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Williams: Facing Flyers something special for Richards

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Williams: Facing Flyers something special for Richards

It’s been almost six years since Mike Richards wore orange and black and only one player – Flyers captain Claude Giroux -- remains from that 2010-11 team.

But don’t let Richards’ comments over the past few days fool you. He’s excited to play tonight against the team that traded him to the Los Angeles Kings, where he won two Stanley Cups alongside another former Flyer, Justin Williams.

“It means a little more to him than me, the way things happened on the way out,” Williams said of Richards’ abrupt departure in the summer of 2011.

“He was more the face of the franchise than I was. He’s excited, for sure, and I’m excited for him.”

Truth be told, Williams says Richards is excited to face any NHL team these days following his three-month exile after being charged with possession of a controlled substance back and having his contract with the Kings terminated.

“When you’re sitting there in Kenora in the middle of winter and not doing anything, yeah, he’s excited to be out of there and returning to what he loves doing.”

From a legal standpoint, Richards’ courtroom hearing, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been adjourned until Feb. 25, reportedly because the defense is awaiting results from further investigation.

Richards, 30, is still looking for his first point with the Capitals. In three games he’s averaged 12:23 of ice time, primarily on the fourth line and on the penalty kill, and has three shots. He’s also won 60 percent of his faceoffs.

“He’s exceeded my expectations, actually,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I’ll use a term my goalie coach (Mitch Korn) uses. You don’t know it until you own it. What you find are a lot of the intangibles with Mike. He’s fiercely competitive. He’s got a confidence, an air about him, that when a game is on the line he’s very engaged and that’s good to have.”

Since leaving Philadelphia Richards has maintained relationships with many of his former Flyers teammates, including Giroux, who told Philadelphia reporters that Richards reached out to him shortly after Giroux was named captain of the Flyers, a position Richards held before he was traded for forwards Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a second-round draft pick.

“I was kind of having a tough time and he reached out to me,” Giroux told reporters on Tuesday. “Since then we text once in a while. It’s good for him to be back in the league.  I’ve learned so much from him.”

Richards said his phone call to Giroux was simply “friends helping friends.” He says he has closer ties with some of the Flyers’ trainers and management team than he does their current players.

“It always has a special place in your heart, just being the first team,” Richards said. “To say it doesn’t mean anything is exaggerating it, but it takes away a little bit when you’ve only played with one guy.”

As for what kind of playing level he expects to reach, Richards isn’t ruling anything out. He set career highs in points (80 in 2008-09) and goals (31 in 2009-10) during his time in Philadelphia, but never managed more than 44 points in Los Angeles and managed just five goals and 11 assists in 53 games with the Kings last season, which included a stint in the AHL.   

“Do I expect to get 80 points again? I don’t see why not,” Richards said. “I don’t see why I can’t play the way I did before.

“You just go with it. With a team like this you just try to do well with whatever position you get put into. Do I expect to be playing with Ovi in a couple weeks? That’s probably unrealistic. You just try to do your best with whatever position you’re put in.”

For now, Richards says he’s just happy to be playing hockey again. The fact it’s on a team with the best record in the NHL is a bonus.

“It’s just a lot of fun to be honest, whether it’s working out before practice or on the ice trying to get better, before games, during games, it’s just a good atmosphere to be around. It’s nice to be back.”

[RELATED: Richards' court date in Canada pushed back to next month]

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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