Well, well well. The time has finally come. After numerous coaching profiles, a lot of speculation overall, and a report that Ryan Huska was to be hired, the coach of the future for the Blackhawks organization has finally been identified: Luke Richardson.
The report of this hiring was leaked on Friday by Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff. There he reported the intention by the Blackhawks for Richardson to be the head coach, though contract details remained to be determined. Today, the Blackhawks finally made it official naming him the 40th head coach in team history.
Endless praise has been heaped at the feet of Coach Richardson over the weekend, leading up to the exciting announcement of his hiring. He has been described as a patient coach who also has a lot of experience working with young prospects and coaching them to be better than anticipated. He was able to accomplish this during his time with the Montreal Canadiens.
Many have mentioned how he started as an assistant coach under legendary coach, Claude Julien, filled in as interim head coach when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19 during the 2020 Conference Finals "Bubble Run," and that he really would have been top choice to be head coach of the Canadiens following the departure of Ducharme, but Richardson's lack of French fluency (a requirement for Montreal coaches, resulted in Martin St. Louis being hired instead.
Montreal players have gone to great lengths to praise Richardson as a coach. Jay Zawaski of CHGO wrote a fantastic piece (there is a paywall, just a heads up) on Richardson and included quotes from several former players of his. It is quite uplifting to read such positive feedback about a coach after either silence or negative comments about Jeremy Colliton.
It seems like Richardson is a great hire. He has experience as a head coach at the AHL level, he has head coaching experience when he filled in for Ducharme as I alluded to, he played in the NHL as a prominent defenseman for 21 seasons, he reportedly has ll the skils needed to be a head coach, just lacked the French fluency. By all accounts, he was the best possible "unproven" coach. I am thrilled to see what he will do with the team.
Here was Kyle Davidson's formal announcement shared with the beat reporters, and then later e-mailed to the fanbase:
"We knew that we wanted someone who could connect the complexities in today’s game. We wanted someone who had the experience of developing young talent but could also connect and relate to veteran players. We wanted someone who was of high character, someone who we could all look up to in the organization and our community as a leader. We feel we have found all of that and more with Luke. He shares our vision; he knows the way we want to play and the type of players we want on our team. We look forward to him building an environment and culture within our team that will help develop talent within our system to win consistently."- Blackhawks GM, Kyle Davidson
What did I say about someone seemingly checking all the boxes? It is pretty clear to me the Blackhawks will be getting that with Luke Richardson. Here were his comments about being hired by the Chicago Blackhawks:
"I am honored to be trusted with this opportunity to coach an Original Six franchise like the Chicago Blackhawks. I look forward to working with Kyle (Davidson), Jeff Greenberg, Norm Maciver and the rest of the Hockey Operations group in addition to having the guidance Rocky Wirtz, Danny Wirtz, and Jamie Faulkner. Together, we will work to direct the team on a journey that we believe will achieve success. Clear communication, a plan, hard work and execution will lead us to that success. I plan to create an environment of trust with our team. With trust, relationships will form and grow, thus allowing everyone to blossom and execute their role. My philosophy is to be better today than we were yesterday and, to achieve that, we will need commitment and consistency. "- Blackhawks Head Coach, Luke Richardson
It's time to get excited about this new era of Blackhawks hockey folks! The pieces may not be there on the talent side, but I believe the coach is something to get excited about. I really believe in this hire and I think that Luke Richardson is by no means a consolation prize. I think he is possibly the best case scenario the Blackhawks could have asked for.