Then and Now: Luke Richardson

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Defenseman Luke Richardson joined the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer of 1997, as he signed a five-year contract where he earned $2.5 million in the first four years and $2.6 million in his final season.

After reaching the postseason just twice with the Edmonton Oilers in his six-year span with the club from 1991-97, Richardson helped the Flyers reach the playoffs each of the five seasons he was in Philly.

In his initial campaign, the Flyers finished third in the Eastern Conference with 95 points, as only the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins finished with more. Richardson played in 81 games and posted two goals as well as three assists. The d-man also earned 139 penalty minutes, which featured nine fighting majors.

As for the 1998 NHL playoffs, Richardson went pointless with a minus-3 rating while the Flyers were eliminated by the Buffalo Sabres in the clubs’ five-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals match-up.

In the 1998-1999 season, the defender took part in 78 regular season games where he posted six assists and endured his only season as a Flyer where he failed to net a single goal. He also accrued 106 PIMs thanks in part to 12 fighting majors.

Richardson didn’t take part in the 1999 postseason due to his poor play near the end of the season. His absence in the line-up didn’t seem to help Philly all that much, as the fifth-seeded Flyers were knocked out by the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The 1999-2000 campaign was memorable for both Richardson and the Flyers, as the defenseman enjoyed his longest playoff run as a player. Unfortunately for him and Philadelphia, the run should have been a little longer.

In the regular season, Richardson had two goals and five assists in 74 games, as well as 140 PIMs, which turned out to be his highest total for any of his seasons in a Flyers’ uniform. His PIMs’ total was so high thanks to 12 fighting majors and four games where he totaled at least 14 PIMs.

In the 2000 NHL playoffs, the Flyers eliminated the Sabres in the teams’ five-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series and the Penguins in six games the following round before blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Richardson recorded his first playoff point as a Flyer in the lengthy postseason run with the secondary assist on Keith Primeau’s historic goal in the fifth overtime of the Flyers’ Game 4 win over the Pens. He also finished with 41 PIMs, as he took part in the infamous line brawl against the Penguins in Game 2 of their series.

The 2000-2001 regular season was Richardson’s only season with the Flyers where he took part in all 82 games, as the aggressive rearguard potted two goals and posted six assists. He also had 13 fighting majors, the most in any season he spent with the Flyers, as he registered 131 PIMs overall.

The Sabres exacted revenge for the 2000 playoffs in the 2001 postseason, shipping Philly home in a six-game first-round triumph capped by an 8-0 embarrassment in Buffalo to close out the series. Richardson took part in all six contests and failed to record a single point.

The 2001-2002 season was Richardson’s final year with the Flyers and his final trip to the NHL playoffs. Although he took part in 71 regular season games, his lowest total for any season with the Flyers, Richardson had a goal and eight helpers for nine points, his highest total for any of his five seasons with Philly. He also posted his lowest fight total and PIMs total in a Flyers’ uniform this season as well, as he took part in eight bouts and recorded 102 minutes in the sin bin.

Unfortunately for the physical defender, his last memories of the NHL playoffs as a player will be the Flyers’ five-game series against the Ottawa Senators, where the Orange and Black beat Sens’ goaltender Patrick Lalime twice for the entirety of the clubs’ series.

In the summer of 2002, Richardson decided to sign a multi-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets where he earned $2.75 million in his two seasons with the club prior to the lockout.

Richardson joined a blue line that featured Jaroslav Spacek and Rostislav Klesla as well as a roster that featured former and future Flyers Jody Shelley, Geoff Sanderson, Mike Sillinger, Tomi Kallio, and Kevin Dineen. Sean Pronger also took part in 78 games for the Blue Jackets during the 2002-2003 season.

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Richardson was the only Blue Jackets’ d-man to take part in all 82 games, as he posted 13 assists along with a minus-16 rating and 73 PIMs. The tough defenseman only took part in three scraps for the duration of his first season in Columbus, as the squad finished last in the Western Conference with 29 wins and 69 points.

For the 2003-2004 season, Richardson was named the captain of the Blue Jackets, while Sanderson was named an alternate captain for a team that finished 14th in the Western Conference with 25 wins and 62 points.

In a year where Nikolai Zherdev finished third on the team with 34 points in his first 57 NHL games, Richardson posted a goal and five assists, as well as a minus-11 rating and 48 PIMs in an injury-riddled 64-game season. In addition to a broken finger that sidelined him for six weeks to miss a total of 17 games, Richardson also missed a game in late March due to a neck injury. As for fighting, the man who was once the victim of a Dino Ciccarelli crack over the head as a rookie only took part in four scraps, one of which came against current San Jose Shark Joe Thornton.

Richardson didn’t play a single game anywhere else during the cancelled 2004-05 season, but he returned as the captain of the Blue Jackets for the 2005-2006 campaign at $2.09 million.

After he registered a goal and six assists along with 30 PIMs for the Blue Jackets, as well as missing 17 games due to a broken jaw, Richardson was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2006 trade deadline due to the fact Columbus added Adam Foote to their blue line earlier in the season. The Blue Jackets acquired a fifth-round pick in the 2006 NHL Draft in the deal, with which they selected left winger Nick Sucharski, who currently plays for GKS Katowice of the Polish 1 Liga (Poland’s highest level of ice hockey).

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Richardson played a total of 21 games for the Maple leafs, as he recorded three assists for Toronto as well as 41 PIMs and a minus-1 rating. He took part in one fight with the Maple Leafs, as the club went 13-5-3 in their final 21 games of the season with Richardson in the line-up to finish ninth in the Eastern Conference and two points out of the playoffs.

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In July of 2006, Richardson signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth $500,000. On a blue line that featured Dan Boyle, Cory Sarich, Filip Kuba, Nolan Pratt, Doug Janik, and Paul Ranger, Richardson served as the team’s seventh defenseman. He took part in 27 games, as he posted three assists and 16 PIMs, but didn’t score a single goal or take part in a single fight.

In the 2007 offseason, Richardson joined his fourth different team in three seasons, signing a one-year contract with the Senators.

The 2007-2008 season served as Richardson’s final full campaign in the NHL, as the defenseman posted two goals in a season since he had a pair for the Flyers in 2000-01. His seven assists were the most he recorded in one season since he produced 13 for the Blue Jackets in 2002-03. Richardson also took part in three scraps during the regular season including a knockout of former New York Ranger Brandon Dubinsky.

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In the summer of 2008, Richardson was invited to the Senators’ training camp and earned himself another one-year contract worth $500,000.

Ottawa placed the veteran defender on waivers late in November a month after he took part in a pair of contests against the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks. After he passed through waivers, Richardson retired on November 28, 2009.

The defenseman’s time in Ottawa was nowhere near done, as he returned to the team as an assistant coach in mid-season.

After his first full season as a Sens’ assistant coach in 2009-10, Richardson endured an extremely painful and tragic time during the following regular season.

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On November 12, 2011, Richardson’s daughter, Daron Richardson, committed suicide in the family’s home. The incident shook the Senators’ organization as well as individuals across the league, as thousands came out to mourn the teenager’s death just days after she passed away.

On February 2, 2011, Richardson announced that he and his wife Stephanie created a program titled Do it for Daron, a program that would helps deter teenage suicide as well as honor Daron’s life.

Richardson served as a part-time assistant coach for this past season and was named the coach of Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, on May 23. It is his first head coaching job, as he will take control of a team that posted 29 wins and 65 points last season.

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