Todd Reirden has been named head coach of the Washington Capitals, the team announced Friday afternoon.
Reirden replaces Barry Trotz, who stepped down—somewhat surprisingly—on June 18, just 11 days after guiding the Caps to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Reirden’s promotion to the top job is a significant development, of course. But it’s also been one of the worst kept secrets in D.C. over the past few days.
The team has been grooming the 47-year-old for his first NHL head coaching job for a few years now. And last week, GM Brian MacLellan said Reirden was the only candidate on the interview schedule and, if things went well, he’d get the job.
Reirden becomes the 18th coach in franchise history.
The terms of Reirden’s new deal were not immediately known. The team also did not make any announcements about the status of any assistant coaches.
“We feel that the time is right for Todd to lead our hockey club,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Based on his coaching experience, communication abilities, his approach to the game and the respect he commands in our locker room, we feel that Todd has earned this opportunity.”
MacLellan also praised Reirden, who headed up the defense and the team’s perennially potent power play, for the role he played in helping the Caps clinch the Cup.
“Todd has played an integral part in helping lead our team to the Stanley Cup championship and we feel his appointment as head coach will enable our organization to transition seamlessly into next season and beyond,” MacLellan said.
Indeed, by promoting Reirden the defending champions have assured themselves of this much: continuity.
With the re-signing of defenseman Michal Kempny earlier in the day, the Caps’ emphasis on keeping the band together for next season has become quite apparent. They’ve got 10 of 12 forwards, five of six defenseman and the starting goalie under contract heading into the season.
And now, in Reirden, they’ve got a bench boss who is intimately familiar with all of them.
Since Trotz stepped down, several players have been asked about the prospect of Reirden taking the reins.
To a man, they all used the same word to describe the room’s feeling toward the longtime assistant: respect.
“I think guys have a lot of respect for Todd, and if [he gets promoted], then he’s going to do a great job,” John Carlson said Monday.
Carlson also praised Reirden for his Xs and Os, communication skills and ability to pull players onto the same page.
“I thought he was crucial for my career,” Carlson said. “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 continued: “I think he did a great job of taking everybody for being different people and seeing things different ways. I just think he seemed to connect with everyone’s different personalities.”
Captain Alex Ovechkin also indicated that support for Reirden.
“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it's not our thing to say who's going to be head coach, but if it's going to be Todd, it's going to be fun.”
Although Devante Smith Pelly didn’t deal with Reirden much during games, the recently re-signed forward said Reirden helped him pick up on some of the nuances the game, particularly when it came to positioning.
“Obviously, he works the D side of the bench, so in the game and stuff I don’t really talk to him that much, but in the room and in practice he’s always giving little tips to everyone—forwards, D,” Smith-Pelly said. “I think he taught me just a lot of little things positional-wise and things like that maybe other coaches never taught me.”
DSP added: “I think it would be really good for the team. He did amazing job, obviously, with the defense and a big part of the whole run. So I think he’ll do a great job and definitely help us defend the Cup.”
Reirden is an Illinois native who played his college hockey at Bowling Green. After a long playing career that included brief NHL tenures in Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix, he broke into the coaching ranks as an assistant at his alma mater.
In 2008, Reirden joined the Penguins’ organization as an assistant with their AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He became the head coach of the Baby Pens when Dan Bylsma was promoted to the big club.
Reirden’s first NHL coaching experience came as an assistant in Pittsburgh under Bylsma from 2010-2014.
He joined the Capitals’ staff as an assistant to Trotz in 2014 and was promoted to associate coach in 2016.
A press conference announcing Reirden’s hiring will happen next Tuesday.
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