As Blackhawks’ training camp begins, Luke Richardson set to encounter his first of many challenges

Luke Richardson will oversee his first on-ice training camp sessions with the Blackhawks on Thursday.

AP Photos

The Blackhawks’ awful start last season — one win in their first 12 games — shattered their spirit and unity in the locker room.

The Hawks may well have to endure another awful start this season. That awful start might turn into an awful middle and awful end, too.

But they can’t allow that misery to shatter their spirit and unity again. And it’ll be up to Luke Richardson, as the Hawks’ new head coach, to foster a culture with enough cohesion, stability and trust to ensure that.

“You want to keep the highs really rolling high,” Richardson said Wednesday. “And then when it spikes down low, we want it to spike right back up, not hit down low and stay there for a while.

“‘Success’ for this team might be a different meaning for us and fans and [media]. But as long as it’s an upward trend, and the downward trends are really nipped in the bud early and turned around quickly, those are the signs of a team growing.”

Richardson accepted this position, his first NHL head coaching gig, knowing it would be difficult.

He has embraced the fact that his job — to help the Hawks play their best — and the biggest goal of his boss, general manager Kyle Davidson — to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NHL draft — stand somewhat in opposition to each other. Although Davidson has shied away from explicitly referring to “tanking,” the funniest exchange Wednesday between Richardson and Davidson hinted more than subtly at it.

“I told Kyle right off the hop that we’re going to make his job the toughest job possible and try to win as much as possible,” Richardson said, drawing some laughs.

Davidson interjected with a smile: “Having said that, I want to win.”

But difficult might be an understatement.

The 40-odd players who will enter Fifth Third Arena for the first on-ice sessions of training camp Thursday — camp technically began Wednesday with fitness testing, medical evaluations and photoshoots but nothing on-ice — will include some of everything.

There will be Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the powerful, somewhat disgruntled veterans entering their final seasons under contract. They’re going to vacuum up almost all the attention given to the Hawks this season. Richardson said he talked to them “the most” of anyone this summer, but it’ll be crucial that they and he build and maintain a strong working relationship.

There will be a surprisingly sizable number of other veterans, some of whom are new this season, hoping to re-prove they can make big impacts (Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou) or be NHL regulars (Colin Blackwell, Jack Johnson) or stay healthy (Connor Murphy, Tyler Johnson, Jujhar Khaira).

There will be plenty of young, semi-established guys hoping to take the next step (Taylor Raddysh, Philipp …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times


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