October 23, 2009
Mike Richards(notes) is the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, and one of the intrinsic facets of that gig is interacting with the media. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the interaction after last night's shootout win over the Boston Bruins included insights like:
After that last one: Exit, Mike Richards. Why is Pierre McGuire's favorite hockey leader freezing out the media? Seems accusations that the Flyers are party boys have pushed him over the edge.
Reporter Sam Carchidi on the wonderfully named Broad Street Bull blog covered Richards's postgame chat (such as it was), and writes:
Richards has vowed to freeze out the media. He is upset because of stories generated after former teammate Joffrey Lupul(notes), now with Anaheim, was asked recently if he thought he was traded because the Flyers wanted to break up the players who live in Center City and enjoy the night life.
Lupul was sent to the Anaheim Ducks in the Chris Pronger(notes) trade during the summer, and returned to Philly for a game on Oct. 10. Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia's Tim Panaccio was one of the writers who explored the "nightlife" angle with Lupul:
There was a fair amount of rumblings within the Flyers organization last season about the "Old City Gang" of Lupul, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter(notes) and Scott Hartnell(notes). The theory goes, it sometimes presented a night life distraction that may have taken away from their on-ice hockey. Many believe trading Lupul was a sign by management that no one should get too comfortable when a team underachieves like the Flyers did.
Lupul doesn't buy that. Yet it's been talked about enough, even among the players, that you have to wonder if there is some truth to it. "I talked to some guys on Friday, Richie and Carter about this," Lupul admitted. "They said that people have been talking about that. I know all those guys are young guys and live downtown and stuff. But they are all professionals. Never once would they put themselves ahead of the team."
The partying accusations are more than just conjecture; they were an issue for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren after the team was eliminated last season by the Pittsburgh Penguins, in an interview with PhillyBurbs.com:
"I think this all falls under the umbrella of discipline. It's on-ice discipline - not overstaying-your-shift discipline - it's off-ice discipline, it's night before a game taking better care of ourselves. That's a natural maturation process that a lot of our younger players are still going through. We've addressed that. So am I concerned about it? We'll see how it goes this year. All our players have been talked to about it. Is it an issue? The fact that we've talked about it, I guess it is an issue."
A couple of things at play here. First, Richards has a legit gripe against those in the overly critical Philly media wondering if Lupul was traded to break up "the old gang." Like Lupul told Panaccio: "The reason I was traded was to get Chris Pronger." The Flyers had to give up something to get what they wanted, and Lupul's salary and skills-set were the sacrifice.
That said, the fact is that Philadelphia is currently eighth in the East with nine points in seven games, and with only a plus-3 in goal differential. It's been an underwhelming start, and the last time the Flyers were underwhelming their general manager inferred that off-ice behavior was an issue. (Chris Pronger is in that room, partially, as a reaction to the need of adult supervision.) Thus, the partying will continue to be an issue until the Flyers play well enough to put last year's collection of bar photographs and porn-star sightings (slightly NSFW) behind them.
But most of all: You're a captain, Richards. Act like one. From Dave on South Broad Street:
Oh yeah, and one issue I have with the Flyers. Apparently Mike Richards refused to talk to the media one night. Yo Richie, if you don't want to wear the "C" give it to someone who does. If you are the captain of a PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM, whether you want to or not, you have to open up your trap. View yourself as a coach on the ice and the coach, no matter what, always talks to the press. It's part of your responsibilities. Do I really have to put Richards...good 'ol fan favorite Richie...on my Philly Sports Athletes That I Hate Even Though They Play For My Teams List? I hope not.
Probably not. Richards remains one of the NHL's best two-way talents -- six goals in seven games -- and he's going to be the first one to lift the Cup when the Flyers finally break the losing streak. But he's a 24-year-old captain, and freezing out the media for what is a relevant line of questioning is acting like a 24-year-old captain.
Stick tap to Puck Buddy Max Power for the tip.