Richards' future in question, but coach still seeks answers

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2011 - 11:56 PM

As the Wild finished a disappointing season by denying a playoff spot to the Stars, the coach was looking for ways to solve his team's collapse.

view larger photos


The Wild's season is over, and Todd Richards stepped to the lectern after Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars uncertain whether his career as the Wild coach is over, too.

Before the NHL's regular season even officially ended with the Wild propelling the Chicago Blackhawks into the postseason and destroying Dallas' season in the process, two teams already had fired their coaches.

But Richards isn't agonizing over whether he'll make the hat trick.

The embattled second-year coach said he has "peace of mind" and can put his "head on the pillow at night."

"Without question, you look back, 'Would you do some things different?' Yeah, absolutely," Richards said. "But for the most part, there's not too many things I could change."

Still, if you believe Chuck Fletcher, and there's no reason why we shouldn't because the Wild general manager's nature is to meticulously examine everything before making long-term decisions, there will be no imminent verdict regarding Richards' future.

So unlike Ottawa's Cory Clouston, Richards survived the immediate hours after the Wild's season finale. And unlike Florida's Peter DeBoer, it would be surprising if Richards didn't survive the day -- and maybe days -- after the Wild's season finale.

That would mean Richards conceivably could be involved in exit meetings with players even if he's not destined to return.

Richards talked about the future after Sunday's game as if he expects to be part of it, saying it would be "foolish and silly" to not look back and "figure out what went wrong and why it went wrong."

"There was growth in players, growth in chemistry, culture, things that we want to create here and build upon," Richards said. "But ... the finish leaves you with that really empty feeling."

Fletcher won't discuss Richards' future. But he knows Richards kept the Wild competitive until early March.

"On March 8, we beat Colorado. That left us 10 games over .500 at the 67-game mark, we were on pace for 95 points and we were smack in the middle of the playoff race," Fletcher said. "Things obviously unraveled very quickly. But the majority of the season, we were a hard-working, competitive team. Whatever reason, the last three weeks, everything's fallen apart on us. Now it's my job to find out why."

Richards, who has one year left on his contract, is not the only member of the coaching staff in limbo.

Assistants Dave Barr and Darby Hendrickson, goalie coach Bob Mason, video coach PJ Deluca and strength coach Chris Pietrzak-Wegner all have expiring contracts.

Rick Wilson, credited for doing wonders with the Wild's defensive play this season, is the only assistant with a year left on his deal because the Wild picked up part of the contract he had left with Tampa Bay and Dallas.

A few weeks ago, Richards' job appeared to be in unquestionable peril. The Wild lost eight games in a row at the worst possible time and was getting embarrassed nightly at home.

But one thing the Wild appears to be contemplating: The team will be younger next season. Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, Colton Gillies, and if it can sign him, Mikko Lehtonen are a few of the forwards expected to vie for spots. Defenseman Marco Scandella will have a chance to make the team with youngsters Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner.

There could be growing pains, so does it make sense to pay Richards not to coach and burn the first year of a more expensive veteran coach in such a transition?

On the flip side, Richards has made mistakes.

Matching lines still is not something he's big on, even at home, where it's easier. Despite two consecutive missed postseasons, Richards usually kept his top line intact, only trying playmaker Pierre-Marc Bouchard there the final two games. His relationship with Martin Havlat still is rocky.

And during the losing streak, Richards was out of answers and wore dejection on his face.

There are also off-ice factors that go beyond whether Richards is a qualified coach.

The Wild is at the $59.4 million salary-cap ceiling, meaning it's spending to the max to not make the playoffs. The fan base has voiced frustration by jeering and not buying tickets.

And with little cap flexibility this offseason, the only guarantee of change would be replacing Richards or parts of the coaching staff.

If Sunday was it for Richards, he caught a glimpse of the type of emotional, up-tempo, hard-working team he's long wanted to coach. He witnessed the arena as loud as ever.

"It leaves you with a little bitter taste of winning a game like this because it sure would be great to play 15 or 20 more like that," Richards said. "It's disappointing."

  • related content

  • Theodore has one guy's back, but not three

    Sunday April 10, 2011

    The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks owe the Wild a big piece of their playoff revenue.

  • Wild-Dallas game recap

    Sunday April 10, 2011

    1. Colton Gillies, Wild: Showed he wants to be on next year's roster with another strong game and first goal since Feb. 19, 2009.

  • GM Chuck Fletcher's to-do list

    Sunday April 10, 2011

    1. Determine Todd Richards' future as coach.

  • The Wild's Andrew Brunette, left, and Dallas' Stephane Robidas (3) watched as Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen deflected a shot.


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question