Richards Adds Special Expertise
Familiarity should make for an 'easy transition' for new assistant
The former Minnesota Wild bench boss, who has enjoyed success at virtually every stop of his coaching career, was eager to start a new chapter of his National Hockey League life but wanted to make sure that his new club was “the right fit.”
Todd Richards came highly recommended from previous employers as well as the man who would turn out to be his new boss, Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel. With a resume that boasts a 98-49-12 record as a head coach at AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and a prestigious playing career at the University of Minnesota, it’s hard not to be attracted by the body of work Richards has compiled.
Being familiar with Arniel and assistant coach Brad Berry factored into Richards’ decision to join the Blue Jackets, it meant joining a group of coaches who share his views on the game.
"Knowing the type of people they have here, that's what attracted me to the job,” Richards told BlueJackets.com. "Also it was the organization and the players we have here. I think I share the same ideas as Scott and the staff, and it sounded like exactly what I wanted to be a part of."
With Bob Boughner stepping down from his position after the 2010-11 regular season, Arniel sought an assistant coach with power-play expertise and most importantly, NHL experience.
"I wanted someone with NHL head coaching experience who could come here and help us to do the right things and move our team forward and Todd fits that bill perfectly," Arniel said.
"I've coached against him numerous times and have always had great respect for him and how he prepared his teams."
While an assistant with the San Jose Sharks, Richards guided the club's power play unit to a 24.2 percent efficiency (third-best in the NHL) in 2008-09. As the head coach in Minnesota, the Wild owned one of the top man-up squads in the Western Conference last season at nearly 19 percent conversion. Successful power plays are often seen as a product of coaching and preparation, but according to Richards, a top-end power play starts and ends with the personnel and how the players are utilized.
"We've got people here that can perform on the man advantage," Richards said. "It starts with the foundation and putting the people out there to do it. Obviously, you want your best offensive players out there to make decisions and have some freedom with the puck.
"Hockey is a reactionary game and it moves so fast. (The power play) is not always about scoring goals – you can have a successful power play without scoring and create momentum.” Richards has some ideas churning already about how the Blue Jackets' power play might look with big offseason acquisitions like Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski patrolling the offensive zone.
The biggest change he wants to see? Shooting more pucks.
"When you watch the successful power plays in the league, they're shooting the puck," Richards said. “None are making four or five passes in a row.
"One of our mindsets has to be to shoot the puck and put it on the net – that's your first option. When you have a shooting mentality, it becomes contagious and the power play can make a difference in a hockey game."