Can a coaching move symbolize both stability and instability?
The Columbus Blue Jackets removed the interim tag from coach Todd Richards on Monday, making the former Minnesota Wild bench boss the sixth head coach in franchise history.
He took over from Scott Arniel on Jan. 9, and went 18-21-2 under Richards at a time when Rick Nash's future cast a foreboding shadow over nearly every game.
From a stability standpoint, it could be argued this was a smart decision. The Jackets showed resiliency late in the season, going 11-8 in March and April. They also showed a cohesion and competitive spirit that was missing at the start of the season, when James Wisniewski's suspension, Jeff Carter's apathy and Steve Mason resembling Sonny Corleone's car at the toll booth. So maybe that's something to build on.
From Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers, more on the stability Richards might bring:
Between newly-acquired defenseman Jack Johnson and his playing partner James Wisniewski, the Jackets seemed to discover a kernel of leadership and accountability in the dressing room, although judging losing clubs in (relatively) meaningless games can be a foolish practice.
A potentially turbulent off-season lies ahead for the Blue Jackets. Nash still is likely to be traded, and the Blue Jackets plan to aggressively pursue trades this summer, including one that will land a proven No. 1 goaltender to replace embattled Steve Mason. The Jackets hold the No. 2 overall pick at next month's NHL draft in Pittsburgh.
The hope is that Richards will provide stability behind the bench.
That's hope, alright: That Richards will be a familiar face in turbulent times, rather than an outside brought in to fix a mess and/or manage a dramatically different team. But this summer of change is the reason why Richards's hiring also feels like a sign of instability.
Many Blue Jackets fans feel Scott Howson should be on his arse now, and there's evidence to support that point. But he's still the GM, and will likely be the guy that trades Rick Nash.
(Unless there's some miraculous reconciliation and reconsideration of feelings from Nash; if Richards becoming head coach plays a role in that, then Howson deserves free beer for life in Columbus pubs. Unless, of course, it's better to trade Nash and fill the roster. It's debatable.)
But next season is likely Howson's last whack at the piñata. Turning Richards into the team's head coach isn't the sexiest move for energizing the fan base, but it's the expected move from ownership when you have a GM that might be out the door if results don't improve.
You don't bring in a high-profile, expensive head coach if the general manager's future is in question. Unless, of course, you're the Maple Leafs.
Is Richards the right fit for the Blue Jackets?
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