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Q&A With Todd Richards

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Todd Richards was named the sixth head coach in Blue Jackets history at a press conference today. After his media session, Richards sat down for an exclusive one-on-one interview with Rob Mixer of The following is the transcript of that conversation.

CBJ.COM: When you took over the team as the interim coach, you wanted the players to drive success from within and take more ownership of the team. Beginning today, what is the next step for your players in that process?

RICHARDS: I think we saw some of the different levels of play we could achieve toward the end of the season, based on how I saw we were playing. We were playing against some very good teams, and teams that were contending for playoff spots like St. Louis and…we had success against those teams. They were strengthening their teams, improving their rosters and making moves, and we were trading players away. We started to show another level to our game. But I still think there is more there for us, and it will be a great challenge to reach those heights with our team. That has to be the standard for us. It’s about setting the bar and playing to that level every single night.

CBJ.COM: There seems to be a trend in the NHL with coaches having a lot of success in their second head coaching job. Why do you think that is?

RICHARDS: Honestly, I don’t think I can put my finger on one specific thing. I have no idea. The one thing I can respond to is – and I think with anything in life, be it hockey or whatever -- you learn from your other failures and times when you didn’t have success. If we went through life having nothing but success, I don’t think you wouldn’t learn too much. To me, I would attribute that to coaches having gone through a lot of things and understanding what didn’t work, and then making the changes so that it does work.

CBJ.COM: When you agreed to take the job, did you think back to one moment in your career and think “it feels good to be here today?” Was there any one experience you referred to?

RICHARDS: No, I didn’t reflect back to anything in particular. Obviously, this is something you work for and you’re always looking for the opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL. Under the circumstances, when I came here, I wasn’t looking at it that way as far as getting this job eventually. I was here to be a good assistant coach for Scott Arniel and to be a piece of the puzzle in a successful season. For me, it was getting this year headed in the right direction when I took over. Those other factors come in down the line, and I got questions down the stretch about whether I wanted this job. But I was more focused on the team, and what we needed to do to get better that day, whether we were practicing or had a game to play that night.

CBJ.COM: It likely didn’t seem this way to you at the time, but looking ahead, did the final 41 games that you coached on an interim basis help lay the foundation for the next steps here in Columbus?

RICHARDS: Absolutely. I think it’s one of the building blocks you’re putting in. The once you have established yourself and had success as a coach, it becomes much easier to coach and your players know what’s expected of them. Having spent 41 games with them, I think they should have a pretty good idea of what I expect. There are some things to figure out as far as how we need to play and what our style of hockey is, but I definitely think the first 41 games together will help us.

CBJ.COM: Going forward, when someone refers to “Blue Jackets hockey” or the “Blue Jacket way,” what do you want that phrase to embody?

RICHARDS: That’s probably something that is still yet to be determined about us as we go forward. To me, there are lots of things that affect the culture you want to create, and the identity that develops with how you play. It’s dictated by the personnel you have in place, too. I have a good idea about a lot of those things going forward. Our defense and that core group of 5-6 guys is a real strong core that we can build around. A lot could happen from now until the start of the year, with certain moves that could be made to help reshape the team. That’s one of the bonuses having spent 41 games here as the head coach: it helped me understand what areas have to change. That will help shape our identity, and the culture we want to have here going forward.

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