Can Mike Richards Get Back To The NHL?

On the heels of two Stanley Cup championships in three years, the Los Angeles Kings have established themselves as an elite organization in the National Hockey League. During the summer leading up to the 2011-2012 season, the Kings made a move that proved vital to both championship runs.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

On June 23rd, 2011, the Kings traded Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mike Richards.

Fast forward to present day and Richards has now hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head twice with the Kings, proving to be a catalyst for much of his time with the Kings. But he is now sitting in the American Hockey League, with the Kings’ minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.

Richards was sent down to the AHL just under three weeks ago and it doesn’t seem like his return is in the foreseeable future. Here are three ways Richards gets back to the NHL.

Start Producing In The AHL

This seems pretty obvious, right? But it’s easier said than done.

Richards was sent to Manchester because his production has drastically dropped off with the big club. Richards had five-goals and 15-points in 47 games for the Kings this season and was seeing the majority of his ice-time with the Kings’ fourth line.

With a $5.75-million cap hit and six-years remaining on a 12-year $69-million contract, those kinds of numbers are unacceptable.

The move started off good for Richards. He recorded eleven-points in his first eight-games with the Monarchs, but recorded just three in the next eight. Things are going to have to pick up for Richards to get a chance to jump back into the NHL.

Richards has two 30-goal seasons under his belt. You have to think at just 30-years-old Richards should still have some of that skill left in the tank. If that skill is still there, he’s going to have to find what’s left in the tank and hit the gas pedal.

Blackhawks Overtime
(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Injuries With The Big Club

Of course you never hope an injury on someone, let alone someone on your team or a friend. But an injury may be the only way Richards gets a call up.

The Kings have already called up Nick Shore to fill the hole at center left with Richards’ departure. Shore, who was second in AHL scoring at the time of his call up, was the only NHL-ready center that could be called up when the move happened.

If a center, or any forward goes down on the Kings, Richards may be the only option to call up this late in the season when the Kings are in the middle of a fight for the playoffs.

Playoff Experience For The Stretch Run

It is no secret that Richards is a winner. Richards has two Stanley Cup championships to his name, won the Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms, won the Gold Medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics and has won a Gold and Silver Medal with Canada’s junior team at the World Junior Championships.

Richards knows how to win, and has done it a lot.

Richards has the experience and veteran leadership needed for a late season push or a long run into the playoffs. Over the last three years this leadership has shown. Richards was out there during key moments during both Stanley Cup runs, and the middle year where the Kings came up short in the Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Production may drop off from season to season, but leadership and experience doesn’t just disappear.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Kings call up Richards for a late seasons shake up, or to prep for a run at the Cup.