Richards heads resurgence in Dallas

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 PM ET

DALLAS — Most people think Brad Richards best seasons came in a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform.

He won the Stanley Cup there in 2004 — still a bitter pill for Calgary Flames fans to stomach — and was named the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP.

In the years following, his play cooled off and he was eventually traded to the Dallas Stars.

However, despite the Stars’ uphill battle to make the playoffs this year, Richards is on pace for the best offensive year of his career.

“I think a bit has to do with my role has changed,” Richards said before Wednesday night’s clash with the Flames. “I have more responsibility, more like it was in Tampa. I think any good player, offensive player, wants to feel that put on him. I like having that. It means you’re on powerplay, offensive situations, and it helps your confidence and helps you produce.”

Prior to puck drop against the Flames, Richards had collected 58 points in 50 games and was on pace to beat his 91-point 2005-06 campaign, a excellent season no matter what the situation.

But it’s even better considering Richards is coming off a disappointing 2008-09 season. He compiled only 48 points (16-32-48) in 56 games last season (low by his standards), and was plagued by a pair of injuries when his team needed him most.

While the Stars were still in the hunt for a post-season berth, Richards suffered a broken wrist. He returned only to suffer a broken hand in his first game back.

Hardly the way the centre, acquired just before the 2008 trade deadline, wanted his first full season in Big D to go.

“It did eat away at him when we were in a playoff push,” said linemate James Neal. “It was tough for him, but he knew what he had to do to get back.”

First was get healthy, which he did thanks to two off-season surgeries.

Then, it was take a bigger stake in the team.

The Stars squad Richards arrived to may still be in some ways run by Mike Modano, Marty Turco and captain Brenden Morrow, but it’s obvious a changing of the guard is taking place.

Modano is nearing retirement, while Turco may very well be somewhere else before this year’s trade deadline.

Which mean the time has come for Richards to take more of a leadership role, something which wasn’t easy to do when he first came to Dallas.

“There were three or four of us in Tampa and it was our team. Then, you get traded and it’s different,” Ricahrds said. “You’re kinda on the outside, trying to help, but it’s a different feeling. You don’t want to step on toes and have to respect for the guys who have done what they’ve done here.

“But after the summer, and with a new coaching staff, it was a fresh start for everybody.”

Of course, it’s helped how Richards has clicked with linemates Neal and Loui Eriksson, who are both 20-goal scorers this season, although it means the 29 year old is now the veteran mentor.

“I haven’t had steady linemates since Tampa, and it’s nice to have stability there,” he said. “You have to stay even more even keel. If you have a bad night, you can’t show it. Loui’s a little more experienced and James can have more ups and downs, so you have to lead the way and it’s good for me.

“We’ve had our ups and downs and it’s been a challenge. I don’t feel that old yet.”


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