Luke Richardson is new Blackhawks coach
How does somebody who scores a scant 35 goals manage to carve out a 21-year NHL career?
By accepting his role and executing it to perfection.
That's exactly why new Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson survived -- and thrived -- for so long, playing mostly for Edmonton (436 games), Philadelphia (387) and Toronto (299) from 1987-2008.
Now -- after 12 years as an NHL assistant and AHL head coach -- the 53-year-old will take the reins of a Hawks squad that is expected to be torn down to the studs by the time the 2022-23 campaign kicks off.
Eddie Olczyk, who took Richardson under his wing as a rookie in 1987-88, couldn't be happier for his friend, the organization and the fan base.
"He's got great respect around the league, not only as a coach but as being one of the all-time great teammates," Olczyk said. "I got a chance to be with him his rookie year. Him and his wife, Steph, are as good as people as you're going to find."
An official announcement and a news conference are expected next week. The hiring was confirmed by a source.
GM Kyle Davidson fired Jeremy Colliton last November after a 1-9-2 start and named Derek King interim coach. King, who was a candidate to take over, will now mull his options going forward.
"I'm not sure what's next," King said in a text. "I'll take the weekend to think it over with my family then will go from there."
Richardson spent the last four years as an assistant in Montreal and is credited with turning a putrid Canadiens' defense into an impressive force. In a story by The Athletic in 2019, numerous players cited Richardson's calm demeanor as a big reason why he's so effective as a coach.
Olczyk agreed, but was also quick to point out that Richardson has a fiery side as well.
"He is very soft-spoken, but don't kid yourself," Olczyk said. "When he played at times it looked like he was going to just ride you out a little bit, but he had that ability to try to run you into the sixth or seventh row. ...
"I've seen him go sideways and I think that's a good thing to have that reputation. It's not going to happen every day obviously, but guys like that -- when they do go sideways -- it's going to rattle a few feathers and get everybody's attention."
Richardson actually does have some head coaching experience in the NHL -- and it came on the biggest stage during the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs when coach Dominique Ducharme entered COVID protocol in the semifinals. Richardson coached Games 3 through 6 against Vegas and was still in command during Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay.
"He did an amazing job there and I don't think there's any doubt it opened up some eyes," Olczyk said. "I actually got a couple of calls about Luke over the course of the regular season from other teams. This guy has certainly paid his dues and his work speaks for itself."
Richardson (who, by the way, played with Hawks associate GM Norm Maciver in Edmonton for one season) had career highs of 4 goals and 19 assists, yet he played in 72 or more games 13 times.
"Lukie knew he was limited offensively, so how in the hell am I going to play in the National Hockey League for 1,000-plus games, and what do I have to do?" Olczyk said. "Role players have to do two things: You've got to accept and you've got to execute. ...
"He was the ultimate teammate."
Now, what kind of team will Richardson have to coach? There are rumors swirling around that Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach are both on the trading block.
And that's at a minimum.
Davidson could also deal others, including Connor Murphy, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.
A rough ride is certainly ahead. And we'll soon see if Richardson's the right man to make it a bit smoother for all involved.
Olczyk, for one, believes he is.
"He will represent the Blackhawks to the very best of his ability, both on and off the ice. That's all you can ask for," Olczyk said. "He'll fit in well in our town. His personality, his demeanor, his love for hockey. ...
"Our fans will appreciate him. There's no fluff. He's got it."