Todd Reirden has been relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Washington Capitals, general manager Brian MacLellan announced on Sunday.
The news comes in the wake of an embarrassing Stanley Cup playoffs first-round defeat in five games at the hands of the New York Islanders coached by Barry Trotz, the man Reirden replaced behind the bench.
Reirden, 49, led Washington to an 89-46-16 record and two Metropolitan Division titles in his two seasons as head coach, but held a 4-9 record in postseason play and lost twice in the first round.
"We have higher expectations for our team, and we felt a fresh approach in leadership was necessary," said MacLellan. "We would like to thank Todd for all of his hard work and efforts with our organization. Todd has been a big part of our team for more than half a decade, including our Stanley Cup run in 2018, and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward."
Reirden was brought into the organization as an assistant coach as part of Trotz’s staff in 2014. He was in charge of the defensemen and played a major role in the team’s championship run.
In fairness to Reirden, he was given an impossible task taking over for a team coming off a Stanley Cup championship. With that as the standard, there was no way for him to exceed expectations. But two years of first-round exits is two of the few remaining years of the team’s championship window with its veteran core wasted. The 2019 postseason could be explained away as merely the team running out of gas after a championship run the year before, but the series loss to the Islanders is a tough one to swallow.
Trotz came in with a roster not nearly as talented as Washington’s and thoroughly out-coached his successor. At no time did it appear Reirden had any real answers for how to get his team back on track against the Islanders and even after the Capitals went down 3-0 in the series, the only adjustments made were seemingly a handful of tweaks to the lineup.
“I don’t have all of the answers right now and I think it is good to take some time away and look at it and dissect why it happened,” Reirden said after the series.
Now the Caps are at a crossroads. With time running out on their championship window, they now are in need of a coach who can both challenge for the Cup in whatever time remains in which the veteran core can continue to compete at a high level and who can also help bridge the gap when the time comes to turn the page on this era of the Capitals.