|Mike Richards is awarded the Bobby Clarke Trophy as Flyers MVP for the 2007-08 season by general manager Paul Holmgren. (Getty Images) |
(Philadelphia, PA) – Almost from the day he was drafted, Flyers center Mike Richards was referred to by many as the future captain of the club.
On Wednesday, that speculation became a reality, as the 23-year-old fourth year center was named as the 17th captain in franchise history, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.
After having four captains in the last four seasons, Richards is likely to be in that position for awhile. His 12-year contract extension, signed last December, kicks in this season.
He was reached for comment while participating in a club-sponsored golf outing in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
“It’s obviously a privilege to be part of such a traditional organization, and be captain of it,” he said. “I am going to do my best to do it. We have a lot of great team leaders right now on our team, and you don’t have to change anything. I think everybody really helps out around the dressing room. There are so many leaders, you just kind of have to do your own thing and more worry about yourself and help out where things are needed.”
Richards was asked at the end of last season if he would be ready to be captain this year. At that time he said that he would not be, but according to John Stevens, Richards was just showing respect for the current captain at the time, Jason Smith. Smith signed with the Ottawa Senators in the offseason.
“I think that was a little unfair to Mike,” said Stevens of the questioning. “That was probably a day or two after the season, and I think in his mind, everybody was still on our team and as a player you don’t think of who might not be here. So, I think it was an indication of Mike and the respect he has of the veteran players on our team, and that included Jason Smith at the time. Since then, Smitty has moved on and we feel Mike is a great choice to replace him.”
Richards also spent plenty of time during the offseason thinking about the prospect of becoming the captain. He said that playing a year with Smith, as well as several other established veterans, helped him to learn what it takes to become a good leader.
“I learned a lot from (Jason Smith) last year. He is a great leader, and probably one of the best that I have had. Being around last year with Kimmo (Timonen) and Danny (Briere), it makes it easy when you have so many great leaders and great players around you that you don’t have to do too much.”
The decision was made jointly by Holmgren and Stevens.
We want a guy out there, that when we see him playing, he is representative of the identity of our hockey team. I think Mike is all of that.” - John Stevens
“It is something John and I had talked about over the course of the summer time,” said Holmgren. “John has spent a great deal of time with Mike just to make sure that he is ready for this. I spent some time with Mike since he has been back in town, and we are positive it’s the right time to do this with Mike. We look forward to him being the leader of the Flyers for many years to come.”
“I just think Mike Richards is a player that has all the characteristics we want on our team,” added Stevens. “We want a guy out there, that when we see him playing, he is representative of the identity of our hockey team. I think Mike is all of that.”
A former first round pick with the Flyers in 2003, Richards’ professional accomplishments include winning the Calder Cup with the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms in 2005; being named to the NHL Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2008; and being awarded the Bobby Clarke Trophy at the conclusion of last season as the Flyers’ team MVP. Richards led the Flyers in scoring (75 points), assists (47) and time on ice (21:30).
Timonen and Simon Gagne will serve as alternate captains for the 2008-09 season.