Posted May 14, 2012 on AP on Fox
Todd Richards is losing the word ''interim'' from his job title with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Richards became the Blue Jackets' interim coach in January when Scott Arniel was fired. The team said Monday that he agreed to a two-year contract after the Blue Jackets' record improved under the 45-year-old former Minnesota Wild coach. Details of the deal were not released. Richards led Columbus for the final 41 games of the season after being elevated from assistant coach, going 18-21-2. The Blue Jackets finished the season with the NHL's worst record at 29-46-7 but lost out in the lottery and will have the No. 2 pick in the draft. Richards went 77-71-16 in two seasons in Minnesota before being fired last year. He then joined Columbus as an assistant. The Blue Jackets played their best hockey at the end of the season, going 16-14-1 in their final 31 games, with wins in seven of their last 11. The club was just 9-6-2 with a lead after two periods under Arniel but was 14-0-0 when ahead going into the third period under Richards. ''As we analyzed available coaching candidates and individuals who might become available, it became very clear to us that he is the right person to lead our team,'' general manager Scott Howson said. ''Our team continuously improved under Todd and he has earned the opportunity to build upon the work he started.'' Richards served as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks in 2008-09, helping the club capture the Presidents' Trophy with an NHL-best 53-18-11 record. ''We have a lot of work to do to give our fans the type of team they want but I am really excited about what lies ahead,'' Richards said. ''We made strides last season and I'm confident that our players are ready for the challenges before us.'' He faces a daunting task with a team that could be facing a transitional period. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has requested a trade and the team will try to meet that demand. A standout player at the University of Minnesota, Richards played in just eight career NHL games with the Hartford Whalers from 1990-92.
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