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Richardson: Preaching constant communication

Newly appointed assistant coach Luke Richardson plans on leading the Canadiens' blueliners by example, and building a cohesive defensive unit along the way

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - The Canadiens rounded out their coaching staff on Monday with the appointment of Luke Richardson as an assistant coach.

The 49-year-old Ottawa native, who will be tasked with coaching the Habs' defensemen, most recently served as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders last season before general manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Claude Julien came calling for his services.

The former rearguard's resume both as a player and a coach speaks for itself.

Over the course of a 21-year playing career, Richardson suited up for 1,417 regular season games with Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Ottawa, before making the move behind the bench during the 2009-10 campaign. Since then, Richardson has racked up over 600 games of coaching experience at both the NHL and AHL levels combined, and earned some hardware for Team Canada on the international stage, too.

Video: Luke Richardson's message to Habs fans

Time spent patrolling the blue line for six different NHL teams and mentoring players of all ages over the last eight years will undoubtedly serve Richardson well in his new role in Montreal.

He plans on making good communication both on and off the ice a top priority.

"I think communication is key. I think communication face-to-face is huge. Not just me to them, but them to me. Listening to understand what they feel and where they're coming from," explained Richardson, during his first meeting with members of the media at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday afternoon. "We're trying to create that team within the team, getting that defensive unit to work together - communicating with the goaltenders and letting the forwards know what they see. That'll be my biggest thing - to make them loud on the ice and loud in the dressing room, so there's lots of communication and players working together."

Still an avid workout buff, Richardson plans on leading and teaching by example by partaking in the same drills he puts his players through every once in a while. He might even throw on some gear on a day off and scrimmage on occasion.

"You can't just bark orders. I try and keep myself in shape. I keep playing hockey. I like to go out and show things and jump in drills and work with players. I think they respect that," mentioned Richardson, a former first-round pick of the Maple Leafs, seventh-overall back in 1987. "I really want to listen to what they have to say, not just preach and tell them what to do and then close the door and make them go out and do it."

Video: Luke Richardson on joining the Canadiens

In short, though, Richardson's overall mandate is rather simple.

"I'm just going to be a calm, strong influence and pass on any knowledge that I've had over the course of my playing career and coaching career to help these players be the best players they can be," said Richardson. "I gained a lot of experience early, both playing and coaching. I think keeping that perspective of a player, and what it's like to be a player on the ice and down at ice level, and how fast the game has changed, that gave me the ability to help young players."

As for being on the other side of the Canadiens - Maple Leafs rivalry now, Richardson is just fine with swapping colors. He still recalls making one former Habs winger a little bit upset during one of those heated Original Six matchups way back when.

"I remember one night I got a good body check in on Claude Lemieux. He did not like that much," cracked Richardson. "But it made a lot of the highlight tapes, so that was probably one of my favorite memories."

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