be ground up and spit out. On behalf of all Leafs’ fans everywhere, I’m happy to say, “No, thank you” to the prospect of Richards coming to Toronto. Not interested. Not under any circumstances. Let him ultimately skate his way into retirement elsewhere.
Oh, I can hear you already. Blathering on about how Richards is having a great season in Dallas. At this moment, he sits T-6 in NHL scoring. Boy, the Leafs could sure use his 9 goals and 24 points, right? You’re yammering about how he had a career-best tying 91 points there last year. I get that. He’s had a bit of a re-birth in the Lone Star State.
But there are a few problems with the Leafs acquiring ol’ Brad. First, he’s 30 years old. He’ll turn 31 during next spring’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not ancient, but answer me this question: Is he on his way up, or on his way down? If you are honest with yourself, you said down.
Are his best years ahead of him, or behind? That’s right, behind – on Florida’s gulf coast. That is absolutely not what the Leafs need right now.
Toronto has a long, long, distasteful history of bringing in forwards on the downside of their careers and expecting miracles. It very rarely ends well in this city. Jason Blake (don’t forget he had a 40-goal season, just before he came to Toronto and dove into the tank), Darcy Tucker, Eric Lindros, Owen Nolan – my fingers grow so weary.
All these guys came to the Leafs on the downside of their careers, amid much fanfare, pomp and pageantry – as only Toronto sports’ fans and media can fabricate.
There are exceptions. Alexander Mogilny, perhaps. Glenn Anderson, maybe. They are the exception rather than the norm in T.O. And, of course, there is the matter of Richards’ ridiculous salary. It’s a deal he signed in Tampa Bay, after the lockout, when he’d just won the Conn Smythe Trophy during the Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup run. It ends in July 2011.
Richards makes US$7.8M this year. He’ll want a big chunk next July. Brian Burke can’t afford Richards – and he’s way too smart to even consider acquiring him before he becomes a UFA. It flies in the face of everything Burkie is preaching in Toronto – patience, youth, building from the ground up. Helping young players, like Nazem Kadri, develop.
Would Richards’ game dovetail nicely with Phil Kessel? In the short term, it likely would. Who knows how many goals Kessel would score with Richards deftly slipping him the puck. But Burke won’t knee-jerk with Richards. He’s already invested too much into this club. Nor should he.
So bridle your Brad Richards’ excitement, folks. He’d fit better somewhere else. Anywhere else.