A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.
But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.
Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.
Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.
“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”
Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.
“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.
“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”
Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.
The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.
“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.
“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”
Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.
Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.
“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.
“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”
Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.
“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”
“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.
“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: