Luke Richardson Speaks and Rarely Stops

After a segment involving prospect Mark Borowiecki, Binghamton Senators head coach Luke Richardson made his weekly appearance on Team 1200’s The Drivethis afternoon. For all the dialogue between the hosts and Borowiecki concerning about how many games Richardson played in his NHL career, the only thing that spans longer are the length of Richardson’s interview answers. Not that I’m complaining mind you. For all those years that I had to endure driving to the rink with my dad to catch a game, these interviews more than make up for those Jacques Martin’s ‘Jacques Talk’ pre-game segments featuring Gord Wilson. It’s a refreshing change of pace to listen to a coach who can carry an interview and preserve my interest in what he has to say.

Please note that the full Richardson interview hasn’t been transcribed. To listen to the full interview, you can visit the Team 1200’s Facebook page. Below is just the information that I found to be pertinent. My thoughts are in bold.

On the games on the weekend…

“You know what, we played well on (Saturday). We really did. Refereeing never wins you or loses you games but we had some battles in that game. We had some calls that didn’t go our way and we had a lot of calls that were very deserving – they were lazy penalties. They were tripping penalties and neutral zone penalties and we just took too many penalties against a pretty skilled power play. Even though we scored two shorthanded goals within the game, we gave up two power play goals and basically what we do, is tired out our good players and you take other players out of the game. We played very well and we played hard right to the end and with any luck, we were all over them, we just could not put it in the net to tie it at 3-3 and then they got another goal right at the end to make it 4-2. Sunday, we didn’t have a big break but that’s just the way this league is. We played Saturday night and then Sunday afternoon in Manchester and we did not show up right from the start right to the very end. We just weren’t prepared. We weren’t ready to go. We discussed that (with the team) and we watched some video today. We pretty much watched the whole first period today and there was not a lot of good things on there, aside from maybe one good shift. And we did the comparison of moving our feet and competing versus not, and a 4-0 (loss) is the result of it. We had a hard practice. It was all battle drills today – a lot of up-and-down the ice; a couple of whistles blown; screaming and yelling; back to the drills – but you know what, we’re all in this together (as) players and coaches. I said, we have to get some hard work done today. Let us work on some offence – we got to get the power play going; we got to get some line rushes to the net, so we’ll work on that tomorrow and we’ll gear up Thursday and get ready for Friday and Saturday down in Norfolk.”

Nice to hear that Richardson won’t bury his players. If this was Cory Clouston, the players would be proverbially cut up, bagged and dumped into the Bay Harbour like the surgically precise Dexter Morgan.

On Borowiecki’s game and his progression…

“Great. He’s a leader. I’ve talked about him before. He’s a leader and he is a lead-by-example type of guy. He is one hard guy to play against every shift and that’s what you want in a hockey player. Yeah, he’s taking some penalties, but he’s standing up for his teammates. I talked to him the other day about riding that fine line – you have to play hard but you have to stay out of the box; otherwise, you don’t want to become a liability to your team. I thought he’s done a better job of that in the last few games; really on the weekend, this weekend compared to the weekend before, he was on the ice much more and I think he had a fight because someone ran over Robin (Lehner) and they weren’t going to call a penalty until (Borowiecki) decided to go at it. They eventually evened it up and called a goalie interference penalty but (Borowiecki) is right there every time for his teammates.  He’s a hard, strong guy and he shoots the puck hard. He scored a goal two weekends ago with a hard shot from the point, so he can do a little bit of it all. I think he’s really working on playing hard and playing on the edge but staying within the legal limits to stay on the ice a little bit more.”

Richardson used the word ‘hard’ six times while describing Mark Borowiecki. Now we know what Luke could use for Christmas: a thesaurus. If he was a hockey blogger, he would have typed out the previous paragraph in MS Word and then right-clicked on each ‘tough’ to find different synonyms and appear wordy.

“I took losses hard and mistakes hard when I was a player, but as a coach, you probably take it even harder. You feel responsible if the team is not ready to go – that you missed something to get them going. Or you made it too relaxed of an atmosphere when you should have been harder or vice versa; you’re too hard on them and you make them rattled and they just grip the sticks too tight and they can’t make a play. It was a long way home from Manchester. I didn’t sleep and I thought about (the loss) a lot. We stuck to our game plan – they had the next day off to regroup because these weekends are hard. We went at them pretty hard today but we made sure that they knew that we’re with them. The players and the coaches work together here, and that’s the only way that you get things done. It can’t be the players thinking that the coaches are wrong or it can’t be the coaches blaming the players; that doesn’t create a great atmosphere and you don’t really accomplish anything. You don’t fix anything and if you have something going well, you cannot keep it going. I think we have a good communication here and I think that’s going to be a positive going through the season.”

Apparently Robin Lehner is not the only one in Binghamton who’s saying all the right things this season.

