Although not officially announced yet, according to a myriad of reports and first shared by Frank Seravalli from the Daily Faceoff, Luke Richardson will be the new head coach of the Blackhawks. Richardson replaces interim Derek King.
By many accounts, the now former Canadiens assistant coach has been regarded as well liked and deeply respected by players and various hockey personnel around the league. Richardson does have a demanding style but balances it with compassion for all.
This balance is something that would go a long way for the rebuilding Hawks. The team is young and inexperienced not to mention lacking in structure and discipline to play the right way whether executing fundamentals or implementing systems.
A cool cucumber like Richardson -- who has been described as a teacher -- is an ideal match. He can instill a program rooted in development and bolstered by 20+ seasons as an NHL rearguard, 8 as an NHL assistant coach, and 4 as an AHL head coach.
In comparison, the last permanent head coach Jeremy Colliton was unintentionally polarizing despite others touting him as a great communicator. Sure, his players praised him publicly but there were many anecdotes of him rubbing many the wrong way, too.
For example, Colliton and Dylan Strome were like oil and water as Strome was in the dog house from Day 1 at least in 2021-22. There was also the perceived tension that triple Cup winners and D partners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had with Colliton.
Furthermore, when comparing Richardson to King, they have different objectives upon starting their head coaching roles. King wanted to help the players loosen up and have fun again. Richardson can now build off of that to actually grow the team.
Richardson is not like Colliton or King. Compared to Colliton, virtually everyone has positive things to say about Richardson. People simply love him. Then compared to King, he can be demanding from the start while still being likable.
What does this mean for King? Scott Powers from the Athletic reported late last week that the Blackhawks are interested in having Anders Sorensen be the permanent head coach of the IceHogs after he was AHL interim when King became NHL interim.
One option for King is to become an assistant coach on Richardson's staff. Any new head coach should be able to select their staff, not automatically inherit whoever is already there. Could Richardson have King on his list of staffing choices?
Another option for King is to become Sorensen's assistant essentially swapping roles as Sorensen was his assistant for many seasons prior to their interim appointments in 2021-22. But would King be open to what would be tantamount to a demotion?
Powers also reported that restricted free agent Caleb Jones is likely to re-sign with the Blackhawks. Assuming that veterans Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson are not retained, the Chicago blueline begins to look like this as a starting point:
Stillman - S Jones
McCabe - Murphy
C Jones - RHD
Ian Mitchell or Alec Regula could have the inside track to snag that RHD spot on the 3rd pair. Alex Vlasic and Jakub Galvas could be in the mix, too, for a role on the Hawks D corps for 2022-23. There's also Euro free agent signee Filip Roos.
This presumes that none of the Jones Brothers, Jake McCabe, Connor Murphy, or Riley Stillman are traded this summer. General manager Kyle Davidson has stated he isn't actively trading Seth Jones but that doesn't mean he won't listen to offers.
What do the Hawks get by keeping Seth's younger sibling in the fold? Caleb is a smooth-skating puck mover who can generate offense from the point or by sneaking in from high to low. If he adds consistency to his defense, the 5/6/7 spot is a good fit.
Caleb may not be a favorable defender to have on the roster, though, if the Hawks were a contender. The truth of the matter is the Hawks are far from that status. As such, a youthful team focusing on development can afford him in more ways than one.
Whether on a one- or two-year contract extension, Caleb isn't going to break the bank at say a range of $900K to $1.25M AAV. And at 25 years old with 144 NHL games logged, there's time to mature his defensive capabilities to become more dependable.
See you on the boards!