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Richards Takes Over Behind the Bench

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

There are mixed feelings any time a colleague is let go, but on the other side of that coin is an opportunity. Starting Monday, Todd Richards began a new chapter in his coaching career as the interim head coach of the Blue Jackets.

Columbus GM Scott Howson announced a coaching change Monday morning, one that sees Scott Arniel depart and Richards assume the reins for the remainder of the season. The native of Robbindale, Minn. was the head coach of the Minnesota Wild from 2009-2011, and he compiled a record of 77-71-16 in that span.

Richards makes his debut behind the Blue Jackets bench in Chicago on Tuesday night.

“Coaches are there to get the most out of people and the most out of teams,” Howson said this afternoon. “I’ve seen Todd do it. I know he’s a good coach and he has a terrific way of getting to the players, and I hope he can do that here.

“Todd’s got some experience as a head coach. I’ve worked with Todd when he was in Wilkes-Barre and I was in Edmonton because we sent him players. He’ll bring a fresh approach and new voice and we’ll try to move it in the right direction.”

With a short turnaround time before he coaches his first game as the interim coach, Richards hopes to see an uptick in the players’ determination and a sense of accountability within the locker room. He also said he doesn’t anticipate making any significant changes in the short-term, but rather make incremental adjustments to help the team improve every day.

And in the midst of a hectic mid-season schedule, Richards is going to emphasize that the Blue Jackets cannot get ahead of themselves, and the most important day is the next day to work and develop what he calls “winning hockey” habits.

“Accountability is a big word,” Richards said. “Coaches throw it around and you hear it all the time. It’s players getting the ice time they deserve. To me, it’s a team that’s driven from within, and players fighting for power play minutes and not just giving those away.

“That’s going to be the challenge, getting the team to drive itself from the inside. There will probably be a push here initially; with the reaction of the players, that’s usually what happens. But once you get over that hump, it’s starting to develop the good habits of winning hockey.”

For some the head coaching change could represent a new opportunity or a chance to earn more ice time, but Richards said he wants each player to demonstrate why they are deserving of an opportunity, and it begins with practice.

“I’ve watched good coaches and I developed my own style of coaching,” Richards said. “It will be a bit different and it’s not going to be the same, but my (practice) philosophy is going 45-50 minutes with really good pace up and down the ice.

“I’ve talked with players on our team who have played for other successful coaches who have that same philosophy, so there’s subtle differences there, but you’re trying to teach and develop those good habits.”

Richards is optimistic and hopes to see immediate results beginning with Tuesday night’s game against the Blackhawks, but said the players will ultimately decide how much improvement is made.

“I don’t owe anybody anything at this stage,” he said. “There’s a new coach coming in – if you feel like you haven’t gotten your opportunities, now’s your opportunity.

“The door will be open and you want players to burst through that door.”

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