How is it that the Columbus Blue Jackets expect fans and inherently players to "Join the Battle" (to use team’s marketing slogan) when head coach Todd Richards (as part of his USA Hockey Men’s Olympic Team duties) does not support one of his own players? The effects of this treason will be devastating.
After reading ESPN.com columnist Scott Burnside’s piece "How the U.S. hockey team was named" on January 2, I find it difficult to comprehend why Jackets Coach Richards did not advocate for having his own player, Jack Johnson, named to the team. It‘s clear that Jack had the support of three of the main committee members but not the support of the coaches, including Richards. And in no way do I believe GM Dave Poile’s after-the-fact efforts at damage control. If Richards did advocate for Jack at the time, it would have been in Burnside’s report.
My questions are not ones of whether Jack should have been named to U.S. Olympic team (I think he absolutely should have but that’s a different debate), but those that speak to providing leadership to and developing respect and earning loyalty of those that work for you. Is this the type of leadership we should expect from the Blue Jackets ownership/management and coach Richards specifically? It sure is tough to be a fan and even more difficult to be a player under these circumstances.
How do you not advocate for one of your team’s leaders, one who consistently plays the most minutes per game and in all situations? How do you expect to earn your player’s trust and respect and by extension that of the team, when you clearly don’t stand behind your player? Hey coach, what message do you think you are sending to the team, fans and citizens of Columbus as well?
For those who may not understand the relationship, think of it in another context. How would you feel if your boss/manager/supervisor didn’t advocate for you for a well-deserved promotion or new project, yet still expects your respect, trust and loyalty while continuing to champion your value to the "company"? How would you feel working in an environment like that?
While we may not hear much about what may become the team’s silent implosion, Richards’ betrayal will have career-affecting ramifications for him and the players. Richards had an opportunity to support his player and he failed to do so. Every player in the locker room right now and certainly league-wide over time, surely cannot look upon Richards with any respect, trust or loyalty again. So, how can Richards (knowing what he didn’t do) look that player or the rest of the team in the eyes, knowing they know this too, and expect their respect, trust and loyalty? Sure, "Join the Battle", but be careful of "Friendly Fire".