Luke Richardson's calming presence rubbing off on Hawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Blackhawks have become one of the NHL's early surprises of the campaign after stringing together three straight multi-goal comeback wins after an 0-2-0 start, in a season where they were projected to be in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick.
And a big reason for their early-season success is head coach Luke Richardson. Not only are the Blackhawks buying into his system, but his calming presence is rubbing off on the players.
"Luke is definitely a guy that understands a lot about hockey," Jonathan Toews said before Tuesday's game. "You just look at his career, he knows what it's like to be a player and everything that it takes to play well and help your team. I think there's a moment, especially throughout the preseason, where we weren't scoring, and we were giving up a lot and we might’ve won one game.
"In a lot of ways, you don't panic, but you worry a little bit. And you could tell he was just calm, and he just knew that if we keep things simple and everyone's on the same page, things would start to turn in our way. We've seen that so far in the last five games."
Richardson, in many ways, has a strong pulse on the locker room feel, which isn't surprising given he played more than 1,400 games in the NHL. He prefers to highlight the positives after losses as opposed to piling on, and feels it's better to point out corrections following a win when players are "a little more clear-minded."
"Not too up, not too down," Patrick Kane said of Richardson's coaching style. "Very even keel the whole time, no matter if it's been a good game for us, it kind of brings us back down to earth a little bit, or a bad game, he might say it's not that bad. He's been stressing a lot of the same things since camp, and we're just trying to dial those in a little more."
Behind the bench, you're rarely going to see Richardson get animated. His demeanor is always calm, and there's a reason for that, although he admitted that what's showing on the outside isn't necessarily what he's always feeling on the inside.
"I think it was the end of [Sunday's] game when they had that flank shot and Alex [Stalock] had a great glove save, I thought it was in the net," Richardson said smiling. "I don’t think I was too calm at that moment. But I try and keep it like that.
"Players tend to have a feeling of what’s going on behind them and they take on that personality. If you’re going bananas all game and too emotional, whether it be referees or on players or situations, I think the players get off their game. You’re taking them out of their concentration zone. It’s about the players and I just try to give them an environment to shine the best they can."
As a coach, it's easy to see why players appreciate Richardson's calming influence. But he wasn't always like that on the ice as a player.
"No, when I was too even keel as a player, coaches told me that wasn’t my game," Richardson said. "Play mean, chase Troy Murray around the ice as much as possible. I was probably more like a [Jarred] Tinordi-type player, trying to be heavy and physical and simple, block shots and kill penalties.
"Those are usually the guys that have a little bit more rah-rah in them. And I wasn’t much in the dressing room but I was on the bench and on the ice. I know people say you can’t flip a switch, but I guess I did."
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