Almost two weeks after Barry Trotz resigned as head coach, the Washington Capitals promoted from within, naming top assistant Todd Reirden to the post.
He was the only person the Caps interviewed for the job. Reirden has overseen the Washington blue line since 2014, a period in which the Capitals ranked second in goals against average (2.45). Defenseman John Carlson became the first to finish in the top-10 among defenseman scoring under Reiden with 68 points, adding to a 176-point total for the Caps’ defense.
It might be an unsettling time for Capitals fans nervous to lose their head coach so soon after winning it all. But by promoting Reirden rather than hiring from outside, there’s still someone who was instrumental to the postseason run.The Washington should be generally unchanged from the team that had all the right pieces to win the Stanley Cup.
But in case you’re still a little uneasy, here’s five things to know about the new Capitals head coach:
1. He’s got more experience winning the Stanley Cup than just the Capitals.
Reirden served as assistant coach for four years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. First, he assisted with their Scranton/Wilkes-Barre AHL affiliate in 2008 until he was named head coach, compiling a 55-43-8 record over two seasons.
Reirden then began his stint on the Pittsburgh bench as a member of the extended coaching staff in 2009, helping guide the Penguins to the Stanley Cup, and then in a similar role to the one he held with the Caps. In charge of the Pittsburgh defense, his unit ranked seventh in goals (38) in the 2013-14 season.
2. He was once wearing sweaters, not suits.
A Deerfield, Ill., native, Reirden was drafted in the 12th round as a defenseman by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After four years of college, he spent a few seasons playing in the minors before reaching the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers in 1998.
Before hanging up his skates, he would join the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes rosters, tallying 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.
3. He’s part of the Great Bowling Green NHL Takeover.
It’s not unusual to see multiple coaches and players from the same school in a league — good programs produce good results. But with the Minnesotas and Boston Universities of the college hockey world, Bowling Green isn’t necessarily one of the first schools that comes to mind.
Nonetheless, there is a small but influential Bowling Green contingent riding high in the NHL. In this year’s Stanley Cup Final alone, both general managers, Vegas’ George McPhee and Washington’s Brian MacLellan, are both former Falcons. Golden Knights center Ryan Carpenter wore the orange and brown as recently as 2014. Dan Bylsma, another BG grad, coached the Penguins in 2009. Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake is GM of the Los Angeles Kings.
Even NHL broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick, whose voice narrated these playoffs, hails from Bowling Green.
In his time with the Falcons, Reirden recorded 76 points and was a BG assistant for the 2007-08 season.
4. The Capitals defense has been steadily improving under Reirden’s watch.
The Washington blueliners rose from 21st-best in the league to 7th in 2014, 2nd in 2015 and 1st in 2016 — by then, the Caps had whittled down their goals against average to 2.16.
5. He’s already got the support of players.
One of Reirden’s best results came with Carlson, and Carlson agrees. The defenseman told NBC Sports, “I thought he was crucial for my career, and he just changed a few things [about] how I looked at the game, changed a few things with the D that I think really benefited everyone on D, and made it pretty clear what he expected of us and allowed us to go out there and do the rest.”
Carlson also said, “I think guys have a lot of respect for Todd … he’s going to do a great job.”