After spending 2010-2014 as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, former Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden is rejoining the staff in the same position for the 2020-21 season.
In the six years in between his stints in Pittsburgh, Reirden was afforded countless learning experiences with the Capitals. He helped the team break through and capture the elusive Stanley Cup and even got a taste of what it was like to be a head coach in the NHL while working with stars such as Alex Ovechkin.
It was those “firsts,” and ups and downs, that Reirden believes have made him a more complete coach. So as he ventures back to the team that gave him the start in the NHL, he feels more ready than ever to help the team return to its past dominance.
“I think I’ve been extremely blessed with the opportunities I’ve had as an assistant coach, associate coach, head coach, to be able to work with some of the stars of the league,” Reirden told the media on Wednesday. “I know I’ve grown as a coach, I know I’ve improved. From the things I’ve learned over the six years in Washington and eventually winning a Stanley Cup there I think is only going to make me a much better product than I was when I left here.
“I think that’s the exciting thing, I’ve learned a lot and I’m excited to share with the players here,” Reirden said.
And while Reirden has a wider array of knowledge upon his return to the Penguins, he isn’t saying that he knows everything. Judging by how his time with the Capitals came to an end, it is clear that he still has room to grow as a coach, as all do.
Seeing how Pittsburgh has performed over the years when he was the rival instead of the teammate, Reirden observed just how the franchise is able to consistently adapt to new challenges, and he thinks that’s something they can teach him.
“I obviously still need to learn and grow and improve, and I learned a lot of lessons as head coach of Washington and looking forward to learning from Mike Sullivan and the success he’s had, winning back-to-back championships,” Reirden said. “Certainly, it’s been a challenge going against him the last six years on the opposite bench. It’s always a unique perspective when you’re able to bring some knowledge of different teams over to another one. I respect that organization and that team so much with what they’ve accomplished. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.”
The opportunity is one that Reirden said came quickly.
Following the end of his time in Washington, he noted that he had been in touch with several teams who were interested in his services. Yet none were as persistent as the Penguins. As much as Reirden wanted to be back in Pittsburgh, the franchise wanted the same.
“After the decision was made in Washington, it was really quickly right after that,” Reirden said. “Permission was asked for by the Pittsburgh Penguins and eventually granted.
“They were extremely aggressive after getting permission,” Reirden said. “Having conversations and interviews with Mike [Sullivan] and Jim [Rutherford].”
In the end, Reirden felt as if the Penguins made the most sense for him. He was looking for a franchise that featured familiarity and success, and the Penguins were looking for a coach that had the same traits.
Coming back to where it all began, it was the perfect beginning to his next chapter in the NHL.
"I think it was something that just seemed to go full circle and the way it happened here was a perfect fit for everyone involved,” Reirden said.