GLENDALE, Ariz. — Brad Richardson spent about six weeks at his cottage in Kingston, Ontario after the NHL season ended. That was as much time as he could bear after missing most of last season with a broken right tibia and fibula, so he came back to Arizona in the heat of summer and began training for the 2017-18 season.
“I started so much earlier than usual, but I’m trying to get everything back to where it was,” said Richardson, who is skating three times a week with the likes of Kevin Connauton, Brendan Perlini, Dylan Strome, Christian Fischer and even Shane Doan, who made a recent cameo. “The leg feels a lot better than it did a few months ago, but it took me a lot longer than I thought it would because I had other issues that sprung up from the surgery.”
Following November surgery to repair the broken bones, Richardson hoped to return by the end of the season, but the leg wasn’t responding the way he had hoped. Other parts of his body were also impacted by the inactivity and he eventually had a second procedure in late March to remove a screw from the leg.
“I don’t know that I was rushing it,” he said. “You can look at an X-ray and see that the bones are healed and the leg felt good, but the rod in my leg had some issues. That was a second factor of having the surgery and I knew there was a chance this would pop up. It got so bad I couldn’t walk so they had to shut me down.”
Richardson, 32, also had other unexpected complications once he started training.
“The toughest part is I couldn’t get my quads to activate because they were shut down for so long,” he said. “I still think about it a little bit when I’m on the ice. It’s weird to see how the body reacts. One thing affects a lot of other parts of the body that you just don’t think about.”
Richardson still expects to play center, his preferred position, and he expects to be ready for the start of training camp on Sept. 14.
He is very much a part of the Coyotes’ plans.
With the addition of Derek Stepan in the offseason, the Coyotes could roll out a depth chart of Stepan, Christian Dvorak, Dylan Strome and Richardson, with Nick Cousins another possibility up the middle.
Richardson and new coach Rick Tocchet have spoken by phone, but they have not met face-to-face and they have not talked much hockey, so neither really knows what to expect from the other, or the role that Richardson will assume.
“He’s obviously a very good penalty killer, a hard worker, very well liked in the room and those are big pluses when you have those types of guys,” Tocchet said. “As far as his role, everybody gets a clean slate.
“I think for me, that’s the best way to evaluate players. I have a pretty good idea of what guys do and what skills they have, but I like the fact that my eyes aren’t going to be biased because I haven’t seen them play live. For some guys who maybe think they deserve more, it’s a great opportunity to earn a bigger role.”
Richardson admitted the Coyotes’ dizzying pace of offseason moves was stunning to watch, even if he only heard about them from people at the gym because he tried to unplug for the summer.
“That’s the first time I’ve really seen that much action on one team,” he said. “It’s a change of direction but I’m just going to keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing.”
Richardson’s reputation is that of a blue-collar type who brings speed and tenacity, but he also showed flashes of offensive potential the past four seasons, including a career-high 31 points (11 goals) in 2015-16, and five goals and four assists in 16 games last season.
“When I was trying to establish myself as an NHL player I always felt like I had to be that hard-working guy and then try to add more dimensions,” he said. “It was frustrating obviously, having last season cut short because I was having a really good year, but what can you do? It’s over it at this point.
“The last four years, I’ve been playing fairly high minutes and more in a third-line or second-line role and I feel like I’ve come into my own as a player. We’ve got a new coach so to be honest, my role is really not up to me, but I think it’s a good opportunity for everyone. Everyone has to prove himself. That’s fine with me.”
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