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Davidson said he admires the way Richards and his staff fully commit themselves to preparation not just for games, but also practices and film sessions. The work ethic from the coaches and players – the “everyone pulls the rope” approach – is what Davidson believes has led to the Blue Jackets establishing a foundation for success.
“Todd and his staff work well together, and the coaches work well with the training staff, and everyone works well with the leadership group and the players. It’s a real strong, cohesive unit and that’s so very important,” Davidson said. “We’ve had a resilience that’s really admirable from this group; these players and the coaching staff, when they simply have to find a way, they’ve done that. We don’t have a ton of experience – we’re a very young hockey club – and we have several players going through this for the first time. And what they’re going through, they’re doing so with a passing grade.
|Richards joined the Blue Jackets staff as an assistant coach in 2012.|
“We know the kind of job he and everyone on his staff has done here. We’re establishing ourselves as a franchise. Throughout the league this season, there are quite a number of coaches who have done a fantastic job. And that’s one thing about our league: if you don’t have a good coaching staff, you’re really starting with your foot deep in a hole. We have a strong staff here and I admire the way they work and how they prepare our players. I never hear any complaints, and that’s the way I like it.”
Much like the Blue Jackets, Richards has had to climb the ladder himself and learn from disappointments. He was drafted No. 33 overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1985, and despite a stellar career as an offensive defenseman at the University of Minnesota (he’s still the program’s all-time leading scoring defenseman), Richards struggled to find his footing in the NHL.
He played in the AHL, IHL, and Swiss League before getting into coaching in the early 2000s. His first head coaching job was with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2006, and in 2009, he was hired by the Minnesota Wild – a high-pressure gig for a guy born and raised in the State of Hockey.
And while it didn’t work out in Minnesota (Richards was fired by the Wild in 2011 after two playoffs-less seasons), Davidson firmly believes that Richards sought to apply as many lessons as he could to his next job.
“It’s experience, and that’s all there is to it,” Davidson said. “You have to embrace the experiences. When you leave a franchise – for whatever reason it is – if you’re going to walk around with a lower lip and feel like you got robbed, that’s not a good approach. If you can go from one place and get another chance, then take that experience you went through and channel it in the right way, there’s nothing better.
"It’s a magical thing to have experience, as long as you reach back, channel it and learn from it. It helps you make better decisions, it helps you through the tough times…it’s a really valuable thing.”