The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed Todd Richards to a two year deal as the new head coach News broke this morning of the decision to sign the interim coach after his efforts to turn the team around mid season left him with an 18-21-2 record.
To his credit, the Blue Jackets played visibly better with Richards at the helm. One of the more notable positive stats was his 14-0 record when leading after two periods, a statistic that would shock most considering the early season distasters that plagued Columbus at the end of games. This level of execution in the third period was an enormous boost.
While his record with the team was not entirely desirable, the difference in the team mentality appeared to improve substantially under Richards. Players like Derick Brassard are a prime example of someone who really found their way after the coaching change.
One of the biggest benefits as far as I am concerned, is the stability of a coaching position that does not sit vacant coming into the off-season. I have seen coaches struggle with certain types of players (Hitch and the offensive players of Columbus in his final year come immediately to mind) and having a coach in place helps to gain an idea of what kind of team would be best iced. Obviously this won’t be the main factor in what kind of free agents will be brought in this summer, I see it as a real positive to allow Howson and Richards to work together to find some of the more glaring roster holes based on a specific system.
For the positives that we have seen, I am excited to see what Richards can bring. With that said, however, I do have a few concerns with the decision.
Richards brought the team back to at the very least a competitive form, yet he was still a sub .500 coach. The team I expected to see last year was not a 30th place roster, and the franchise committed to a very large team salary. Their brutal start was slightly better than what their record suggested (based specifically on the countless one goal losses out of the gate) and the roster had plenty of talented skaters, suggesting that potential was far greater than a bottom feeding team.
I am not suggesting Richard’s efforts were mediocre by any stretch. He did a great job with a group that was struggling at just about every position on the ice, but I can’t help but wonder if a different coach could do more this coming year. I simply hope that all the positives we have taken out of his efforts behind the Jackets bench aren’t directly compared to Arniel’s horrible record there.
Finally, I find myself a bit disappointed that there was no interview process this summer. The negative commentary about no one wanting to coach in Columbus is obviously wrong, and there seem to be quite a few strong candidates available. I would have preferred to see the team have a competitive interview process, but I can certainly appreciate Howson’s confidence in Richards, and hope they have found a coach who can last longer than one full season.