Luke Richardson Coaches Habs back to Stanley Cup

The Montreal Canadiens are headed back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993 following a 3-2 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Richardson, who has been an assistant coach for the Habs over the past three seasons, served as interim head coach during the final four games of their Semifinal series against Vegas after (other) interim head coach Dominique Ducharme entered COVID protocol.

Richardson spent five of his 21 NHL seasons with the Flyers from 1997-2002. He only recorded 35 total points throughout his entire tenure in Philadelphia, but his style as a serviceable, stay-at-home defenseman fit the bill during a different era of the NHL. He also won the Pelle Lindbergh Award as the most improved Flyer for the 1999-2000 season.

During the fabled second round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000 that included a five overtime marathon classic, Richardson (inadvertently or advertently) got under the skin of his opponents. He fired a shot into the chest of former Penguins enforcer Bob Boughner, which Pittsburgh felt was intentional. Former Flyers winger Keith Jones later pointed to Richardson’s offensive inefficiencies and joked that he couldn’t have hit Boughner intentionally even if he was trying.

Richardson also endeared himself to Flyers fans by stunning hated pest Matthew Barnaby, then with the New York Rangers, in a fight in January 2002.

Richardson began the season fourth in the pecking order behind the Montreal bench, as Ducharme got the interim head coach tag in February only after head coach Claude Julien and assistant Kirk Muller were fired.

The pressure placed on the bench boss of the storied Montreal Canadiens makes the job notoriously hard to handle, but Richardson is enjoying the euphoria of success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the interim tag without the typical headaches that persist during losing streaks and other hiccups over the course of an entire season.

The Habs will face the winner of the New York Islanders-Tampa Bay Lightning Semifinal series, which concludes Friday night with Game 7 in Tampa. No official word has been released about Ducharme’s status for the series.