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“As soon as you guys hired Luke Richardson as your head coach, I called my agent and said, ‘Hey, I want to go to Chicago.”
Those are the words of Max Domi, who met the Chicago media for the first time since signing with the Blackhawks on the first day of free agency earlier this month.
“Luke is one of those guys that you’re excited to go to battle for every single night (and) you’re excited to learn from.” Domi added. “He’s the kind of guy who shows so much respect to his players. That’s the kind of people you want to surround yourself with.”
Whatever your feelings are about the Domi signing or the Blackhawks’ direction on the ice, the fact that an established, solid player like Domi prioritized coming to Chicago because of its head coach is significant.
Since Joel Quenneville was fired, the Blackhawks’ head coaches have lacked a presence. Jeremy Colliton was never able to win the respect of his team. The players liked Derek King, but even he admitted he didn’t have the command of the room that coaches like Quenneville and Al Arbour had on the teams they coached (King played for both of them).
While I’m not trying to put Richardson in the same category as Quenneville or Arbour, it’s reassuring to know that the Hawks have a coach that comes with pre-installed respect.
Even Jonathan Toews, who continues to struggle with his Blackhawks future, mentioned Richardson as a reason for optimism this season. “Luke’s message is we’re going to work hard, we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to play as a team, and we’re going to go out there and try to win every single game,” Toews said. “I’m really excited to have a chance to play for Luke.”
This offseason has been an incredibly difficult one for Blackhawks fans. Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach were traded. Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik were allowed to walk away for nothing, and the team won’t be close to contending for at least 3-4 years, but the Richardson hire is something to be optimistic about.
I’m excited to see what Richardson can do with this team going forward. He will have the patience and investment of ownership and management.
We don’t know if Richardson will be the next great Chicago head coach, but having the respect of both the veteran and rookie players is a tremendous place to start. That’s what 1400+ games in the NHL will get you.
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