The Todd Richards watch – Under the Microscope


The Columbus Blue Jackets both benefit and are victims to the fans of the OSU Buckeyes. Columbus is the home of an almost rabid fan base. The biggest cause of this, of course, is the Buckeye teams. The National “Press” naysayers do not have a clue how deep the feelings of the Columbus area fans are. Despite national comments re Columbus being a “hockey wasteland” this simply is not true. Even though the Jackets have spent most of the year at the bottom of the NHL, the attendance has not plummeted quite that far. Supposedly blogs, comments and coverage is way above many of the teams that are above the Blue Jackets in standings.  But this same fan base demands quality performance and in the end, WINNING. Enter Todd Richards…….

Todd Richards is under a microscope, probably like never before. Yes, he previously was head coach of the Minnesota Wild and as head coach was under scrutiny. But Columbus is different, the entire town is a rabid fan base waiting for a winner . Case in point, How many lines of print have been devoted to following every move Urban Meyer has made since he was appointed as head coach of the football Buckeyes? Note that he is yet to coach even a single scrimmage for Ohio State.  The fan base wants to know every move that Meyer makes to bring the glory back to OSU football. If the Blue Jackets were to become a winning playoff team, you would see a miniature version of the fan frenzy experienced by the Buckeyes. Blue Jackets fans know this, hence the Coach watch. Could Todd Richards be the savior that FINALLY leads the Jackets out of the Wilderness? Every fan wants to know!!!

I want to know too.The Blackhawks game is being analyzed  from every possible perspective for clues. Even though we know in our hearts that the Blue Jacket lineup is decimated and Richards has had no real practice to even tweak anything. Anything we saw last night could be as a result of the injury issue, or it could be the start of some change….. We eagerly await to find out if it is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel or simply the headlight of the on- rushing train.

Several thoughts from the Todd Richards hire last summer. At that time, we were told:  [a] The Minnesota players did not fit the system that Richards was trying to play and the “new” Blue Jackets much more fit his system. I’m not sure that is true anymore due to the injury problems, but that was the thinking. [b] The Wild had a strong power play. He would improve the power play of the Jackets. Well, he has an unbridled opportunity AND there is pretty much no place to go but up. [c] He is good with young players and  is a “players coach” perhaps to a fault. Here is the area where we will see what his experience with the Wild and Columbus so far this year will bring.

Todd Richards starts his rein with a club that has drastically under performed. A club that has a starting line up out due to injuries. [2 defense men, 3 forwards and a goalie] A club that has it’s supposedly #1 goalie incapable of playing at the NHL level, and a club that is expecting to be “‘blown up” by trades in the next 6 weeks. What a joyful time and place to start your 2nd head coaching experience. My gut feel is no matter how good he does for the remainder of the year,  he is guilty by association and will not be retained as the head coach. I am pretty sure he knows that too.

Mr Richards is what is usually described as a career minor leaguer. The travel, schedules and accommodations of surviving in the minor leagues brings toughness. He has been a successful minor league coach but so was Scott Arniel. Could he succeed in Columbus, or are we doomed for a caretaker hockey experience for the remainder of the year? I think he can succeed in Columbus IF he has learned to be a good manager. As fans, we rarely get to know what goes on “in the room” and this is where a manager can become a good or even great manager. All good managers know that every person is an individual, every situation is different and must be handled differently. Hopefully Todd Richards has learned this.

Winning is not all about “X” and “O” plays. Thousands of people can do that. If Todd Richards is successful, most people will know it because the Blue Jackets will be playing with a team synergy. This will not necessarily translate into winning all the games, it will translate in how they play. With skilled players in IR, it will show up in how close players play to their ability. This may be due to the lack of skill that never materialized, the state of progress of younger players or skilled veteran players playing up to their capacity.

We do not need Scott Howson fired. We do not need a hard ass coach to destroy the “country club” in the dressing room. The only thing we need is a coach that can get the players to play up to their ability as play as a team. If that comes to pass, winning will come.

Welcome Todd Richards- I hope you are the man.