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Richards needs time to decide future

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Brad Richards celebrates his third-period goal at the Stadium Series game in Denver. The goal on Feb. 27 was his lone game-winner during the 2015-16 season. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- Brad Richards will have a little more time to decide about his future this summer.

Richards, who turns 36 today, said he hadn't started thinking about his next move when he spoke after the Red Wings cleaned out their lockers last Monday.

"Going to go get away and relax for a bit," Richards said. "Three teams in three years, a lot of hockey, so I think mentally I think I need to just go recharge the batteries."

Richards won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals the season before with the New York Rangers.

"I've been fortunate the last two years to play 'til June and you get spoiled," Richards said. "Watching playoff games now and there's nothing like that time of year.

"As far as playing for the Wings and wearing the jersey, all that stuff's been an honor. But obviously the season didn't go the way I wanted it to or the team wanted it to."

Richards also won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that originally drafted him in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

Richards won the Conn Smythe Trophy that year for scoring 12 goals and 14 assists in 23 games.

It was an unusual year for Richards personally as well as team-wise.

The normally ultra-durable Richards played in just 68 games this season. A back injury forced him out of the lineup after just six games and it took nearly a month to come back.

Richards only missed 20 games the previous six seasons combined.

In terms of productivity, Richards' numbers were also down.

Richards had 10 goals and 18 assists, both career lows, plus one goal in five playoff games.

Last season he had 12 goals and 25 assists in 76 games, then three goals and 11 assists in 23 playoff games.

Many players say that as you get older, it's not the games that are difficult, it's the preparation that goes into getting ready for the games that wears on you.

"The game is great," Richards said. "If you just put your gear on and go out and perform in front of 20,000 people every night, there's nothing better in the world. That's an honor that we don't take lightly. It starts May 15, you pretty much have to start training if you want to keep up. It's pretty much a year-round thing and that's the part that if you don't do it right and do it 100 percent, then it doesn't work."

For whatever reason, things didn't work for the Wings this past season.

Scoring was a season-long issue, particularly on the power play for all but about a month.

"I don't think we ever fired on all cylinders, the team, in my opinion," Richards said. "There's 100 reasons for that and people will dissect all that. But I don't think if you asked every person, I don't think, maybe young guys like Larks (Dylan Larkin) and Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) that have never played in the league, they've exceeded or done better than I thought, but I think everybody else thought there was more there and just couldn't find it. For whatever reason, never got on that roll. Tampa found a way to win four games in the third period and we didn't. That's why we're here."

Although he hasn't made any decision yet, Richards admitted seeing friends and former teammates like Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis hang up their skates is making him think.

"Guys that I grew up and started my career with are retiring," Richards said. "It's probably going to creep into my mind here in the next month a little bit too in what I want to do. I'm not there yet where I want to say I'm retiring. I need to get away and kind of see mentally how I feel and where I'm at.

"It's a young man's game now and it's hard to start a family and all that stuff and put in the time and effort it takes to stay in shape against some of these young guys. You do have to make sure you're 100 percent all in mentally. The offseason's so big at this age. That's going to go into a lot of decision-making."

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