Here's the beef: Where is the grief?

By Gary Shelton and John Romano
Published March 2, 2008

JR: Maybe you can help me with this, Gary. I've been wondering why there weren't more tears shed over the departure of Brad Richards last week. I know it was expected, I know it was necessary for the Lightning payroll, I know a goaltender had to be found, but it just seemed like he got out of town without enough of us recognizing what he once meant to Tampa Bay.

GS: I agree. I always thought that when Brad left, you would need extra security to peel the fans off his legs so he could walk away. Unfortunately, his most important statistic became his paycheck. Too many people forgot that, in this team's best time, he was its best player.

JR: Dan Boyle said Brad was always the smartest player on the ice. That he saw things no one else saw. That's why his number of goals was always dwarfed by his number of assists because he was more of a creator than a closer.

GS: In the end, that's why the Lightning failed Richards as much as Richards failed the Lightning. You can't have a quarterback with no receivers or a point guard with no shooters. Without wingers, Richards looked like a Beach Boy having a Sunday skate.

JR: This is the point where you usually accuse me of having a man-crush, but that was another special thing about Richards. For two years he had diddly and poo for his wings, and he never complained publicly. Not once.

GS: I wouldn't mind what you are saying if you wouldn't cut out those little hearts while you're saying it. But, yeah, I'll remember Richards in the same way I remember John Lynch or Warrick Dunn. He wasn't great enough long enough, but he has my permission to come back in a few years.

JR: You didn't mind my little homemade hearts on Valentine's Day.

GS: Oh, don't go all Ben Affleck on me. They were carved into potato chips, for crying out loud.

JR: Bet you didn't even notice they were baked chips. Anyway, now that Richards is gone, is the Lightning actually a better team? I mean, clearly it did not get equal value in return, but is it better off with a better situation in goal and no second line?

GS: Let's see how much better it is in goal. Obviously, this team has some holes. And the Lightning is only better off for saving the money from Richards' contract if it can spend it on other players. Forget about this year's playoff race. How many players do you think the Lightning must add before contending for next year's playoffs?

JR: It needs somebody to play on Vinny and Marty's line. It needs at least two new people for the second line. And it still needs help on defense. In other words, start preparing early for next year's excuses.

GS: Here's something else it needs. It needs stability at the ownership position. I've sat with Oren Koules during a game, and I know he's passionate. But after buying a team, will he have enough wallet to help this team turn things around? Or is he Art Williams with a hipper haircut?

JR: Depends on who is starring in Saw VII: Now It's Serrated.

GS: As long as it's not the payroll that's getting slashed, I would give that movie an Academy Award.

This week's electronic conversation between Times sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano: