Blue Jackets’ Todd Richards celebrates three years behind the bench
What do you get when celebrating your third anniversary? If one takes the traditional route, leather would be an appropriate gift. If you’re going for a more modern feel, crystal or glass will work. For a hockey coach celebrating his third anniversary behind the bench on a game day, putting a "W" in the win column would do rather nicely.
Friday night in Toronto marks three years for Todd Richards as bench boss for the Blue Jackets. He took over for an embattled Scott Arniel on Jan. 9, 2012. Since then, he’s coached the team to a 103-87-19 record over 209 games with a .538 win percentage. This puts him second behind Ken Hitchcock (125-123-36, 2006-2010) in wins and second behind Claude Noel (10-8-6 in 2010) in win percentage. He’s the second-longest tenured coach for the Blue Jackets, trailing Hitchcock by 75 games.
Richards has stayed almost unflappable throughout his tenure, steadily getting the team to be better. He coached them to an 18-21-2 record that first year. Next came the lockout-shortened season, going 24-17-7 and missing the playoffs by a tiebreaker. Last year saw the team make only its second appearance in the playoffs after going 43-32-7 (2-4-0 in the playoff series).
This season, as the team has battled through an absurd amount of injuries, he’s coached them to an 18-17-3 record in 38 games.
His Minnesota sensibilities allow him to keep his demeanor in-check and on an even keel. Chances are, he didn’t realize that Friday marks his third anniversary as the head coach unless someone reminded him of that fact, so focused is he on winning the next game.
He’s found a way to have the players "buy in" to the system that he coaches, and it has shown results. When they execute his game plan the way it’s designed, they have proven they can beat any team in the league on any given night. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The team has gone on a tear with a 12-1-1 record since Dec. 1, 2014.
The organization showed its faith in him as the coach, rewarding him with a two-year contract extension last summer that keeps him behind the bench through the 2016-17 season. He’ll become the longest tenured coach in franchise history when they play Game 32 in the 2015-16 season.
So, in lieu of leather, crystal or glass, a victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the grandest gift of all.
It should come as no surprise that the team leaders in goals, assists and points all happen to play on the same line together. Nick Foligno (17-21-38 in 37 games) leads the team in goals and points. Ryan Johansen (13-23-36 in 38 games) leads in assists and Scott Hartnell (8-15-23 in 33 games) is top-four in all three categories. They’ve been reunited as a line, and combined for 1-6-7 (+5) in their last game against the Dallas Stars.
Foligno, having just signed to a six-year contract extension that keeps him with the Blue Jackets through the 2020-21 season on Dec. 31, is second in power play goals (9) and third in power play points (19) in the NHL. He’s averaging 19:23 time on ice this season with a 21.3 percent shooting percentage.
The Blue Jackets close out their five-game road trip Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. Catch all the action beginning with the FOX Sports Ohio pregame show "Blue Jackets LIVE" at 7 p.m.