There's still seven full seasons left on Brad Richards' mega deal, but John Tortorella had no problems benching the center in Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders. To Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, it's proof of the accountability that Tortorella demands from his team.
"He's the type of coach where he holds everyone accountable and it doesn't matter if you're a top-end guy or a fourth liner, if he's not happy with you, he's going to let you know," Callahan said on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM on Friday. "It's a lot of accountability on the team. I think it's good. It's tough for Brad, we've all been through it and we've all had those games but at the same time you realize that Torts is going to hold you accountable and you have to play your best hockey."
Richards, who signed a nine-year, $60-million deal before season, played just 47 seconds in the third period Thursday. Tortorella said afterward he felt he had to make the move, and it's not an issue of effort with Richards but just a matter of him going through a rough patch. Richards has two goals and eight assists on the year but last scored a goal on Jan. 26,
Some may look at Richards' benching and wonder if the move was a little too drastic considering Richards' standing on the team, but Callahan said the veteran does have equity built up with the coaching staff and he's an integral part of the team's success. For the season, Richards is plus-5 rating, which is tied for the third-best mark on the team.
"You have to realize too that it was one period that this happened and everybody knows how important Richie is to this team and how good he is for us and he needs to be one of our best players for us to go far," Callahan said. "He's a professional, he realizes that, and so does everybody else on the team, and he'll be right back in there Sunday (against Washington) and I'm sure he'll have a great game."
As Richards got benched, the Rangers also made a move Friday to demote Chris Kreider to Connecticut (AHL). Just one year after being the playoff hero, scoring five goals and tallying seven points in 18 games, he has a total of two points in seven games. Callahan expects that Kreider, who is playing in the regular season for the first time, will bounce back.
"It's hard. It's part of the game though. I remember my second year after playing in the playoffs and playing well I got sent down for a period of time and I think it's part of being a professional," Callahan said. "You got to try to use it as motivation and go down there and try to show everybody that you belong at that next level and I expect nothing less out of Chris and I think he'll do the same thing."