April 18, 2012

Full Mental Face-Off: Should the Blue Jackets Retain Todd Richards?

Contributor: Rick Gethin 

You know the drill. Rick and I select a pressing issue pertaining to the Union Blue. We each pick a side and then we debate the issue back and forth, much the same way they used to do on the Point/Counterpoint segment on 60 Minutes (although the FMJ version is probably more like the spoof of same that Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain used to do on Saturday Night Live, minus the name-calling. Mostly.) You consider both sides and then you vote. The poll is located at the top of the sidebar to the right. Let's get it on.

Should the Blue Jackets retain Todd Richards as their head coach?

CBJ Interim Coach Todd Richards: Should he stay or should he go?
Greg:  I’m saying yes. Look, I’ll be honest, one of the greatest qualities I find in Todd Richards is that he is not Scott Arniel. But there is a lot to like about Richards. He is articulate. He is candid, honest and grounded. He strikes me as a no-nonsense kind of guy. These are all good qualities in a coach, particularly one that is faced with a “reshaping” project. And the team seems to have played better with him behind the bench. Much better actually. 18-21-2 is pretty damn good given what he had to deal with in terms of a "roster". That’s about as in-depth of an analysis as I am willing to make. To try to measure the job Richards has done by analyzing stats or his record does not seem fair, to him or the organization, under the circumstances. The fact of the matter is that this team has many problems that need addressed. There isn’t a coach alive that could come in and wave a magic wand to fix all of them. So the way I look at it, we already made an upgrade at coach. Let’s move that down the list of priorities and focus on fixing other more critical issues.

Rick: As much as I like Todd Richards behind the bench, I don't believe he is the guy long term. The General Manager, Scott Howson, could be on his way out. And with that, a new GM will want to make his own hire of Head Coach. That’s the way it works in professional sports, as you well know. I will agree with you that he’s done well with the roster that he has. Any coach would be hard-pressed to make it work with an injury-decimated roster, such as the Blue Jackets have. I mean, they were on the north side of 300+ man-games lost to injury. Could he turn this team around? That, my friend, is the $64,000 question. As it’s constructed, I don’t think so.

Greg: Well, if Richards will coach for $64,000 a year then it’s a no brainer! Seriously though, you raise a good point. Howson might be out, although that is looking less and less likely. If he stays, to my way of thinking, it makes it even more difficult to find a better coach than Todd Richards. Who would want to take the job with Howson in such a precarious position as GM? Because you're right, the next GM should be able to hire his own coach. Either way - new GM or Howson on the hot seat - what caliber of coach will the CBJ attract? Another rookie from the AHL? Maybe, but maybe not the best one. Remember when Guy Boucher turned us down for Tampa Bay? How about a veteran NHL coach that needs to re-prove himself and is willing to toil in Columbus for a while to do so? Oh yeah, we're the team that fired Ken Hitchcock, a certain Hall of Famer, so he could go lead the Blues to the playoffs and the second best record in the NHL. Given the circumstances, what makes anyone think that the Blue Jackets would be able to attract a better coach than Todd Richards? Richards is the proverbial “bird in hand”. I think we should be hesitant to cast him aside and start reaching for what is inside the bush.

Rick: Here’s some food for thought. When Richards was given the “Interim” tag, he immediately started coaching to save his job, versus coaching to get the team better. If he had been given the head coaching job for the rest of this year and all of next, might we have seen him play the “kids” in a more prominent role? The Chicago Blackhawks are the model of this. His thought process was “win games and I have a chance to be the permanent head coach”. By doing this, he has delayed the rebuilding process. Consequently, a coach is needed who has the mandate and the fortitude to rebuild the team and not worry about winning “now”. I just don’t think that Richards is that guy.

Greg: So Richards should be playing the kids? You mean like Cam Atkinson? You mean like John Moore? You mean like Ryan Johansen? All of these players were getting what I would call reasonable minutes during Richards' time as coach. And then there’s Yorkie. Granted, Richards didn't have much choice but to play him, but outside of those guys what other youngsters are there for Richards to play? I don’t think it’s really fair to suggest that Richards coached to save his job. And if it is fair to say that, maybe the Jackets should sign Richards to a one year contract and let him coach to save his job again! When you consider the mess of a roster he had on his hands, not to mention the Nash fiasco, the goaltending situation and a team that knew it was destined to have the worst record in the NHL months ago, the fact that he had these guys playing the way they did at the end of the season should tell us something. It should tell us that Todd Richards can motivate. It should tell us that Todd Richards can teach. It should tell us that Todd Richards can coach. Fix the roster. Keep Todd Richards.

Rick: The time is now to clean house in the organization. In Minnesota, Richards was known as a “players coach”. I think he went 180 degrees in the opposite direction when he was elevated behind the bench in Columbus this season. He needed to find the balance between the two to be truly effective. He missed the mark. I’ll grant you that he’s a good coach. But, is he the best coach available? I don’t think that Richards is that coach. They need to do an effective coaching search to find the best coach. All things considered, I believe that Columbus is sitting in a better position now to get a coach than they were when Arniel was hired.

So there you have it. What say you? Cast your vote in the poll located at the top of the sidebar on the right.

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand why people still think Howson is on the way out. If he was going to be fired, he would be gone by now. He will stay and will screw up again in hiring a coach. As gas as Richards staying I'm not for it, I just don't think he has the balls for the job and his handling of Johansen was pure BS, right out of Arneils book. I say show him the door!