On the scoring woes that the team has right now…

“We’re trying to give (the players) proper direction and really, we’ve had some great scoring chances but the puck doesn’t seem to be going in for us. I have said, ‘We have got to stick with it and when we stop getting scoring chances, that is when I have got to be worried’. I just want to make sure I reassure them that if it goes like that, I’d rather it go now and we work harder, put the nose to the grindstone and try and figure it out now because it’s a lot harder to do in March and April. We’ll iron these out – the power play really moved the puck around well in the first couple of weeks. This weekend was our first time where we started to see a little more pressure and we just haven’t handled it well – whether it be our entries or our battles to get it back and outnumber them to get it back move it quick to get (the opposition to) spread out. That’s our focus for the rest of the week is to really work on some offensive explosions on of the line rushing and definitely (work) on our power play. If we can (improve in these areas) and we can stay out of the box a little bit, that helps too because we use our good players on the penalty kill – like Zibanejad and Silfverberg – and those guys, they have got to be tired when they’re out there. You can’t be tired on the power play, that’s when you have to step it up a notch. It doesn’t mean the man advantage means relax and move it around until there’s an opening. It means you engage even harder and faster and you bury another team when they take a penalty. It takes aggression out of them. If we can do that and we can get on track a little bit on the power play, I think it will help our overall offence and help a little bit with the confidence in some of these players that are ‘so-called’ goal scorers. I think everybody can score goals but these guys are more talented offensively than some. If we can get them going on a regular basis, it will really help our offence as a whole.”

Looking at the production of guys like Silfverberg, Zibanejad and a few of the other more well-thought of prospects, with the exception of Robin Lehner’s numbers, nothing really leaps off the page and catches your attention. There are always a few cynical, ‘what have you done for me lately?’ types out there – singling out the team’s more highly regarded prospects for being players who have to do more offensively and ignoring the fact these same players are being entrusted to play in every on-ice situation and despite their age, are developing into well-rounded players.  

Perhaps that makes me an apologist, but I’d like to give these guys the benefit of the doubt and a sample size of games that extends beyond seven regular season games. As easy as it is to reflect on their lack of production, where has the ‘veteran’ production gone?

I realize Stephane Da Costa has been hurt but with the exception of Mike Hoffman, the production and peripheral numbers for players like Andre Petersson and Pat Cannone, two of the team’s three leading scorers last season, leaves something to be desired. Through seven games, Petersson and Cannone have 12 and 13 shots respectively; combining for one goal and three assists. Compounding matters is the fact that Petersson’s averaging 1.71 shots per game, down from last season’s 2.76 while Cannone shots per game average is down from 2.51 to 1.86 shots per game. (For what it’s worth, despite only having one goal and four points, Hoffman’s shots per game rate is up from 2.49 to 4.00. Zibanejad and Silfverberg are both averaging more than three shots per game as well.)

Although I haven’t watched many of the Binghamton games, one has to wonder how much of an impact the presence of the organization’s prospects has had on the ice-time that some of the team’s more tenured players are getting. Unfortunately, the AHL does not publically disclose player ice-time, but if anyone who has been watching the games regularly has any input on the matter, please let me know in the comment thread below.  

On some of the Europeans adjusting to the chaotic style of the AHL game…

“Steve Stirling hit the nail on the head. ‘Guys today in the NHL’, we were talking in our video meeting, ‘it’s almost you hear a play in the NHL.’ Guys play their position. They’re more stubborn about that. They’re made to play like that or you won’t be there and you’ll be back down here and you won’t get a chance to go back up. Down here, it is a little more chaotic at times because there is a lot of emotion and it is a younger league. Guys get going, guys get out of position and it is a little bit more scrambled at times. And we just talked about that today, if we can really be disciplined in our positioning and stick it out, we will come ahead in a lot of these games because we will catch teams out of position. So that’s something that we’re definitely trying to work on and trying to mature our young guys faster than other teams, because if we do that, it will give us more chances to score goals and catch other teams off-guard that way. But you know what, the European guys are doing well. I talked to Zibanejad today and he is playing his off-wing a lot of nights here. We talked about the benefits of that; especially with his speed driving in on his backhand to the net and his reach – but there are some disadvantages. We have got to really have to work on his own zone, when he gets pinched off on the wall, it’s hard. When he’s that close to the wall to shoot it on your forehand, when you’re that close to getting an angle to get it up off the glass and out if you have to because he doesn’t have the extra 6’ to 8’ width on his wing to curl back and… And he talked about that today, he said, ‘I really have played my off-wing over the World Juniors and in a smaller rink but that was really the only time. I played in Europe. There was a lot more time (with the puck). It was a different game.’ It was more of a design where (the Europeans) could skate back with (the puck) and hold onto the puck. I know Silfverberg has battled that as well, so in time, they’re getting stronger and they’re getting better. They’re getting more used to their surroundings and I think they’ll just better and better. They are dangerous players, those two especially – Zibanejad and Silfverberg – they are very dangerous players. Anytime that they are on the ice, they create offensive chances and if they don’t, they create a lot of attention so that other people have a little more room out there.”