"The best thing is that he went down there with a good attitude that way," Blake said. "It's a tough situation. He's better and he's smarter than those guys down there. You notice it right away when you watch him."
Blake, the Kings' assistant general manager, has logged significant and substantial air miles on cross-country trips to spend time watching the Monarchs, and recently, Richards.
Richards, who had 15 points in 47 games, was put on waivers by the Kings right after the All-Star break and cleared on Jan. 27. A year ago, few would have predicted this current fate for Richards. That a two-time Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist with Team Canada in 2010 would be spending his 30th birthday (Feb. 11) in the American Hockey League.
On Saturday, he had two more assists in the Monarchs' 5-2 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, giving him two goals and eight points in six games. The Monarchs were supposed to play at Providence on Sunday, but Blake said that game was rescheduled for Monday afternoon because of weather issues. He said the organization is planning on sending development gurus Nelson Emerson and Mike O'Connell to check in with the Monarchs next week.
Still, the Kings are just as interested in what Richards is doing in his off-ice workouts, given that the American Hockey League schedule affords more time to incorporate training.
"That'll come. The one thing is he plays a lot of minutes down there," Blake said. "He's in all situations, penalty kill, the power play. They use him and they want him to continue."
Good reports are one thing, and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter reiterated his earlier statement that he still thinks Richards has a lot of hockey left.
But it doesn't appear there are any immediate plans to bring Richards back to Los Angeles. The Kings expected he would do well against that level of competition, but Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was more focused on the fitness component.
Lombardi, in the summer, pondered using a compliance buyout on Richards, who is in the midst of a 12-year, $69-million contract. The Kings GM opted not to do so, saying then: "As long as he looked me in the eye and made that promise that he would make the commitment in the off-season."