Luke Richardson Breaks Down His First Day of School

It was a brisk 57 degrees when I left the house this morning to head down to Fifth Third Arena for the first day of Blackhawks cam –, a fitting chill for what felt like the first day of school around here as the new regime begins to place its fingerprints upon the Blackhawks roster.

It was a quicker first practice, something that Jonathan Toews said that he liked and something that Luke Richardson said was by design. Richardson is, after all, installing new systems as a head coach for the first time in his career, a process he’s taking a day-by-day approach to.

We saw a bunch of line rushes against the defensive zone coverage, we saw a lot of defensive zone work, and we saw plenty of skating. Richardson explained to us after the second group finished up this afternoon that he’s installing the new systems a day at a time to make it easier to digest.

“We’re splitting it up. if you notice, more defensive today so line rushes against D zone coverage and really trying to get some basics of the systems down right away. we thought we’d move forward, so neutral zone into transition tomorrow, then offensive zone and face-off plays and little bit of offense and automatic looks that we can start looking for as units out there on the third day.”

“Then we’re going to take a day off on the ice on [Sunday] because we need to do lots of skating and gibe the groins a break on the fourth day. They’ll be in the gym and we can do more extensive systems routes in the neutral zone on face-offs, little intangibles on the game, more video on the fourth day. I’m trying to keep it short, so they’re only looking at D zone coverage and line rushes again today. so they can go and keep that on their mind, then go into practice not three different zone concepts. That’s a lot for some on the first day to digest and put into play.”

Patrick Kane and Toews were asked about their initial impressions of their new head coach. Kane liked his intensity.

“[He] seems intense and seems pretty focused, too,” Kane said. “I think he wants to put some good systems in where we can just be able to play and not really think so much out there. so we can g o out there, play these simple systems, everyone’s on the same page and then we can play fast and be able to make plays and have the freedom to do that as well.”

Kane called Richardson’s offense free and lose, saying it flows from his defensive philosophy that killing plays earlier and getting fresh legs working the puck into the O zone together will make for plenty of offensive looks that guys like Kane will enjoy.

Toews echoed the “don’t think, just play” mindset, noting they really focused on the defensive side of the rink on Day One of the Richardson Era. The head coach broke down some of the philosophy this afternoon.

“Most sports call it a zone, some say it’s a box plus one or a man behind. We’re looking to kill plays quick. Our D zone is going to be better when we become better in the neutral zone, better gaps, better confrontations at the blue line, not let them come in easy and setting and getting established in the O zone. There’s a lot of talent in this league now, so when they get in the O zone they’re going to make things happen. if we can stall it or make it difficult to get in or they’re not getting in the way they want to get in, that’s going to be a plus for us. once we get in there, we want to play an aggressive style of defense.

“It’s fast defense, it’s hard defense, and that just gives us more energy to play offense instead of chipping the puck out after being in their zone for a minute and a half, then you change and they come right back at you and the next line has to do it again. if we can play fasts defense with a bit of a zone, but when it’s time to kill a play like a penalty kill, we’re going to have trigger points to go, then everybody’s going and we’re going to get that puck and get moving it because we’re going to be all together to break out together.”

Installing new systems with a roster filled with new players is going to be a tall task, one that Richardson has said he’s ready to handle. He has his two veteran leaders buying in, which helps. Now it’s about getting the team on the same page and playing some games so he can determine who will be on the roster when the season begins for real.

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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