ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -Todd Richards represents the current NHL coaching trend: Inexperience is insignificant.
Richards has returned home to coach the Wild, and the Minnesota native brings with him the promise that the team will play a more exciting, up-tempo style.
He also carries the humility of a playing career consisting of eight NHL games - and a dozen years in the minor leagues.
"You always imagine yourself or picture yourself as a star in the NHL," Richards said. "I wasn't able to do that, but other avenues have opened up for me and this has been a great opportunity."
He's the latest hire with limited NHL coaching experience, a line on the resume that was far less important to new Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher than philosophy, intuition, and personality.
"I truly believe that talent is the most important thing. ... How you deal with people, how you communicate, how you get the players to buy in and execute, your understanding of the game, your integrity," Fletcher said. "I think your skill set and your overall talent takes precedence over experience."
Richards was introduced Tuesday as the second head coach in the franchise's nine-year history, completing a new power structure that began with Craig Leipold's purchase of the team 1 1/2 years ago. Fletcher was hired last month, when Richards immediately became a front-runner for this job despite only one season as an NHL assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks.
"As I was interviewing people for the general manager's job, of the 12 people ... I would say eight or nine of them mentioned Todd as someone they would look very seriously at," Leipold said.
That included, of course, Fletcher, who as assistant general manager in Pittsburgh was in charge of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team in the American Hockey League.
Richards was the head coach there for two seasons before leaving for San Jose, so he's been through the tell-me-about-yourself process with Fletcher twice.
"He's earned my trust," Fletcher said. "I am confident he's the right person to coach this team at this time."
Fletcher cited Pat Quinn and Bryan Murray as past examples of successful bench bosses who were hired with little NHL coaching experience. More recently, Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan have made it work. Then there's Dan Bylsma, an assistant under Richards in the AHL who took over as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's head coach last season and was then brought up to run the Penguins after the firing of their coach.
Bylsma led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup title last week.
Richards could have enjoyed that same success, had he not been hired by McLellan with the Sharks.
"I think he's going to be very successful simply because he's very passionate about the game, he's very well-prepared, and he's ready," McLellan said on a conference call. "He's got a brilliant mind. I think he's going to be a very aggressive coach. He believes in the offensive part of the game, the attack part of the game. He's going to a real good situation and has every opportunity to be successful.
"After hiring him and seeing him work and the way he carried himself, I had a pretty good idea that ... he wasn't going to be a Shark for very long. Credit to him that it only took one year. We're real excited for him."
The Wild will play a style similar to the champion Penguins, emphasizing puck possession, a strong forecheck and a fast pace - certainly a more aggressive system than the trapping, disciplined style used by former coach Jacques Lemaire. Richards said he believes it's easier to transition from a defense-driven system to an offense-oriented style.
"You have to give Jacques Lemaire and his staff a tremendous amount of credit," Richards said. "As a coach it's tough to implement the defensive style. I shouldn't say it's tough, but it's tedious. ... The players have a great foundation to play defensive hockey, and that's something that we can't lose. There always has to be that responsibility."
Richards grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of Crystal, playing at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School and then at the University of Minnesota. He was a sharp-shooting defenseman, the kind of player that will be a critical part of the new-look Wild's attack.
That's good news for Brent Burns, a defenseman who is part of the team's young core.
"I think everybody's excited. It's a new thing, new energy, different way of learning," Burns said. "It's going to be a different way to play. It was great before, learning from all the coaches, and it's exciting now to see what's coming."