Citizen exclusive: Q and A with Binghamton Senators coach Luke Richardson

Why does he love Binghamton so much? Why is he in no rush to embark on a career as an NHL coach? And why was he high-fiving with fellow coaches in the press box during the NHL playoffs last season?

Read on for the answers to those and other questions.

Binghamton head coach Luke Richardson puts the rookies through their paces. Ottawa Senators rookie camp was held Wednesday at Bell Sensplex. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

LONDON, Ont. — Following a successful season as the rookie head coach of the Binghamton Senators in 2012-13, Luke Richardson is anxious to get his second year started with Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Richardson, coaching the Senators in a rookie tournament against Toronto, Chicago and Pittsburgh this weekend, addressed countless issues in an exclusive question and answer session with the Citizen.

Why does he love Binghamton so much? Why is he in no rush to embark on a career as an NHL coach? And why was he high-fiving with fellow coaches in the press box during the NHL playoffs last season?

Read on for the answers to those and other questions.

Citizen: Is it easier for you this year, knowing what to expect after having gone through the first year with Binghamton?

Richardson: Last year, for me, I was lucky enough to have the lockout. That might have been the only good thing (about the lockout). I had a training camp, exhibition games, I was able to set a pace. Now I have a lot of players coming back and I can run practice and they know (my routine). And they help me. They go to the front of the lines (in practice drills). I can spend a little more time with the new guys.

You can see (the veterans) helping them out. You can even see it in the games, on the bench (talking about positioning). Having a full first year, obviously, I learned a lot last year. I probably still have lots to learn, but I just feel I’m a little more comfortable, starting to know the players really well.

Citizen: From the outside, it looked like a great year, with lots of wins and a playoff berth. Was it even better than you could have expected as a rookie coach?

Richardson: For sure. I had the luxury of having a really good, experienced team at the start of the year. Guys like Andre Benoit and a lot of those guys that were back from the Calder Cup winning year (in 2011) They helped me establish kind of a base that I wanted to. And the coaching staff that I had was excellent for me, with (assistant coach) Steve Stirling, giving me a lot of information that I could give the players. I had that whole staff helping me. And the players, they just helped me establish what I wanted to establish because they were a little more experienced. As they went up (to the NHL), we had a lot of younger guys, who watched them, and it’s kind of like they followed suit.

The way the year went, the timetable of it, was perfect for a first year coach.

Citizen: Like you said, that was real development, because you had all the injuries and call-ups.

Richardson: Yes, but by that time, we had the base and a good winning culture, too. It’s not all about winning in our league, but part of getting better as a professional is having a winning experience. And at the next level, if you don’t win, you don’t stay there. So, there’s a bit of fine line there. It isn’t all about winning, but in any sport where you drop the puck or blow the whistle to start the game, you want to win.

Citizen: Speaking of that, your good friend Dallas Eakins got his first NHL coaching job, going from the Toronto Marlies to the Edmonton Oilers. Have you allowed yourself to think ahead about possibly coaching in the NHL someday?

Richardson: Not really. I’ve talked to people about it and I’m real happy for Dallas. He has been around for awhile and done really well, consistently. So, I think it was a great choice for him, getting a younger team like that, that’s probably more what he’s used to.

But for me, I know I have lots to learn. Last year could have been a lucky year, with all the wins and things went real well. So, there will be years that aren’t like that. It’s will good for me to have that experience to battle through. I’m not expecting that, or hoping for that, but it could happen.

For me, and where I’m at, I’ve had my chance to play in the NHL. That was my dream. Now, for me, I love working with young guys. I really liked what I did in Ottawa for the 4-5 years I was there after I was done playing. It was just basically communicating and talking to young guys…maybe a little bit with the defencemen as a whole. but mostly the young guys. That’s why I really like this job.

It’s close to home. It’s really close to my daughter (Morgan), who is at (Cornell). I’m in no rush. My daughter is an hour away, but also close to us, and that’s really important to us, as a family.

I’ve got two more years on my contract. Tim (Murray, Senators assistant GM) asked if I want to do an extension and I told him I’m not going anywhere, I told him ‘we could do it if he wanted, but I don’t need to have that or need that. Unless you want to get rid of me, I’m not going anywhere’.

Citizen: But if somebody from the NHL knocked on the door and asked?

Richardson: Right now, I’m committed to the organization. (Another NHL team) would have to go through the (Senators) first, but I’ve already told them that I don’t really want to. I have two more years on my deal and I would probably be happy to put another one on there because that would take me through the years that Morgan is close (to Binghamton).

After that, we’ll see what happen. The first year went fairly well and I would like to continue doing what I’m doing.

And you know what? For me, the thrill last year was to see…everybody told me the best part of the job would be to call somebody in the office and tell them they were going to the NHL for the first time. And that was pretty cool. But the best thing about it was watching them do well. I knew they weren’t coming back or weren’t coming back any time soon. That was fulfilling thing for me. And I would love to continue to do that because I know what it feels like to play in the NHL.

Citizen: There were so many guys that got called up. Do you even remember how many?

Richardson: A lot of them, for sure. A lot of first games, first goals. A playoff hat trick (for Jean-Gabriel Pageau). That was something to see. Steve (Stirling) and I were high-fiving each other in the press box. It was amazing. It was really cool. I really enjoyed that. That was a big thrill.”

 

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