NEW YORK — Brad Richardson jokes that his presence near the top of the Coyotes’ scoring leaders is more problematic than promising, but the truth, captain Shane Doan said, is there is more than meets the eye with Richardson.
“He’s got a really good shot and I think if you put him in the right situations, he would be a guy that could contribute a lot more offensively,” said Doan, Richardson’s regular linemate. “He does so many things well that the coaches count on him in other areas, but he’s got a lot more skill than he’ll give himself credit for — and a lot more skill than any of us will ever admit.”
The last line was a good-natured rib from Doan at his linemate, but Richardson’s contributions have been a critical component for the Coyotes — albeit, not enough for a 1-4 team. Heading into Tuesday’s game in New Jersey, Richardson was tied with regular linemate Jordan Martinook (they were seperated Tuesday in New Jersey) for second on the team with four points (two goals), one behind Radim Vrbata’s five.
Richardson, 31, has never scored more than 14 goals in any season of a career that began in 2005 with the Colorado Avalanche. He has never totaled more than the 31 points he posted last season: his first in Arizona. In 595 NHL games, he has 75 goals and 184 points, but like his linemate, Martinook, he brings a lot more to the table.
“There’s two things about their game,” coach Dave Tippett said of Richardson and Martinook. “They play a full 200-foot game and they play at a fast pace. You see where the league is now. The pace of the game is fast.
“Their role would be more defined as checkers but you see the impact they can have on the game when they do their job well. They haven’t had a lot of power play time — very little power play if any — but yet they have an impact on the game and that’s through speed and work ethic.”
Richardson is typically self-deprecating when talks turn to his own game, so he wasn’t about to read much into his strong offensive start.
“Sometimes offense just comes in spurts and I just happened to start the year like this but I definitely feel like there’s offense there,” he said. “I knew there would be a lot of young guys coming and I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to start off, but things are starting to fall in place a little bit.”
Richardson doesn’t expect to lead the team in points, and he understands there are other roles he must fill in terms of shutting down opponents, but he doesn’t mind the current trend.
“I’d love to keep scoring, but I’ll just keep doing my thing with consistency and playing my role and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “Sometimes it won’t be going the same way offensively, so it will just look like a hard-working game for me.”
Ultimately, that is where Richardson makes his living. Thus far, his line has been the most consistent for a team injecting an inordinate amount of youth into its lineup. He hopes that continues.
“Throughout your career you are put in different situations and sometimes that work ethic can shine through,” he said. “It’s my goal to be the same player every night and not have highs and lows. It may not look great to outsiders, but I think coaches appreciate that.”