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Caps on playing in the Hunter era


Caps on playing in the Hunter era

After holding the title of Capitals head coach for 169 days or 60 regular season games and 14 tightly fought playoff battles, Dale Hunter's players were surprised to hear that their bench boss would not be returning. After a meeting with Hunter, Caps general manager George McPhee announced just two days after the Caps' season ended that Hunter had decided to return to his home in London, Ontario for family reasons.

Some players, who saw their careers blossom under Hunter's reign, sounded mournful.

Mike Green:
"It's disappointing. It's sad, I think. The transformation of this hockey club stems from him and you just have to respect the guy. He came into this team, hasn't strayed away from his game plan and we all respect him as a coach and we're sad to see him go."

Brooks Laich:
"We understand his reasons for going back. I just had a short chat with him and shook his hand and asked him if there's anything I can do to convince him to stay. He was great. I was sort of shocked when I found out but he will be missed I really learned a lot from him and really valued the effort he put in.

"I was (surprised) because I thought he really enjoyed it. He's a capital through and through he loved being around the rink he loved being around the guys --you could tell. He was a hockey player. I understand his motives for leaving and I'd never question that he's got family and that's going to trump anything that we have going here."

Niklas Backstrom:
"It kind of sucks, actually. He was a great coach and he brought a system that I think really worked and we played good hockey in the playoffs and he's done so many good things for this team. Ireally wanted to see him back next year."

Jay Beagle:
"He did such a great job of changing our system and changing the way we all thought about the game. His stepping down was kind of a shock to me and I also loved him as a coach. It wasn't what I wanted to hear. I'm grateful for the opportunity he gave me and owe him a lot."

Karl Alzner:
"It surprised me a fair bit. I didn't know what to expect, I knew it was a possibility but I think it's taken a lot of guys by surprise. It's really unfortunate because he was very very very well-liked and everybody thinks that what he's taught us and how he taught us is very valuable so it's tough to see a guy like that not be back, but I mean everybody has their own reasons and there's nothing we can do about it.

"His style was something that I really liked and it was easy for me to's upsetting because i was really happy with everything."

Others respectfully spoke of the awkward growing pains --and diminished roles-- some experienced in Hunter's system. Once again, Alex Ovechkin's ice time was a major theme --and not for direct questions from the media about it.

Troy Brouwer:
"Whether or not you're happy that's how the team is playing and that's how you're going to have to play to have the team be successful.

"I thought Alex Ovechkin's minutes were being determined by the scores and how the games played out. It had nothing to do with benching him. It's just the style of coaching that dale wanted to play."

"He made everybody extremely accountable. It's not like he singled guys out or yelled at anybody. He did it by who played, what lines, stuff like that. He made sure that the guys who were playing extremely hard were going to get a ton of minutes. You saw guys like Beags (Jay Beagle) and Hendy (Matt Hendricks) and those guys like that get as much ice as they did. You got the exact same thing every night. So he made everybody open and really understand what his vision was so when everybody's clear on the ice, you're usually clear off the ice too."

All seemed to agree however: Hunter changed the Capitals for the better.

"I think there was a lot of grey area before on how we need to play as a hockey club, too much pressure on individuals and now we know how to play as a hockey team and that's going to help us down the road."

"He taught us as much about leadership and team aspect, and respect amongst players and trust in teammates as he did about hockey. It's like having another veteran in the locker room. He was great. He changed the culture around here a little bit, which the rest of us really enjoyed.

"He had such a great influence. There were some things culture-wise that had to be adjusted a little bit in order for our team to succeed, I believe."

Matt Hendricks:
"I know for myself he gave me confidence. He gave me the ability to play more, the opportunity to play more, and with that I gained confidence in myself. I gained confidence in my game. As a team I think that went all the way through the line up ... I think the way that he got us to play as a group is something that we need to focus on a lot in the room ... I think as we came together we played our best hockey."

Jeff Halpern:
"I thought Dale got a lot of really good messages across with this team and did a lot of things that this team needed as far as a commitment in certain areas of the game, whether it was defensively. The word accountable was kind of beaten to death at the beginning of this year but I think he got it to the point where everyone expected a certain style of play from each other and I think that was the best imprint he made on this team.

"Dale stuck to his personality and he coached his way and I think he treated everyone pretty much the same."

Braden Holtby:
"He gave everyone a chance to figure things out on their own: to look inside yourself and figure out what you need to do in order to be successful. There's usually a lot of pressure put on to guys through coaches and to figure things out quick. I think he was very patient and that attributes to his career and his playing career."
"He really transformed this team into a team that works extremely hard, is very honest and one that I think other teams don't like playing against...he put this team on a very good path and hopefully we can continue down that road next year."

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden


7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

But who is he? 

Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

2. Reirden has been a head coach before

While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

"You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.