After guiding the Columbus Blue Jackets to just their second postseason berth in club history, head coach Todd Richards has been signed to a two-year contract extension by the team, which will run through the 2016-17 season.
The last two seasons have arguably been the most exciting in Blue Jackets history, with the club narrowly missing the playoffs last season and giving the Pittsburgh Penguins all they could handle in the opening round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while earning the club's first ever postseason win (and then its second).
In 171 games behind the bench in Columbus, Richards has posted a 85-70-16 record. His .544 winning percentage is the highest in franchise history for a head coach.
“Todd has done an outstanding job for the Columbus Blue Jackets and we're pleased that he will continue to lead our team,” said the team's GM, Jarmo Kekalainen. “We believe he is one of the top young coaches in the NHL because of his knowledge of the game, work ethic and ability to communicate well and bring out the best in our players. He's played a significant role in our recent success and we look forward to having him continue to be a big part of our franchise moving forward.”
A contract extension doesn't mean Richards will survive the length of his contract, because head coaches have proven to be highly replaceable in this league. That said, this rewards a coach for continually improving his team since being promoted from assistant coach to the top job 41 games into the 2011-12 season. This year, he guided Columbus to a franchise-record 43 wins.
As the Blue Jackets continue to march toward respectability in the league, with some solid drafting and intriguing personnel moves via trades and free agency, Richards will have chance to prove his bosses right by extending his deal a full season before it was due to expire.
The native of Crystal, Minn., managed to appear in only eight NHL games as a player, but he has proven particularly adept to the coaching ranks.
Richards, at only 47 years old is already on his second head coaching job in the NHL, having previously served as Minnesota Wild boss from 2009-11.
He started his head coaching career in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization where he led their AHL farm club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. After leading the team to the Calder Cup finals, he made the jump to the NHL coaching ranks as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks in 2008-09. The very next season hired as the Wild's second ever head coach. He was fired after two seasons, each of which ended with the team missing the playoffs. He joined the Jackets in 2011 as an assistant and later that season took over for Scott Arniel.
It's been a bit of a roller coaster in Richards' young career, but he has seemingly found solid ground in Columbus. The road ahead remains a tough one to navigate, but as he has shown over the last two seasons, he's getting a lot out of his players.
Richards' next challenge is clearing the next big hurdle for the franchise: winning its first playoff series.