3. Mike Richards (2008-11)
Mike Richards was groomed to be the Philadelphia Flyers captain practically from the moment he was drafted 24th in the 2003 Entry Draft. Not wanting to pressure the youngster that was being called the future of the organization, the Flyers brought in journeyman Jason Smith as Captain in 2007, and he took Richards under his wing. When Smith left to sign with Ottawa after the season, it was Richard’s turn to take hold of the team.
Richards feuded with the media in Philadelphia, refusing to speak to them on a regular basis. Richards and best friend Jeff Carter were regular targets of a local blog that delighted in publishing pictures of the duo partying. The rumors of “maintenance days” being hangovers combined with his refusal to speak to the media seemed only to fuel the media’s interest. Richards was known to get into heated exchanges with reporters that he claimed were hounding him.
Mike earned his place in history as the Captain of the Flyers team that made the historic comeback from 0-3 down to Boston in the 2010 playoffs. He was also the Captain that watched the Stanley Cup be handed to the Chicago Blackhawks in his house that very same year. Right or wrong, much of the blame for that loss was laid at his feet.
Coach Peter Laviolette issued a “dry island” challenge, trying to encourage a healthier lifestyle for his young players, apparently a challenge Mike Richards did not embrace,. There were also rumblings that Richards and veteran defensemen Chris Pronger were involved in a power struggle for control of the team. It was Pronger who would often step forward and speak to the media when Richards refused. It was also Pronger who appeared to be mentoring the younger players, a role that traditionally fell to the Captain.
June 23, 2011, was a day that rocked Broad Street. Richards and Carter were traded to Los Angeles and Columbus, respectively. The trades were made only moments apart, so close in fact, that many Flyers fans thought sure that they were hoaxes. Both players were stunned, Richards had signed a 12-year contract in 2007-08, and had been assured he was indeed a “franchise” player.
Richards won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings, along with Jeff Carter, who begged the Blue Jackets to trade him to LA. For Richards, the drug accusations came home to roost when he was terminated by the Kings on June 29, 2015, for breach of contract. Richards had been arrested in Canada for possession of oxycodone, a controlled substance, without a prescription.
The termination was disputed, and the Kings eventually settled the dispute with Richards, leaving him an unrestricted free agent. Richards’ last contract was a one year deal with the Washington Capitals, signed in 2016. The drug charges in Canada were stayed, and prosecution was dropped.