Richards and Lecavalier

Have you ever lived in another person’s shadow? Being constantly outshone by another is a maddening experience that can tear away at the fabric of your soul. This is because, more often than not, it is someone you genuinely like or at the very least respect who is keeping you down. Whether it is your best friend or a family member who is keeping you out of the spotlight, you cannot help but start feeling like this person is not someone you love but rather your mortal enemy. This can put a heavy strain on the relationship but even more than that it can shatter your feelings of self-worth. Consider then the plight of Brad Richards; doomed to live in the shadow of friend and former teammate Vincent Lecavalier.


It all began in 1997 when Richards joined the Rimouski Oceanic for the 1997-98 QMJHL season where he’d team up with Lecavalier for the very first time. It was a highly successful season as both players recorded 115 points on the season, went on a lengthy playoff run and both went on to be drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. It was Lecavalier though who received all the hype. He would play for Canada at the World Junior Championships that year and would go on to be the first overall selection in the draft. Richards was an afterthought, deemed to be a product of his environment, ultimately being selected in the third round. You could hardly blame Lecavalier though. He had his own problems to deal with; namely having to carry the weight of being a number one pick and being publicly anointed the next great French Canadian hockey player.


The following season Lecavalier made the jump to the NHL leaving Richards back in Rimouski to make a name for himself. Richards would do just that putting up some absolutely exorbitant point totals over two more QMJHL seasons and leading Rimouski to the 1999-00 Memorial Cup. That was great but Lecavalier was still an NHLer and thus still shone brighter.


When Richards finally made his NHL debut in 2000-01, he outscored Lecavalier but that was also the season that Lecavalier was first named Captain of the Lightning. Richards could not catch a break. Lecavalier was doomed to be in the spotlight and Richards was doomed to live in his shadow.


That all finally changed in the 2004 NHL Playoffs when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup and it was Richards, not Lecavalier who lead the team to victory and won the Conn Smythe. The spotlight was on Richards for what would seem like the first time ever but then the lockout came and all was soon forgotten. Then one season after the lockout Lecavalier finally reached his potential scoring 108 points and leading the league in goals with 52. Richards was once again an also ran and would be traded to Dallas the following season.


This is where Richards finally got to make a name for himself emerging as a bonafide superstar and one of the top playmakers in the game. He would culminate his rise from the shadows becoming the top prize of this summer’s free agent market. By signing with the Rangers all eyes will now be on Richards. Lecavalier has meanwhile seen himself shifted to the backburner in the wake of Stamkos fever. It truly is a paradox and leaves us with the ultimate question: Who is better, Richards or Lecavalier?


A quick glance at the numbers from the past few seasons would no doubt leave you leaning towards Richards but it is important to look deeper than just point totals when considering who to take in your standard Yahoo! pool.


























These are the season averages for both players over the past three seasons. The first thing to note is that durability has been an issue. At 31 years old, neither Richards or Lecavalier is a spring chicken. They are still in their respective primes but neither one should be counted on for a full season. There is little advantage for either one with regard to durability.


Goal scoring has been rather tight, which is surprising considering Lecavalier is a former 50-goal scorer and Richards has never even topped the 30-goal plateau. Lecavalier does hold a slight edge as you would expect.


Assists provide a much wider margin. Richards has always been a much better playmaker and that is reflected in his strong advantage in this category.


Both players have been dreadful in their careers with regard to Plus/Minus. They both prefer to do their work on the powerplay. Richards has however been stronger in this regard and heading to New York with Henrik Lundqvist I’d expect Richards’ numbers to improve here giving him an even stronger advantage.


Powerplay points are close but once again Richards has an advantage. Lecavalier is a lock to produce in this category playing with the likes of St. Louis and Stamkos on one of the leagues best powerplays. Richards on the other hand may see a drop but I don’t expect much of one in New York. Much like his situation in Dallas, Richards is on a team without a true powerplay QB. That suits him just as fine as he can fill the role better than most defensemen. The forward group in New York isn’t quite as flashy as it was in Dallas but it could potentially be better as Gaborik is a bonafide star, something the Stars never had to pair with Richards. I think Richards’ powerplay production goes unscathed with his move to the Big Apple, which helps him maintain his slight advantage.


PIM is a cake walk for Lecavalier. Richards just isn’t a PIM option.


SOG like Goals, are also much closer than expected. Despite his reputation as a playmaker Richards has always been a very solid producer of SOG, failing to eclipse the 200-SOG mark only twice in his career. Lecavalier remains a stronger option in this category but with the presence of Stamkos has seen his SOG totals decline. This category is very close but Lecavalier still has an edge.


I have this one scored 3-3 and a tie on the whole. What we must then consider things beyond the numbers.


Just how “in-decline” is Lecavalier? It is no secret that Lecavalier has taken a hit since the arrival of Stamkos but Stamkos’ arrival has also coincided with some major injuries for Lecavalier. It is important to note that St. Louis is the major driver of the offense in Tampa Bay. Whichever centerman is paired with the diminutive winger is the one who gets the bulk of scoring the scoring chances. While both Lecavalier and Stamkos play together with St. Louis on the powerplay the difference is seen with regard to who plays with St. Louis at even strength. Over the past few years Stamkos has been the one seeing greater time with St. Louis and that trend should continue despite the departure from that lineup during the playoffs. That leaves Lecavalier as the ~70-point player he’s been the last three seasons. He certainly has upside for more but that would most likely require an injury to Stamkos.


Richards on the other hand looks like he should remain as an 80-point producer with upside for more but slightly less substantial peripheral numbers. He too has upside for more but that will rely on the health of Marian Gaborik. So once again we see a paradox. Lecavalier needs an injury to a relatively healthy player to get to his upside, while Richards needs a perpetually injured player to stay in the lineup to meet his upside.


