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Challenge accepted: Richardson steps in as Blackhawks coach

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season, and their general manager is talking about a potentially lengthy recovery process. They are listening to offers to trade their top scorer and the goalkeeper situation is murky at best.

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Luke Richardson enters.

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“I love the challenge and I’m ready for it,” Richardson said.

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The Blackhawks think so too, which is why they hired Richardson as the 40th coach in franchise history. The former NHL defenseman has led CEO Kyle Davidson’s team through hard times since winning a sixth Stanley Cup in 2015.

Davidson has made no secret of his roster revamp plan, and Richardson admitted he has a tough road ahead of him when he was officially unveiled Wednesday at the team’s store in downtown Chicago. But he also displayed the competitive nature that fueled a 21-year NHL career.

“I just feel that the playing experience, the coaching experience, I am completely satisfied with the development of the players, I have patience with the players,” he said, “but I think I said from the very beginning that I am an optimist and I feel like I want to win in every game, and I’m going to approach every game that way.”

Richardson, 53, played for six NHL teams, scoring 35 goals and 166 assists in 1,417 games, including his debut for Toronto at Chicago Stadium on October 8, 1987. He retired in the 2008-09 season and joined the coaching staff of Ottawa. From 2012 to 2016, he was the head coach of the AHL affiliate Senators.

Richardson, from Ottawa, Ontario, was an assistant on the Montreal coaching staff for the previous four seasons. When Dominique DuCharme was diagnosed with COVID-19 during the 2021 playoffs, Richardson took over as coach in six games and helped the Canadiens reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993.

It was a turning point in Richardson’s path to the Blackhawks.

“Just to be confident in the most stressful time of the year, and to succeed and have a good relationship with the players who made it possible, I really understood that I was ready to work as a head coach. that my plan is working,” he said.

Richardson replaces Derek King, who ended the season as interim coach after Jeremy Colliton was sacked on November 6. King was preparing for the job, and Davidson said he wanted to find a way to keep him in the organization. .

“We want to bring high-level people into the organization, and Derek is exactly that,” Davidson said. “And so it will be a discussion when we go into the summer, but we hope there will be something for him.”

A few weeks ago, Richardson flew to Chicago for his first interview, and then he was brought in for a second session. Richardson elaborated on some of the points they raised during their first interview, and the discussion continued as they went out to dinner and watch the Stanley Cup final game.

“Once we got a little deeper into how he sees the game, how he views the players and his communication styles, it really resonated with us and it really felt like something that would work within the system that we have here. implement,” Davidson said. “That was the main aspect that drew us to Luke.”

With the arrival of Richardson, the Blackhawks’ attention shifts to next week’s draft and free agency. Richardson also needs to fill his first staff as an NHL head coach.

Although Chicago is not expected to compete next season, it will be one of the league’s most popular teams this summer. captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane as well as Alex DeBrinkat each had one year left on their contract after the Blackhawks went 28-42-12 this year.

Toews and Kane – still one of the league’s most dynamic players at 33 – have no-move provisions, making a trade unlikely unless one of the longtime stars asks for a change of scenery. But DeBrinkat, 24, who scored 41 team goals last season, could be on the move, and the winger’s exit could prompt Kane or Toews to look for a new home.

“There are some players who are untouchable because of their contract status. This is what these players have earned and we will be true to that,” Davidson said. “But we are in a position where we listen and I think it would be unwise to do otherwise.

“Again, we are not going to force anything. We are not going to do something just to do something. But we must listen to what is there, what is the interest.”


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