On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the addition of Todd Richards to their coaching staff as an assistant. Richards was the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets for parts of five seasons and led Columbus to its first back-to-back 40-win seasons in franchise history as well as the Blue Jackets’ first and only playoff victories. Richards also has two years of head coaching experience with the Minnesota Wild.
Shortly after the announcement, the Crystal, Minn., native took time out of his schedule to chat with tampabaylightning.com about why he felt joining Tampa Bay was a “good fit,” his connections to other coaches on staff and the greatest accomplishments over his 14-year coaching career.
As an outsider to the Tampa Bay Lightning up until a couple days ago, what were your thoughts about the team and the organization?
“I can talk to you about the coaching and how you prepared for them. You better be ready to skate, you better be ready to work. They’re a team that wants the puck, and when they get the puck, they’ve got some top end players that are dangerous and can do things with it. You have to limit your mistakes because if you make too many of them, they’re going to cash in on a bunch of them. They’re that type of team. And then everything I’ve heard about the organization and how (Lightning general manager) Steve (Yzerman) has run it, I’ve heard all positive things. For me as a coach coming in, I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
Since being let go from Columbus early this season, what did you do with your time off?
“I was more of a dad than anything else, which was great. I was able to watch my youngest sons Zac and Justin play hockey. I watched a lot of hockey on TV. I didn’t go to any games live, but I was able to watch a lot of hockey. I watched pretty much a game every night. You watch different teams and you watch how they play and you start picking up on players because I think you spend more time just watching now instead of thinking about how your team’s going to play against that team. You start watching how that team plays or how that player plays the game. I think you look at it differently when you don’t have a team anymore.”
When you’re watching, are you scouting players and teams to prepare for when that next job opportunity comes about?
“I think, at least how I did it, sometimes it was out of enjoyment, just watching the game because you expected it to be a good game, maybe a rivalry, an intense game, something like that. But I like watching the good teams. You like watching the teams that win. You like watching good players. For me as a coach, you’re always still trying to develop. You’re trying to figure out what other coaches do and how they teach. It was a great experience for me to go over to the World Championships and coach over there and work with I think a really good young coach in John Hynes and working with a coach like David Quinn who works out of Boston University. Spending time around those two guys was really good for me to get the mind working again and talking about hockey and getting into those routines of preparation. For me, it’s getting around those types of people and talking hockey. When I talked with (Lightning head coach) Jon (Cooper) and went through the interview process with him and talked hockey, to me it felt like a good fit for me because the way he talked. And after listening to him, it’s a lot of the same philosophies for me as a coach I want the players to play.”
Do you have any connections to current Lightning coaches or players?
“I played with (assistant coach) Brad (Lauer) in Orlando back in the old IHL days, so I know him. There’s a little relationship there. The coaching fraternity is pretty tight and pretty small. You cross paths with a lot of different guys. I worked with Rick Bowness’ son [Ricky Bowness] in Columbus probably for about one full year. I think that was two years ago. I worked with him and know (Rick Bowness) a little bit from talking with his son. And then obviously my paths crossed with Jon and had some opportunities to sit and talk with him. Through the interview process, you start talking philosophies and ideas and those types of things. Those are the little relationships that I have.”
What would you consider your greatest coaching accomplishment to date?
“That’s a great question. I think each year you grow. When I look back, I think in the American League, we went to the finals a couple times. I went with Milwaukee twice as an assistant coach and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went to the finals once while I was head coach. With San Jose as an assistant, we won the Presidents’ Trophy. Any time you have success, it’s memorable. The other thing that validates you as a coach, especially when you’re in the minors working your way up to the NHL, is watching the players that you coached have success and do well. It’s a great question. I haven’t given that one much thought just because you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about yourself and your accomplishments. You’re always thinking about what’s next.”