It isn’t a good gamble either way, which is why I don’t think you can go wrong with either Richards or Lecavalier. Analyze your team needs and pick accordingly. You can probably find a way to fill the peripheral stats of PIM and SOG with mediocre players and can thus go for Richards’ boost in Assists and PPP but you may also prefer Lecavalier’s more balanced production. This Cage Match is a draw but I’m sure you will all have some strong opinions one way or the other. The important thing (at least to me) is that we are having this conversation. Richards and Lecavalier are finally on an even keel.

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steve laidlaw said:

reply Rad - I still think Lundqvist helps Richards. He's never played on a thoroughly sound defensive club like the Rangers before. Playing in the Big Apple should help his +/-. Normally he's been a minus player because he plays on poor defensive teams. He's able to maintain such high point totals because of his amazing ability to perform on the powerplay. I suspect his point totals won't shift but he should be able to avoid watching his +/- vanish by having such impeccable defensemen and goaltender behind him.

Anthony - I considered Gagne's impact for a brief moment but ultimately wrote it off. Neither player was healthy enough in Gagne's time to make a huge impact. The fact is that Lecavalier's surge at the end of last season and into the playoffs was a result of being reunited with St. Louis, who is the true catalyst behind the Lightning attack BTW (side note here: Stamkos is good but it IS because of St. Louis that he looks as good as he does, that's another discussion entirely but I don't think Stamkos clears 80 points without him), often on a three-headed-monster line with Stamkos as well. This was not only on the power play but also at even strength.

It goes against traditional thinking that the Lightning keep that big line together for a full season but rather using it only when desperate. That means Lecavalier's performance will likely boil down to the result of the St. Louis lottery. Lecavalier may be the captain and have the biggest salary but Stamkos is the one who sells tickets so Tampa won't keep him and St. Louis apart for too long. So as indicated in the article Lecavalier will probably remain the ~70 point guy he was because he'll see enough time with the big guns on the power play while still being capable enough to produce decent amounts on his own at even strength. Losing Gagne will have little impact because they simply didn't play together enough.

Further evidence of this can be seen when we consider point production. Yes Lecavalier and Gagne played together a lot but of Lecavalier's 54 points 23 were scored with Gagne on the ice. Conversely, 35 of Lecavalier's points were scored with St. Louis on the ice. There's a clear catalyst here and it's more likely St. Louis, especially when you consider that of those 23 points that you can attribute to Gagne, only 10 of those came without St. Louis on the ice as well.

That may be a case of my simply finding the numbers to prove my point but I remain steadfastly convinced that the most important thing to scoring in Tampa Bay is Martin St. Louis. Gagne simply did not have much of an impact during the regular season. It's possible that Tampa as a whole suffers because of a lack of scoring depth but Lecavalier will not feel a direct impact of Gagne leaving.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Anthony L said:

Lecavalier to benefit or be hindered by Gagne's exit? Thanks to our Frozen Pool app, it cannot be ignored that Vinny's most common linemate for the vast majority of the season(when both were healthy)was the now-departed Simon Gagne. While both Gagne and Vinny were in good health down the stretch and into the playoffs, there's no doubt that they established a nicely productive secondary scoring tandem. Although neither have ever exactly been hailed as an elite setup man, both snipers by nature, they've still managed to link up well, feeding off each other's strengths in long stretches.

With Simon now in La-La land, and the 1st line etched in stone, the question begs "Will Vinny be able to push forward with the same level of performance that he finished strongly with last season, despite a depleted 2nd line?"(Even with a likely returning teddy purcell).

Personally I think a confident Lecavalier bodes well no matter what, since as Steve mentions, he's still somewhat in his prime. The absence of Gagne pins Vinny as the clear-cut primary shooter of the line. So I believe his goals will shoot back up into the 30's approaching 35. However, I do fear his assist total will suffer. But due to the fact that Gagne missed plenty of time, Vinny won't actually have too many assists on Gagne goals to defend next season dude to gagne's absences(In other words, despite gagne being vinny primary setup target, the fact that Gagne missed so many games means that his assist total last year was deflated from what it should have been)

Therefore his potential for more goals should outweigh his potential for less assists; thus an overall slight decrease in assists. Therefore in spite of losing his upper echelon linemate, he may actually flourish a tad. Call it an inlikely addition by subtraction if you will.
July 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Dicks said:

... You omitted the fact that, judging by the above photo, they also have equally poor fashion sense.
July 13, 2011
Votes: +0

Rad64 said:

... Another great comparison. Standard Yahoo, I like Richards. Add in shots and face-offs I like Vinny. For the amount of points Richards put's up, it still astounds me that he is normally a minus player. You know he's going to hurt you in that category, even with Lundqvist in net.
July 13, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

Notre Dame Yeah, that Notre Dame school is quite the well of hockey talent. Many a good player has passed through that school and even more than that it's a place where hockey contacts and networks are built.

@Horrorfan - Like I said in the article, look at your team needs. You may value the larger boost in a few categories because of what your team needs. Personally I like balanced players because a roster full of them is immune to ups and downs but your team may be different.
July 13, 2011
Votes: +0

Hawkfan said:

Hard to Believe Its hard to believe that these two met way back in high school when they were at Notre Dame at the age of 14, then they follow each other to RIM and then to the NHL with Tampa. Cool article and comparison man
July 13, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

Nice! I enjoyed reading this one Steve. I agree with you it's a tough choice and can be entirely dependent on team needs. Do you value more offense from higher end players vs having more balance across several categories? I also liked how you compared them back to junior and made a story out of it to link them to their current situations. Good job.
July 13, 2011
Votes: +0
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