A flurry of media reports have tabbed Luke Richardson as the Chicago Blackhawks next coach, although an official announcement from the team is yet to arrive.
So let’s find out everything we can about the Blackhawks’ next bench boss.
Richardson had a lengthy NHL career.
Drafted seventh overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987 NHL Draft, Richardson played 1,417 games across 21 seasons with six different teams, tallying 35 goals and 166 assists in his career. He also played in 69 playoff games, notching eight assists. His biggest statistical contribution is in the penalty minutes category, where he ranks 51st all-time with 2,055. Although he did not win the Stanley Cup during his career, Richardson won a gold medal representing Team Canada at the 1994 World Championships.
Richardson made his NHL debut on Oct. 8, 1987 in a 7-5 Toronto win over the Blackhawks at the old Chicago Stadium.
Here’s what Richardson had to say about that game, from this LinkedIn article:
“It was in Chicago Stadium, which is probably the best sports experience I think anybody could ever have. It’s so loud, from the first note of the National Anthem,” reminisced Richardson. “There were 21,000 people there screaming when they played the National Anthem with the organ. My ears were ringing, and they always watched the rookies, so I just got chills. It was pretty exciting.”
After his playing career ended, he dove right into coaching.
Richardson played just two games with the Ottawa Senators during the 2008-09 season and then retired on Nov. 27, 2008. He joined the Senators as an assistant coach later that season and remained there until the end of the ‘11-12 season. Richardson then went down to the AHL’s Binghamton Senators to serve as the team’s head coach. In four seasons, Binghamton made the playoffs twice while posting an overall record of 153-120-31 under Richardson’s guidance. He left the organization in the summer of 2016 and was back with the New York Islanders a year later as an assistant coach before moving on to the Montreal Canadiens at the start of the ‘17-18 season.
During that year off from the NHL, Richardson served as an assistant coach for Canada’s team in the Deutchsland Cup in Germany and also led Team Canada to the gold at the ‘16-17 Spengler Cup.
Hockey runs in the Richardson family.
Richardson is the uncle of Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Morgan Richardson, his daughter, played for Team Canada’s U-18 team against the United States in a three game series over a decade prior.
The other family-related topic that comes up during Google searches for Richardson involve his daughter, Daron, who died by suicide in 2010. Early the following year, Richardson helped create the “Do It for Daron” program. According to its website, the program “supports education, awareness, and research initiatives at The Royal that encourage young people to talk openly about mental illness and to ask for help when needed.”
When Richardson took over as head coach during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs after interim coach Dominique Ducharme went into COVID-19 protocols, he tapped the DIFD pin he wore on his lapel after Montreal won 3-2 in overtime:
For a Montreal perspective on Richardson, we reached out to our sibling site Eyes on the Prize, which covers the Montreal Canadiens. Jared Book, the site’s deputy managing editor, answered a few quick questions:
1. What roles did Richardson handle as an assistant coach? Any signs of progression/regression under his watch?
Richardson was mainly handling the defence and penalty killing. Those two things were a pretty constant struggle with the Canadiens and it’s hard to say whether that was due to a defence that relied on a certain style of defenders (Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot), or whether it was a system thing. It didn’t matter whether it was Claude Julien, Dominique Ducharme, or Martin St. Louis, it was a struggle. I don’t feel comfortable putting it all on Richardson, but it should be noted that he was replaced with the Islanders after one year with a subpar penalty kill.
That being said, the Canadiens got great play out of guys like Joel Edmundson, who had struggled in a zone system in Carolina. He also oversaw some young players like Alexander Romanov.
2. Were there any standout moments or developments during Richardson’s tenure with the team?
The standout moment had to be last year’s playoff run. The penalty killing was almost perfect, led mostly by Carey Price, and he also was interim head coach for several games when Ducharme contracted COVID-19. What stuck out when that happened was how well-respected he was by, well, everyone. There wasn’t one player who had anything bad to say about him and some veterans and youngsters alike all said how much they loved him. Same goes for the media. He was always really respectful and well-spoken and put in an effort to speak French.
It became clear at that point that Luke Richardson was someone that would become a head coach in the NHL. It was also clear that as inconsistent as his results were, he was someone players loved playing for and people just loved being around which I think does count for something, especially as a head coach when you are instilling a culture.
3. Anything else we should know about him?
I don’t want it to seem like I’m being overly negative. It’s truly hard to say how much of the team’s defensive struggles, whether it was the penalty kill, or coverage, was due to Richardson himself, instructions from the various head coaches, or even down to personnel. I do think that he may be better off as a head coach than as a specialized defensive coach, and I will be interested to see how he builds his staff and how he does with Chicago.