By Mark Lazerus (The Athletic)

CHICAGO — Luke Richardson doesn’t like going into the dressing room after games. As a guy who played in the NHL for more than two decades, he understands that’s the players’ space, not the coach’s. He doesn’t want to steal the players’ thunder after a big win with a rah-rah speech, and he doesn’t want to invalidate the players’ anger after a tough loss with a pep talk. It’s not the time. It’s not the place. It can wait till the next practice day.

But after the Blackhawks fought the three-time Stanley Cup finalists Lightning in Tampa for 59 minutes on Saturday before falling in the final minute, it took all he had to stay out of the cramped visitors locker room at Amalie Arena.

“I wanted to, but I didn’t,” Richardson said. “I don’t like going in there very much, once or twice a year. They don’t want to hear, ‘We tried hard.’ It’s the NHL.”

But the Blackhawks did try hard. And given what they’re working with, that’s not nothing. Less than two weeks ago, general manager Kyle Davidson sold most of their best players (and some of their best friends) for spare parts, many of which won’t be in a Blackhawks uniform for more than six weeks. The season doesn’t matter in management’s eyes, never did, other than as a means to an end. It’s a hell of a bitter pill to swallow, no matter what the standings have said all year long.

So that effort, that Sisyphean fight against vastly superior lineups, means something. Says something.

“It’d be very easy for everybody to mail it in, coaches included, and just say, ‘You know what, management has made it clear that this is the path we’re going to take — let’s join it,’ ” center Jason Dickinson said. “Not that we don’t understand what they’re trying to do. But as a group, we still want to win games. Personally, I hate losing. So every time we lose, it kills me a little bit. Every time I lose a shift, it eats at me. So we’re still doing the little things because we still want to win. And it seems like everybody in this room is on that same page.”

That starts at the top, with Richardson.

Now, last-place coaches don’t get Jack Adams Trophy votes, nor should they. Richardson’s counterpart on Tuesday night, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, should and will win the NHL’s coach of the year award. But don’t sleep on the job Richardson has done in Chicago, the tenacity with which the Blackhawks play, the way they compete and the team culture that’s being built, even as the roster changes on a near-daily basis.

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