Blackhawks to hire Luke Richardson as head coach

Richardson, formerly an assistant for the Canadiens, Islanders and Senators, will be the 40th head coach in Hawks franchise history. Interim coach Derek King will not remain in the position.

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Luke Richardson (pointing), a Canadiens assistant the last four years, will be hired as the Blackhawks’ next head coach.

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The Blackhawks have found the coach for their rebuild.

Luke Richardson, a Canadiens assistant the last four years, was chosen Friday as the 40th head coach in Hawks history.

He’s expected to sign a contract in the coming days, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported, although an official announcement and introduction aren’t expected until next week.

Richardson, 53, brings extensive experience as both an NHL player and assistant coach. He enjoyed a long career as a defenseman, logging 1,417 games over 22 years with the Maple Leafs, Oilers, Flyers, Blue Jackets, Lightning and Senators.

Upon his retirement as a player in 2009, he joined the Senators’ coaching staff, temporarily staying in his hometown of Ottawa. Since then, he has spent eight years as an NHL assistant and four years as an AHL head coach, with stops at Binghamton (the Senators’ AHL affiliate) and with the Islanders before landing with the Canadiens in 2018 under then-head coach Claude Julien.

Richardson doesn’t bring experience as an NHL head coach, unlike many of the bigger names who spun through the league’s coaching carousel this summer. That’s partially because some of those bigger names weren’t interested in a team just starting to rebuild, and partially because the Hawks wanted a fresh face.

In Montreal, Richardson’s upward mobility was limited by the fact he doesn’t speak French, which the Canadiens typically require for their high-level personnel. He nonetheless played a crucial role in the team’s 2021 run to the Stanley Cup Final, including filling in as head coach against the Golden Knights in the semifinals when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19.

As the assistant coach primarily focused on defense, Richardson was well-liked by Canadiens players. His reputation around the league is spotless.

“Luke is just a calm, calculated and very confident coach,” Martin St. Louis, who replaced Ducharme as the Canadiens’ head coach, told the Montreal Gazette this past season. “The calmness of his approach allows the guys to grow and . . . feel confident on the ice. [They’re] receptive to constructive criticism because of the way he does it.”

Richardson replaces Derek King, who went 27-33-10 as the Hawks’ interim coach for most of the past season after taking over for Jeremy Colliton.

It’s not yet known whether King will stay in the Hawks organization or, if so, whether he’ll remain a part of the NHL coaching staff or return to the AHL affiliate in Rockford. IceHogs interim coach Anders Sorensen did well enough this past season to justify keeping the job.

Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson — 20 years younger than Richardson, who will now report to him — already cleared out the rest of the NHL coaching staff, firing assistants Marc Crawford and Rob Cookson shortly after the season ended.

Assistant video coach Dylan Crawford — Marc Crawford’s son — left the Hawks on Friday to become the Canucks’ new video coach, creating another vacancy. Goaltending coach Jimmy Waite, primary video coach Matt Meacham and strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman remain on staff for now.

“We want coaches that are able to communicate, able to drive a message and create a positive culture and [able to] get players to want to come to the rink and compete every single night,” Davidson said last month.

Before settling on Richardson, the Hawks reportedly also considered Canucks assistant Brad Shaw, Flames assistant Ryan Huska and Penguins assistant Todd Reirden.

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