Former AHL coach Richards tapped to lead Wild

richards-todd_200.jpgMinnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher today named Crystal, Minn., native Todd Richards as the team’s new head coach.

Richards, who spent last season as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, played collegiately at the University of Minnesota. Richards has made the playoffs in all 13 of his professional seasons as a player, and in all seven as a head coach or assistant coach.

“Todd’s track record as a player and coach speaks for itself,” Fletcher said. “He is a proven winner, and is an ideal fit as the Minnesota Wild’s new head coach.”

Richards is the seventh person to rise from AHL head coach to NHL head coach in the last 19 months, joining Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Scott Gordon (N.Y. Islanders), John Anderson (Atlanta), Cory Clouston (Ottawa), Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh) and Joe Sacco (Colorado).

Richards, 42, helped the San Jose Sharks to an NHL-best 53-18-11 record and a Presidents’ Trophy in 2008-09. Head coach Todd McLellan had Richards in charge of the power play, which ranked third in the NHL at 24.2 percent.

Richards spent two seasons (2006-08) as head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League (AHL), where he led the team to a berth in the Calder Cup Finals in 2008. Fletcher was the AHL Pens’ general manager during that time.

Richards ended his stint with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ranked first in franchise history with 98 wins and in winning percentage (.653). He also was named head coach of the PlanetUSA Team at the 2007 Rbk Hockey/AHL All-Star Classic in Toronto.

Before his time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Richards served as an assistant coach (2002-06) with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. During his time in Milwaukee, the Admirals won two West Division titles (2003-04 and 2005-06) and made two trips to the Calder Cup Finals, winning the AHL title in 2003-04.

richards-todd2_200.jpgIn his seven seasons as a head coach or assistant coach in the professional ranks, Richards’ teams have made the league finals three times.

A former defenseman, Richards has captured several other championships throughout his career, including a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) titles with the University of Minnesota (1988 and 1989), the 1991 Calder Cup with Springfield, the 2001 Turner Cup (International Hockey League) in Orlando and a Swiss-B League title with Servette Geneve in 2002.

Richards was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round (No. 33 overall) of the 1985 NHL Entry Draft and made his NHL debut with the Hartford Whalers in 1990-91, playing eight games over the next two seasons and posting four assists. He also appeared in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games with Hartford, totaling three assists.

During his four seasons at the University of Minnesota, he was named a member of the WCHA Second All-Star Team for three consecutive seasons (1986-87, 1987-88 and 1988-89) and was team captain and a Second Team All-America selection during his senior season. The Gophers lost to Harvard 4-3 in overtime in the NCAA championship game in 1989. Richards is the all-time points leader (30-128=158) amongst Gophers defensemen.

Richards replaces Jacques Lemaire, who stepped down in April after serving as the Wild’s coach since its first season in 2000.

Richards and his wife, Maryann, have two sons, Zachary and Justin.