Luke Richardson

Blackhawks Coach Luke Richardson Plans to Run Zone Defense, Not Man-On-Man

Hawks' Richardson plans to run zone defense, not man-on-man originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson is quickly endearing himself to the city of Chicago after he revealed on Friday that he plans to implement a zone coverage on defense, not a man-on-man system.

For context, the Blackhawks ran a zone structure with Joel Quenneville at the helm for a decade and won three Stanley Cups playing that way before changing to a man-on-man after Jeremy Colliton took over in November of 2018. Interim head coach Derek King inherited the man-on-man system but didn't feel like mid-season was the time to overhaul things so he made tweaks to it along the way.

Now, let's be fair here. A lot of NHL teams play man-on-man, so it's certainly not an uncommon way to play. But the Blackhawks never really had the personnel to run it and often spent too much time in their own end chasing players around all areas of the ice.

That's going to change under Richardson, who believes a rebuilding Blackhawks team will benefit from playing a more simplified defensive zone system.

"Zone defense is going to be way more structured than man-on-man where you're flying all over the place," Richardson said. "I just don't think you can do that in the league unless you've got elite, elite skaters and thinkers out there. And I think with a rebuild with the younger group, a real good structured, hard defensive zone where you stay in your zones, you're passing off players, but the whole thing is when it's your time to kill a play and get the puck back, we've got to be really strong at that. So individual one-on-one battles, it's going to be something we work on from Day 1."

As far as offense goes, Richardson is going to give his players some freedom to use their creativity and trust their instincts. His job is to make sure that when they don't have the puck, the Blackhawks can get it right back.

"I think the offense is going to come from if we can play fast defense," Richardson said. "Sometimes, as soon as we lose the puck in the offensive zone, you're on defense, so if we can have our forwards have that mindset it’s going to help our D’s have a better gap and stay out of the D-zone and transition better in the neutral zone to have more offense and lead to more offense.

"We want to give some room for creativity to creative players like Patrick [Kane], obviously one of the best in the league for years, but there’s got to be areas and times in the games for that. There’s got to be times and areas in the game where we’ve got to take the risk out of it. So we're going to make sure we put those areas in place and kind of not set rules but areas that there's got to be some guarantees that we're moving the puck forward."

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