One of my favorite movies is She’s the One, starring Edward Burns and a cast of stars like Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston. A line that keeps repeating is the idea of a “down cycle,” during a relationship, where one doesn’t have “relations” for a block of time. The idea is that we all have them, we can’t perform at a totally up-up-up level 100% of the time.
I guess we can say that Brad Richards is in what we call a “down cycle” in his playing.
Well, technically, it’s a Ranger problem, but it’s basically an epidemic that’s stemmed out from Bradley.
“I’ve never been through anything like this in my career,” the 12-year-veteran said. “I’m trying to cope with it, I’m trying to learn from it but I’ve never experienced anything like this. When you’re an offensive guy, you have to produce.” (From today’s NY Post article by Larry Brooks).
Some athletes go through a down cycle. Remember when, as an example, Jason Bay hit one for like THREE SEASONS? Sorry for the exclamation, but I mean, I’m a Mets fan, so I’m used to hoping for best, but expecting worst.
My Rangers and friend-in-real-life @NotGlenSather warned us last year that Richards, the big free agent signing, could be a blessing or a bust. Considering Ranger history, and length of the contract, we kind of figured he could go either way, but mostly hoped for the best case scenario: that he’d give us a few good years, then fizzle out on the back end.
Fizzle isn’t even the word to describe him now. Ranger Nation had a fair assessment of Richards today, mostly a glass half-full post:
I guess I should address the elephant in the room: the comparisons of Brad Richards to Chris Drury. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. One year ago Brad Richards was one of the best free agent signings in franchise history, yet today Rangers fans think of Richards as being just as big of a bust as Chris Drury. (Adam Garabedian, Brad Richards Struggles Doesn’t Mean He’s In Decline)
Valid point. I mean, with the passion surrounding the fan base, and the crazy reactionaries there are in ALL teams, it’s easy to think of Richards as a drain on the team. Heck, Richards is even cognizant and acknowledged it in the Larry Brooks piece. Yet, something else that the Ranger Nation piece actually acknowledged is that Richards did not keep current during the lockout, didn’t actively play. That’s a big red flag, to me, that one of the best offensive guys wasn’t working on that very aspect.
You’d think one of two things would happen during a long layoff: that he works out and crafts his game and gets better; or sits and gets stagnant. Guess which happened to Richards?
The worst case scenario is that he gets in his own head. Athletes are famous for doing that. The weight of the world is on their shoulders, and by pressuring themselves when they can’t perform, leads them to more underperforming. Then it can go one or two ways from there. It either gets into their head for season after, or they make themselves better.
On the Mets, David Wright was having trouble “performing,” and led to a down cycle for a few years where he struck out routinely with men on base. Yet, when he got out of his own head, and started to concentrate on hitting, period, again rather than hitting home runs, he had a resurgence.
Yet we’ve seen this story before with the Rangers. Perhaps the Ranger Nation post made a decent comparison with Drury, but I have another one that hits closer to home: Marian Gaborik. In 2010-11, Gaborik had a noticeable decline, though he missed several games, yet that didn’t quite account for his fall off the cliff. Certainly didn’t show up during the postseason either, when the Rangers got eliminated all too quickly that year.
Gaborik had a bounce back year in 2011-12, but is having a similar decline to Richards this year. Which kind of sucks because one of them on a down cycle is bad enough. Yet you’d have someone else to pick up the slack. At least Gaborik had a somewhat valid excuse for his slow play: he was hurt and wasn’t projected to come back midseason anyway in a regular scheduled year. So Gabby couldn’t play if he wanted to.
Richards is a curious case. He seems to have enough of a cerebral type of play that he can bounceback. He’s aware of his down cycle, and wants it to change. Yet the time to change already took place: during the lockout. Now we’re into the season, and it’s not getting any better.
Mostly, I’ve been nonplussed about the Rangers play this season. A couple of wins that are close, with a smattering of close losses or playing a game of catch-up, like they did over the weekend.
Without a full effort from the two top offensive guys, it won’t matter that Rick Nash is owning the city. They won’t make the playoffs after a season that they should have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it won’t even matter about who gets hot at the right time. Without the help of Brad Richards, this team will have far worse problems than worrying about playoffs: it will be for him to get out of his down cycle.