COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Todd Richards isn't afraid to admit that mid-February presented some difficult times not just for the Blue Jackets, but for him personally.
His team was losing its fair share of one-goal games, frustration was boiling and the Blue Jackets occupied last place in the Western Conference standings. They were struggling to score, had a microscopic margin for error, and all of a sudden, another element entered the mix.
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Former general manager Scott Howson was replaced on Feb. 12 and with the team struggling, Richards called it an uncomfortable position for any coach.
"Coaching was hard," he said. "I’m sure the players will say the same thing – the game was hard for us."
But Richards vowed to do his best job and continue to find ways to get his club back on track, and once Jarmo Kekalainen arrived and the Blue Jackets found their identity once again, they embarked on a remarkable turnaround and very nearly made the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Richards received a one-year extension from the Blue Jackets on Friday, keeping him under contract through the 2014-15 season - something he's grateful for but eager to validate in the upcoming season.
"It’s something (management) didn’t have to do," Richards told BlueJackets.com. "With the extension, as far as a comfort level, you always wonder (about the future) but I’m looking forward to what’s ahead of us and I'm really, really excited."
"Jarmo and I had some time to spend together, along with the other coaches so we could get to know each other a little bit. I think there’s still more for us to learn about each other, but I think this shows some confidence in me and our staff by giving the extension. We’re really looking forward to the start of next season."
The Blue Jackets' 19-5-5 finish to the regular season created a ton of buzz in Columbus, and Richards said the excitement and energy was not lost on the coaching staff or players. It's part of what makes the future so bright, he said, and makes him even more motivated to improve on what they started last season and break into the postseason.
"The town is excited about hockey again," Richards said. "It’s a real credit to our players because it wasn’t easy, and they stuck with it, kept playing and battling even when we had some tough times. We played big games down the stretch, which is good for our young players and we’re a young team. It got our fans energized, which was great.
"It’s going to be up to the coaches for us to be better next season, but also to the guys who are returning. We weren’t good enough last year, it’s as simple as that; you can take away all the good things, but we weren’t good enough in a 48-game schedule and now we have to be ready for an 82-game schedule."