Brad Richards: Mr. Minus
Brad Richards's plus-minus was a topic of conversation at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, and you can see why:
Richards told the Toronto media he's been on the ice for a lot of empty netters against, a number he pegged at six. (The Lightning have allowed five empty-net goals this season, and Richards has been on the ice for four of those.)
The limitations of the plus-minus stat are widely known, but how does Richards's performance actually measure up?
Well, his real problem has been a lack of offence, with 65 per cent of his points coming on special teams.
At 5-on-5 this season, he's been on the ice for 42 goals against, which is second worst to only Paul Ranger on the Lightning. In terms of goals against per 60 minutes played, he's last at 3.96.
The 42 goals against figure is high, especially considering he plays less at even strength than a few of his teammates, but Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have been on the ice for 38 and 40 goals against. Their plus-minus ratings are fine, however, because of some incredible production at even strength, where both rank in the top 20 in the NHL at 3.90 and 3.65 goals for per 60 minutes when they're on the ice.
Richards is well down the list at just 1.98.
Part of the problem is certainly in the fact that he doesn't play with either Lecavalier or St. Louis at even strength, and is left trying to produce offence while playing with the relatively mediocre offerings left on the Tampa roster. (Especially with Michel Ouellet out with a dislocated shoulder.)
Richards's most consistent linemate has been Jan Hlavac, he of 12 points so far this season. Ouellet had been his winger for about half the games he was healthy, and there were four where Richards lined up with St. Louis. Lately Richards has had to make due with Mathieu Darche and Hlavac, which would be tough sledding for Wayne Gretzky in his prime.
That said, it's the Prospal-Lecavalier-St. Louis trio that face the most difficult opposition.
When Richards is on the ice, the Lightning score at that 1.98 rate and when he's off the ice they're at 2.68, largely on the strength of the big line. Defensively, Richards's 3.96 goals against figure drops to 2.78 when he's not out there.
It's really not pretty.
Behind The Net has just 17 players ranked lower than Richards so far this season at even strength, and his numbers on the power play and penalty kill aren't good either.
It's not the empty netters — but he's certainly not getting much help out there. It's no surprise that this team is too top heavy for its own good, and it is starting to wear on the stars.
"I don't look at (plus-minus) that much," Richards said. "I think I've been on for about six empty net goals. I think it's more of a team stat."
You wonder if that was his acceptance speech when he won the CHL Plus/Minus Award in his last year of junior hockey (1999-00). He was +80.