Mike Richards

Under Pressure: Mike Richards

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Los Angeles Kings, we pick … center Mike Richards.

Sometimes a player is judged based on more than just the goals, assists and points he puts up. Even beyond the simplest numbers, there are facts and figures that matter more and more when it comes to forming opinions, and few things can drive feedback down quite like an athlete whose play doesn’t seem to match his pay. Much like Roberto Luongo (during his time with Vancouver in particular), Richards’ contract carries an expensive price tag ($5.75 million per season for a guy seemingly penciled-in for the third line?) and scary term (the deal expires after 2019-20), thus inspiring terms like “anchor” and “albatross.”

The defending champions are designed so near-immaculately that the 29-year-old’s deal sticks out like a sore thumb; add that to the a rejected opportunity to get out of it and every underwhelming Richards shift will only frustrate a subset of fans that much more.

With all apologies to Jonathan Quick (the other Kings player with a polarizing contract) and Justin Williams (a guy who might get squeezed out after this upcoming contract year), Richards is an easy choice for this feature.

The uncomfortable thing is that he’s highly unlikely to impress anyone expecting the 70+ point production of his peak years in 2007-08 (75 points) and 2008-09 (80). Really, his best chance of appeasing anyone is to appeal to hardcore fans and/or those who are more likely to empathize with his challenging situation.

Ideally, he can at least be more of an asset as a defensive forward with some upside. As this intensive study at Jewels from the Crown shows, his underlying numbers aren’t as bad as you might think when placed in the proper perspective, so maybe it’s a matter of adjusting expectations.

People forget that the Kings would have to pay Richards plus another player to take his place, so a buyout isn’t as cut-and-dried as it may seem. Still, it’s simply more fun to hammer on this situation in the simplest of terms.

As far as his team is concerned, Richards can be useful if he ups his offensive production a bit and continues to carry a heavy defensive workload for the Kings. Will he be valuable enough to justify that $5.75 million? It’s difficult to imagine such a scenario, which might miss the point.

That said, more than a few people will expect more than what Richards is probably capable of providing, so expect him to be in some high-pressure situations next season.

Ulf Samuelsson leaves Rangers, takes Carolina’s AHL gig

Ulf Samuelsson, Alain Vigneault
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The ‘Canes made a fairly big coaching splash on Tuesday, announcing they hired New York Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson to become the new bench boss in AHL Charlotte.

“Ulf has built a very strong coaching resume during a decade behind the bench in the AHL, NHL and Swedish league,” Carolina GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He has a proven history of helping to develop young players and understands the organizational culture that we are building here.”

Samuelsson, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Francis in Pittsburgh during the 90s, has spent the last three seasons as Alain Vigneault’s right-hand man in New York, helping the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final in ’14 and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

Prior to joining the Rangers, he spent two seasons as head coach for Modo of the Swedish Hockey League.

Samuelsson will replace Mark Morris in Charlotte, after Morris accepted the head coaching gig at St. Lawrence University. Morris had only been on the job for one year, having inherited the position from former ‘Cane Jeff Daniels.

Report: Marleau won’t face supplemental discipline for hit on Rust

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It sounds like Patrick Marleau won’t be suspended for his hit on Penguins forward Bryan Rust (top) in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After the game, Marleau told reporters that he was pretty confident he wouldn’t be suspended and it sounds like he’s right.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t see things the same way.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

Marleau was given a two-minute penalty for an illegal hit to the head on the play.

Rust played a single shift after taking the hit, but he went to the locker room after that and didn’t return. Sullivan said he’s day-to-day. It’s unclear if Rust will practice with the team on Tuesday.

Former Flyer Rick MacLeish passes away at age 66

MacLeish
Flyers.nhl.com
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Former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rick MacLeish passed away on Monday night. He was 66-years-old. The organization confirmed the news early Tuesday morning. MacLeish was battling meningitis as well as kidney and liver problems, per Philly.com.

“With the passing of Rick MacLeish, the Flyers have lost one of their legends,” Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in a release. “A good father, grandfather, teammate and friend, Rick will be missed by all who were fortunate to come and know him over the years. His happy and friendly demeanor was front and center everywhere Rick went. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Rick’s wife, Charlene, his daughters, Danielle and Brianna along with his grandchildren. May he rest in peace.”

MacLeish first put on a Flyers jersey during the 1970-71 season. He would go on to score 349 goals and 759 points in 846 NHL games with Philadelphia, Hartford, Pittsburgh and Detroit. MacLeish also scored what is considered to be the most important goal in Flyers history when he netted the opening goal in Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final against Boston. The Flyers would clinch their first Stanley Cup that night.

He won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Flyers and was named an NHL All-Star three times in his career.

PHT Morning Skate: Nick Bonino has been pretty clutch this postseason

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Pascal Dupuis wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune.

Matt Cullen also wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune called “Hockey Dad”.

Dainius Zubrus is making his third trip to the cup final, but he still hasn’t won one. (Puck Daddy)

–Watch the highlights from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Top)

–Here’s the Punjabi call of Nick Bonino‘s game-winning goal. (Streamable)

–Speaking of Bonino, he’s been pretty clutch this postseason:

–The NHL still wants to play an outdoor game on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Ottawa Sun)