Forget about Paul MacLean and the job he has done in Ottawa, just for a minute. The Ottawa Senators have in their organization the man who could soon be that coach that is always at the top of mind when referring to the next in line for an NHL head coaching gig.
For years it was Randy Cunneyworth, and then it was Kevin Dineen. Jon Cooper of the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate) currently holds the distinction of that title, and could be the coach in Tampa sooner rather than later.
But has anyone done a better job in the AHL than Binghamton Senators coach Luke Richardson? In his first year as a head coach all he has done is compete every night with a roster that has been scavanged by the NHL club to find replacements for injuries. From the net out, he has lost Ben Bishop, defensemen Andre Benoit, Patrick Wiercioch, and forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad for pretty much the entire duration since the lockout ended. Add to that the call-ups of various lengths of Robin Lehner, Mark Borowiecki, Eric Gryba, Derek Grant, Dave Dziurzynski, Stephane Da Costa, Mark Stone, and the injury to Mike Hoffman among others, and the job Richardson has done has rivaled MacLean’s performance.
I know all AHL teams are subject to the same demands of losing top players, that is the mantra of a developmental league. But considering the unprecedented rash of injuries combined with the fact that many members of the 2011 Calder Cup team are already playing in Ottawa, and the fact that Binghamton is in the thick of the race for first in the Eastern Conference (trailing first place Syracuse by just 2 points) is a testament to the coaching of Richardson and the organization that Bryan and Tim Murray have built.
It is only a matter of time before the NHL takes notice and a young team realizes how good Richardson is with young players and takes a chance on him in the NHL.
It will be a great day for Richardson, but a big loss for the Senators organization. Lets just hope he has a Calder Cup ring on his finger when that day comes.