The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins were introduced to their new coach on Friday.
Todd Richards visited Wachovia Arena for the first time as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s coach and he’s excited to begin his job preparing for the season.
Although, it wasn’t the first time he’s been to town. Coming from Nashville’s American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee, Richards became very familiar with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He was on Milwaukee’s bench as an assistant coach for the Admirals when they battled the Baby Penguins in the 2004 Calder Cup Finals.
“I got a taste of how it works here and the fans. It’s a great atmosphere and a great city,” he said. “The organization, coming in, has been nothing but great to me and my family. They are what a lot of the other organizations in this league strive to be – an organization that is committed to winning and putting a solid product out on the ice every year. You have to give credit there to the Pittsburgh Penguins as well.”
Richards has spent the past couple days in Wilkes-Barre and took the time to find his way around the city – and look for a home.
“I have had a chance to get out and see the city, experience the city, see the arena, get familiar with the locker room and the coaches’ offices. This is a much different set-up than I am used to,” he said. “The big thing is looking for a place to live. The season is right around the corner and I don’t have a lot of time. The house was probably the biggest thing we needed to get done and, hopefully, we got it done.”
Richards is impressed with Baby Penguins Chief Executive Officer/Governor Jeff Barrett as well as Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Ray Shero and Assistant General Manager Chuck Fletcher, both of whom traveled to Wilkes-Barre to meet with Richards.
“You talk with those guys and the thing I get out of them is their passion and excitement. It’s contagious,” Richards said. “When you get among people like that and start talking hockey, you get pumped up.”
While Richards brings his own style to the Baby Penguins, he is going to work with Pittsburgh head coach Michel Therrien on what systems to put in place.
“That’s one thing we’ll have to sit down and discuss,” he said. “The whole thing about being affiliated with the Pittsburgh organization is that you have to work with them, developing their players, teaching them here and getting them ready to take that step up to Pittsburgh. We need to teach down here so when they do go up to Michel in Pittsburgh, they are ready to play.”
Shero, who helped develop Milwaukee into a power while with the Nashville Predators, puts high value on the coaching positions in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and is extremely pleased to have Todd Richards behind the bench.
“This is a very important part of what we have going in Pittsburgh. I think the coaching staff is going to have a big role in developing players on and off the ice here that are going to help the Penguins in the future,” he said. “I really think we have a great guy here in Todd Richards and I am really looking forward to the season.”
Fletcher, whose primary responsibility is overseeing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, is equally thrilled with the addition of Richards. He even discussed ways to make the Baby Penguins more competitive.
“We’re looking at some different angles. We’ve discussed potentially taking four or five players from another NHL organization,” he said. “We feel we’ve made solid progress there. I’d like to come to camp with anywhere between 25 and 28 players at this level. Obviously, there will be competition that way and if we run into injuries, we’ll have great depth.
“The minuses [of adding players from another organization] are you don’t have a team full of Pittsburgh Penguins prospects. It puts a little more pressure on the coaching staff to have to build a team so there’s no division in the locker room,” he continued. “Having said that, if we’re only taking four or five or six players, I don’t expect it to be a major problem. It won’t be a split affiliation. It will still be a Pittsburgh Penguins organization and a majority of the players will be Pittsburgh Penguins players. The benefit to it is we can hopefully acquire some high-skill players that currently aren’t available on the free-agent market.
“Looking at the players available now, there’s a lot of quality, checking-type of hard-working and honest players, but there aren’t a whole bunch of goal scorers out there. The reason we would do this would be to add some skill to the lineup. Last year, from the outside looking in at this team, it was a strong defensive team, a hard-working and gritty team. It was not a fun team to play against, but at the end of the day, goal scoring was a bit of an issue.”