Do you know the Foo Fighters song, "Hey, Johnny Park!"? ... Can't think of it? You actually might know it, but they never even say "Johnny Park" anywhere in the song.
Every time I need a headline for Richard Park (granted, that's not often), I think of that song. And yet, tragically, there is no way to work a cheap pop reference in to the chorus, so it just gets lost in an endless loop in my head. Park's honorary report card poem -- which I hope to have contrived by the end of this post -- does not reference that song. Because it can't. Dammit.
But enough Foo. Players like Richard Park remind me how truly, stunningly, insanely, top-percentile elite the NHL is. Because with the exception of a few enforcers and a few body-moving defensemen, every player in this league has world-class speed and hands. Every player in the NHL would be the top player -- by several furlongs -- in the top local amateur league you've ever seen or played in, racking up more points and flashing more moves than NHL 2010.
What they don't have in the NHL is the ice time and the team role to flash their skills on a regular basis -- because there's six or seven forwards who can do it even better, even more frequently, against even better NHL-level competition. So these guys have to adapt their games for a different role if they hope to stay in the league.
Richard Park is such a guy. It takes one shift to notice his speed; you might need 10 games before you get the chance to notice he has hands, too -- and it will more likely come on a shorthanded breakaway than as pivot on a scoring line. But anyone who reached double-digits in goals three times under Jacques Lemaire knows a thing or two about two-way play.
After the jump, the usual report-card fodder to grade Park's 2008-09.
#10 / Right Wing / New York Islanders
May 27, 1976
1 more year at $750k, then UFA
No worries about steady Richard Park.
|2008 - 09 Richard Park||71||14||17||31||-13||34||4||2||17:10||2:47||1:37||49.0||10.1|
Random Fact: Four years into his NHL career, Park went two seasons between NHL games, as he spent time in the IHL with Cleveland and Utah. That's how uncertain -- and remarkable -- his regular spot today is.
"This is our concern, Dude" Fact: Honestly, Park's game is pretty steady, solid, predictable and useful. If you have a concern, do share. With any player whose game depends on upper-level speed -- hi there, Mike Sillinger -- I always have that back-of-mind fear of injuries or age taking it away. But Park isn't that old yet. Speaking of Sillinger, Park took the most Islanders faceoffs last season: 809. (Josh Bailey was second, with 807.)
The Story: So here's a new narrative: The Islanders had injuries last year. Like every Islander, Park was not immune. But by only missing 10 games -- and playing through pain in quite a few others -- he carried more than his share of the burden to fill in for the rest of the guys in the infirmary. That's probably why he had so much PP time -- which accounted for seven of his points, while four of his points came shorthanded. He tied his career high in goals (14, with pre-lockout Minnesota) and fell one point short of the career high he established with the Islanders in 2007-08.
Among Islanders forwards who played 40 games or more, at 5-on-5 Park was in the top half in goals scored per 60 minutes. (Of course, Jon Sim was even higher.) In relative +/-, he was in the bottom half. Support-wise, the quality of the teammates he played with was also in the bottom half. (His two most frequent line combos were Park/Comrie/Okposo and Park/Jackman/Bergenheim.) At 4-on-5, Park, Nate Thompson and Andy Hilbert were the most frequently used forwards and each had fairly similar results.
Given the injury-induced ever-changing roles last season, I'm not sure any of the advanced stats tell us more about Park than we'd already infer: As a checker, he had weaker teammates and the team as a whole suffered. As an injury fill-in on the higher lines and power play, he had more opportunities to collect points.
As far as intangibles go, like Mark Streit it is said of Park that he is a vocal and respected leader behind closed doors. Certainly nothing in his interviews and quoted comments would lead me to believe otherwise. Entering his 12th NHL season, Park is a seasoned veteran who has seen every kind of situation in stints with six different NHL teams.
The dependable Richard Park
Might've been signed on a lark
But the native of Korea
With skills short of Kariya
Is nonetheless good for a spark.
The Grade: If you accept my suggestion that Park is a pretty defined quantity who delivers with Maytag consistency -- a never-takes-a-shift-off type of guy -- then I'm still curious whether you thought last year's production was to be expected given his abilities, or if they were inflated (or even too low) considering the extra opportunity provided by the Islanders' Biblical plague of injuries.
Yesterday, the Danes filled Frans Nielsen's grade with "10s" (although, if they really loved Frans, they would have voted "5" as a show that they expected nothing less from their hero). Will today be Korea's turn to spike the vote?