This past Wednesday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets posted a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars, securing just the second playoff appearance in the team’s 14-year existence.
Hockey fans in Columbus are undoubtedly thrilled to see their club going back to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009, but fans in Northeast PA should be pretty happy about the Blue Jackets’ success as well.
Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Todd Richards is the man behind the Blue Jackets’ bench, and when they clinched their playoff spot, became the fourth WBS coaching alum to guide his team to the 2014 postseason.
Richards joined Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh Penguins), Michel Therrien (Montreal Canadiens) and Mike Yeo (Minnesota Wild) in the group of past Pens to make the postseason dance.
Therrien spent two-and-a-half seasons in Wilkes-Barre, joining the club prior to the 2003-04 season. He guided the team to 73 wins during his two full seasons in charge, and an appearance in the 2004 Calder Cup Finals. After starting the 2005-06 season with a record-setting 21-1-2-1 mark through 25 games, he was promoted to Pittsburgh to take over for Eddie Olczyk. He helped turn around Pittsburgh’s fortunes, taking them from a cellar dweller to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008, before making way for Dan Bylsma 57 games into the 2008-09 campaign.
Richards was named Wilkes-Barre head coach during the summer of 2006, and spent two seasons with the team, leading the Pens to 98 wins and an appearance in the 2008 Calder Cup Finals. He moved to the NHL as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks, and then took over the head coaching duties with the Minnesota Wild in 2009. He won 77 games with the Wild in two years, before being let go. He joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant in 2011, before taking over as their head coach midway through that season.
Bylsma joined Wilkes-Barre as an assistant under Richards, and took over the team’s reigns when Richards left for San Jose. He led the AHL Pens to a 35-16-1-2 mark before being promoted to Pittsburgh to take over for Therrien, and guided the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup championship. He recently won his 250th game with the NHL club, and is Pittsburgh’s all-time coaching wins leader.
Yeo began his coaching career with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton back in 1999, serving as an assistant on Glenn Patrick’s staff after suffering a career-ending knee injury while playing with the Penguins. He spent the next five-and-a-half seasons with WBS, assisting Patrick and, later, Therrien. He moved with Therrien to Pittsburgh midway through the 2005-06 season, and was a member of Bylsma’s Stanley Cup winning staff in 2009. After guiding the Houston Aeros to the 2011 Calder Cup Finals, Yeo was named Wild head coach after Richards was relieved of his duties following the 2010-11 season, and has helped the franchise to back-to-back playoff appearances.
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