Calm, collected and articulate, Luke Richardson makes an impression with every passing day. Richardson had to step up as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens when interim head coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19 prior to Game 3 of the semi-final series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
His coaching in the playoffs has been impressive to say the least. He has continued to play the youngsters in important roles and, after a game which the team should have won, he resisted the temptation to change the line up. Ducharme, of course, is still very much part of the decision-making process but right now Richardson is the face of the coaching staff and he is creating a platform for himself with every passing day. His answers at his press conferences, where he speaks at length in order to explain his thought process, the development of different players and skills in their game is fresh to an observer. He has avoided to be drawn into the referee discussion, something that could have been an easy out for a temporarily-promoted head coach.
“I’d have to put him as one of the top coaches that I’ve had in my career,” Jeff Petry said at the end of last season. On Sunday, Ben Chiarot offered his opinion “We’d go through a wall for him because we know he’d go through a wall for us. He is a player’s coach.”
During this season, the importance of good assistant coaches has been evident for the Canadiens. First the team could promote from within when Claude Julien was fired, then they needed the next assistant coach to step up and fill the head coaching role when Ducharme had to isolate. It also shows the importance of having the entire coaching staff adopting the same philosophy. The machine can keep running no matter who is in charge.
The success that Richardson has had on and off the ice this postseason could mean that we will see him with an opposing team down the line. He has caught the attention of many a team with his performance, and no one should be shocked to see other teams asking to talk to Richardson once the playoffs have come to an end.
For now, though, Richardson is staying in the present.
“It’s an honour to be working for the Montreal Canadiens,” he said. “There’s such a historic past and for us with this team to bring back and re-live some of the great memories of winning in the playoffs, we’re just excited that for right now.”