We'd heard rumors that this was coming, and of course at the press conference right after the season's end both Todd Richards and GM Jarmo Kekalainen were tight-lipped. I speculated then that that usually means something is close. Well, it may have taken another month, but the two sides got a deal done that adds two extra seasons onto Richards' existing contract, making him the contracted head coach for the next three seasons.
It's hard to argue against what Richards has done in his two-plus seasons as the head coach, including finishing the 2011-2012 season with the interim tag after the firing of Scott Arniel. Overall, Richards' clubs have piled up an 85-70-16 record, including the club's second playoff appearance in franchise history and first ever post-season wins. After righting the ship a bit during the disastrous 2011-2012 season that saw the club finish in last place in the league, just two seasons later (including a lockout-shortened campaign with stunning roster turn-over and no training camp) Richards guided the franchise back to the playoffs.
That, right there, probably merited an extension.
Since the post-lockout 5-12-2 start, the Blue Jackets have an amazing 62-37-12 record, good for 136 points in 111 games. Over an 82-game season, that would amount to a shade over 100 points.
With the full context of the past three seasons in mind, let that sink in.
"Todd has done an outstanding job for the Columbus Blue Jackets and we’re pleased that he will continue to lead our team," said Kekalainen. "We believe he is one of the top young coaches in the NHL because of his knowledge of the game, work ethic and ability to communicate well and bring out the best in our players. He’s played a significant role in our recent success and we look forward to having him continue to be a big part of our franchise moving forward."
"I’m very excited to be a part of this club and I appreciate the support I’ve received from the McConnell family, Mike Priest, John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen and everyone at the Blue Jackets organization," said Richards. "Our management group has done a fantastic job assembling a competitive team and we’ve definitely taken some very positive steps over the past two seasons. I’m looking forward to continuing to help this club grow and achieve its ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup championship."
Clearly, the club has done a good job finding players to fit what Richards' system does well. Finding a Vezina winning goaltender in a trade certainly doesn't hurt, either.
That said, Richards deserves his due for figuring out how to keep this club on an even keel as they learn to win in the NHL, even when some of us fans might not be able to stay so grounded.
So, what does everyone think? Good move?