With the hiring of Assistant Coach Luke Richardson, the New York Islanders are adding a veteran presence behind the bench.
Richardson played a hard-nosed game during his 21-year NHL career, racking up 201 points and 2,055 penalty minutes in 1417 NHL games for Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa before retiring in 2009. Along the way on his NHL journey he hooked up with Doug Weight, and the two career hockey men have stayed close as they've both made the transition into coaching.
After his playing career, Richardson spent two years as an assistant coach with the Senators and another four years as a head coach with the Binghamton Senators, Ottawa's AHL club, before working with Hockey Canada last season.
Richardson has some Islanders connections. The Ottawa native coached Shane Prince for three years in Binghamton with Prince raising his point totals each season. Richardson played with Weight for five seasons in Edmonton (1992-97) and played one year with Jason Chimera in Columbus (2005-06).
NewYorkIslanders.com caught up with Richardson to talk about joining the Islanders, his philosophy on coaching, his Islanders connections and more.
NewYorkIslanders.com: Congratulations on being named an assistant coach. How does it feel to become part of the Islanders organization?
Luke Richardson: It's very exciting. Dougie and I are former teammates and have been really close family friends for a long time. We've spent a lot of time together the last few years talking hockey and stuff, so we really know each other well and obviously keep up on what each other is doing. So it was really exciting to get that phone call and it's always great to be reunited with close ex-teammates and to have the chance to work together with the same mindset and work ethic. It's going to be really exciting with a good, young team.
NYI: Give us your coach's perspective on the Islanders. What do you see in this team?
LR: I've watched them closely. I was in Binghamton so it was on MSG and I watched quite a few games over the last few years. Obviously there's the face of the franchise, John Tavares. It's a unique situation when you get a chance to play or coach or be around someone at that level and they are unique people. I had a chance to play with guys way back like Börje Salming which was a different level and then obviously guys like Dougie Weight in Edmonton, Eric Lindros in Philadelphia and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa. Those are the types of people that raise the bar for everyone around you so when you have someone like that, it's an automatic help to the coaching staff because when other players play with world-class players in practice every day, they get better and that's a big help to the coaching staff right there.
And a couple years ago I thought Garth and Doug made a huge move in the summer when they traded for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. I love both of those D, different styles, but they complement each other. But I thought coming in with Stanley Cup experience - both of them - they're game-changers. And I think to have a good nucleus of young defensemen - which the Islanders have a whole bunch of them - underneath these guys it's a huge help to the whole organization, but especially the coaching staff. Those are a couple of points that really stand out to me.
NYI: How would you describe yourself, are you more an old-school coach, or a new-school guy?
LR: There's a mixture of old-school and new-school, but I definitely think the communication and building those relationships with players is huge nowadays. Good teams, good organizations do a good job of it and you see the results. I know that's the way Doug feels. That doesn't mean coddling them, that just means communicating with them and being truthful and honest. That's what everybody - especially in the sports world - wants. There's the easy way, people always tell you what you want to hear, or vice versa, you get criticized right down where it shatters your confidence. You have to just take a truthful, honest approach and create that family atmosphere and that culture.
That's something that works well with me. I like to communicate with the players and definitely like to create relationships with them. There are honestly tough conversations sometimes but I think you have to have those and be honest with them and tell them, even if they are upset or it becomes a bit of an argument. The next day I'm okay with that, you have to make sure that you're okay with that and I think that's a good starting point to build that relationship off the ice and it translates on the ice.
NYI: You've got a few Islanders connections with Jason Chimera and Shane Prince. Have you spoken with them since the announcement?
LR: I was just in New York yesterday just looking around at houses and meeting with scouts and getting a vibe on the team. I saw Jason and it's great. It's fun when you see someone you've played with or coached before and it brings a smile and good feelings, so it was great to see him and be welcomed by him.
Shane Prince I haven't spoken to him yet, but we had a great relationship. I really enjoyed him. He's one of those guys, he doesn't mind taking a challenge as a player and implement it into his game and it'll be great to see him again. Even Garth, I had a short stint with him in Philadelphia when I got there. It's nice to have a little familiarity with him before and it feels more like home when you get there in the dressing room.