Breaking News: Wild fires Todd Richards – Updated
I’m going to keep it brief, as I’m about to head out to the zoo with the kids, but the Minnesota Wild have fired Todd Richards as their head coach after finishing 12th in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs for the second straight season under Richards and the third overall.
The writing was on the wall after the Wild’s staggering late-season collapse this year and, for the second time in three off seasons, the Wild will begin searching for a head coach.
I’ll have more later, but I just saw this as I was heading out the door and wanted to get this up for you.
UPDATED: As promised, I’m updating this with my thoughts.
The firing of Richards isn’t totally unexpected. In fact, some fans probably believe that it’s a long time coming. Richards just wasn’t very good behind the bench. He failed at matching lines and he didn’t experiment with the first line because of what the captain of the team wanted as opposed to what was best for the team. His relationship with Martin Havlat was tenuous at best and he failed to have any answers for the team’s shortcomings.
The biggest red light to me was his response to a question posed about Niklas Backstrom after a pre-season loss last season. He was asked about Backstrom’s play and his response (and I’m paraphrasing here) was something to the effect of “I don’t know. I’ve never played goalie before, so I can’t comment on his game. That’s why we have a goaltending coach.”
Yeah…Underwhelming, to say the least. Just like his coaching career in Minnesota.
To be fair, I was actually willing to give him a chance during the team’s run towards the middle of the season. Hey, he was a new coach instituting a new system. Everyone knew it was going to be tough. But then the team went on their monumental slide. One that just. Kept. Going.
At a time when the team needed Richards to motivate and fix the problems that the team was having, he instead wore his dejection and confusion on his sleeve.
Yeah, he did a good job protecting his players, but when your coach is talking to the media and telling them he doesn’t know how to fix what’s wrong, what are you supposed to think as a player?
To boot, he clearly had his favorites as well. I’m not talking about favorite players to use in certain situations. It’s clear that all coaches have those. But it would seem that he gave certain players preferential treatment in terms of their ice time and their linemates.
The situation with Antti Miettinen being on the first line is a clear cut example of this. You’ve got Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Martin Havlat, both tremendous offensive players, sitting on your second line. You’ve got Cal Clutterbuck, who led the team in goals for a good portion of the season, hopping between the second and third lines, but you wait until the last two games of the season to switch things up when Miettinen is in the midst of a 27 game stretch that saw him score just five goals and four assists, with those five goals all coming in the last 11 game of the season?
I’m sorry, but that either reeks of ineptitude or favoritism.
And there’s not room in the Wild’s locker room for either of those two things.
In the end, I do think that Richards deserved his fate. He could never figure out how to motivate the team and, honestly, he was thrust into a job that he just wasn’t ready for. The blame for two extremely sub-par seasons by the Wild doesn’t lay entirely at his feet, but he certainly didn’t do anything to help matters.
We’ll be back later this week with a look at some potential candidates for the coaching job.