Advanced Stats: Analyzing Richards Potential Impact (Part 1)

The Rangers have never been shy about committing large sums of cash to veteran free agents and this summer was no different. Whereas many of GM Glen Sather’s expensive additions have bombed out on Broadway, the signing of free agent canter Brad Richards to a nine-year, $60 million deal is widely viewed as the right add to a roster of mostly young, home-grown talent. His ability to QB a PP and more importantly his skills as a top playmaking pivot addressed the Blueshirts biggest needs.

Was it expensive? Absolutely, but Sather is also counting on Richards getting the most out of another expensive investment, one that didn’t produce what was expected of him this past season; star sniper Marian Gaborik.

Gaborik burst on the NY scene in 2009-2010 and quickly showed why Sather bestowed a five-year contract paying out $7.5 million per season to the oft-injured winger. In his first two months on Manhattan, Gabby popped 21 goals in just 25 games. He would finish the season with 42 markers and gave the Rangers their most dynamic goal-scoring forward since Jaromir Jagr in his 2005-2006 campaign.

Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, Gabby couldn’t duplicate that success for his follow-up tour on Broadway. His goal total dropped by 20 and he played 14 fewer games than he had the season before. The expectation is Richards will help Gaborik return to the 40-goal level and perhaps beyond. While that belief certainly seems reasonable, the question is do the advanced stats back up that contention?

There is no questioning the playmaking skills of Brad Richards. He has averaged 0.58 assists per game for his regular season career and has posted back-to-back point-per-game sessions. In Dallas his play was instrumental in the development of young wingers James Neal and Loui Eriksson, with whom he played much of the last two seasons on the same line. Eriksson, 25, potted 56 goals in his last two campaigns and was an All-Star this past year. Neal, 23, netted 27 goals in 2009-2010 and another 21 in 59 contests before being moved to Pittsburgh where it is hoped he will be the long sought-after scoring winger to pair with either of the Penguins two franchise centers; Sid Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Richards has also been very good since the lockout. Here’s a breakdown of the pivot’s traditional stats beginning with the 2005-2006 campaign.

Yrs

Gms

G

A

Pts

Pts Per Gm

PP Goals

PPAssists

6

446

136

303

439

0.98

53

142

Ave

74.3

22.7

50.5

73.2

0.98

8.8

23.8

Those are numbers that any Rangers fan would gladly take. Richards’ averages would have led or tied for the lead on last year’s Rangers in; assists, points, PP goals and PP assists. He also would have finished close to Dubinsky in goals scored The traditional stats definitely bode well for the Blueshirts’ fortunes but one point many detractors of the signing had about Richards was his poor +/- rating.

Truthfully, Richards has posted some horrible +/- ratings throughout his career. Again, since the lockout, he’s a -61 total in six seasons. That’s not too good. Yes, he has been on some poor, non-playoff teams which has contributed to his bad +/- rating but then that’s why we have an advanced stat On-Off Ice Plus-Minus, isn’t it?

As was explained earlier in the On-Off Ice Plus-Minus post, this metric attempts to neutralize how a player’s +/- rating might be affected by his teammates by taking that player’s +/- while on the ice and contrasting it with that of the team +/- when he’s off the ice. This is called Relative On-Off Ice Plus-Minus.

Of course knowing a player’s +/- might be skewed one way or the other because of the quality of his team isn’t helpful by itself. It’s also important to put some context to it. That’s why we’ll also look at a few other advanced stats to get a better indicator of Richards play five-on-five.

The following table is of Richards’ Relative On-Off Ice Plus-Minus ratings, QualComp numbers, Relative Corsi ratings, Ozone % (Zone Start) and GVT marks over the last four seasons.

Rel. On-Off +-

QualComp

Rel. Corsi

OZone %

GVT

2007-2008

-1.24

0.073

6.3

53.8

11.2

2008-2009

-1.13

0.058

-0.2

46.4

7.8

2009-2010

-0.21

0.028

-1.7

48.7

16.1

2010-2011

0.96

-0.008

-0.1

53.5

17.5

Notice the correlation between the Relative On-Off Ice Plus-Minus with QualComp. The better the competition Richards lined up against the worse his Relative On-Off Ice Plus-Minus was. That info suggests Coach Tortorella may want to limit Richards’ ice time against the opposition’s best players. It also shows how critical it will be for the Rangers to get secondary scoring from the “Pack Line” or from somewhere else. That will keep opponents from constantly using their top shutdown defensemen against New York’s top line.