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Column: Luke Richardson, the Blackhawks Core and Small Victories

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It’s not a no win situation because that would imply that Luke Richardson can’t coach a team to victory. That’s simply not true–as he has guided the Chicago Blackhawks to their fair share of victories as well–some of which they had no business winning.

No one knows what the future brings, and Richardson would be the first to admit that himself. But from his initial press conference to everyone he conducts now, it’s a similar message he’s always saying.

He said it last Sunday after the Blackhawks fell to the St. Louis Blues 4-2. When it comes to a balance to make sure the losing doesn’t wear them down while remaining consistent in messaging, Richardson was straight forward.

“We’re consistent with the messaging and consistent on how we do it,” Richardson said.  “We show both sides, we don’t just show all mistakes and we don’t just show all the good stuff. You have to show a little bit of both and really try to bring it together where by the end of the season, there’s a lot more execution and a lot less of the mistakes.”

Luke Richardson Building Brick by Brick for Blackhawks

If Kyle Davidson is the architect of the rebuild, Richardson is the foreman. Tasked with building the young players into the foundational players that can carry the organization for years to come, it’s always a crapshoot because nothing–as in life–is guaranteed in hockey. Lukas Reichel’s slow start to the season is an example, one where Richardson runs the risk of losing the potential of the 21-year-old.

But Reichel’s strong third period Tuesday night provided that flicker that maybe things will be okay.

“I thought there was definitely steps– I thought there was urgency in his game,” Richardson said.

That urgency came with a fourth line assignment that earned mixed reviews with some fans and pundits. But Reichel’s oh-so-close chance in the third was him driving to the net–showing the ferocity the staff and teammates want to see.

Reichel is just one of many examples though, as Richardson is having to sift through the young blue line, and then of course, prized rookie Connor Bedard.

Essentially, it’s not to fall backward and though the Blackhawks are a tough to look at 7-16-1, but as it’s expected.

What remains to be seen is how it progresses from here.

Seeing Things Through?

The trickiest part for any coach saddled with a rebuild is seeing the whole process through. To be a builder and then not have the opportunity to coach it when the talent finally pops speaks to the frustration of the profession.

Looking around the league, Jared Bednar and Jon Cooper stand out as the coaches who started during trying times but scaled to the Stanley Cup summit. Cooper’s case was a bit different, coming in after a couple two years with Guy Bouchard taking the lumps. But it took the Lightning time to get to the top, as well as some stunning losses that Nick Foligno had a hand in.

But Bednar oversaw the worst season in Colorado Avalanche history, and it was his first season, one where many were calling for his head. Joe Sakic ignored the noise and the rest is history.

Richardson has endured a tough season last year, and now missing two players they were counting on, Richardson has to figure it out again.

But the biggest advantage he has is he’s a long time veteran of the league, in the mold of a Rod Brind’Amour who knows what it takes as a player and coach. Richardson teaches, and does during his press conferences, too.

The education the young Blackhawks are getting is a valuable one. Those small victories will add up in the long run for the Blackhawks core.

Don’t be surprised if those lessons pay off as Davidson adds more to that core–with Richardson still teaching.

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