When the Capitals hired former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden, it’s safe to bet not many fans took much notice.
But two years into his Capitals coaching career, Reirden has helped turn what was once one of the Caps’ weaknesses into one of its biggest strengths. And if the Capitals win the Stanley Cup, could the Caps risk losing Reirden to a team looking for a head coach?
Reirden’s arrival coincided with the signings of his former charges in Pittsburgh, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, who have stabilized a blueline that used 14 different defensemen in 2013-14. Since then, Reirden has helped defensemen such as John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov, and Nate Schmidt evolve their games and continued to help further the growth of Niskanen and Orpik. But as defense becomes ever-more important in today’s NHL, and several NHL teams inevitably going to need new head coaches, could Reirden be a target for some of those teams? With his track record for working with defensemen, Reirden has the knowledge about what it takes for a player to play great defense; and after working with successful head coaches in Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh) and Barry Trotz (Washington), as well as playing as a defenseman in the NHL himself, there is always the possibility that a team pursues Reirden.
The good news for both Caps fans and players is that the Caps have to grant other teams permission to speak with Reirden, and after all he’s done in DC, it’s hard to imagine the Caps letting him leave. But if Reirden wants to explore outside opportunities, would the Caps have to do their due diligence and allow him that opportunity? They could, but they could also refuse him that opportunity. Another Washington assistant Lane Lambert has been with head coach Barry Trotz for years and it seems unlikely he would leave if offered a job.
Reirden is still under contract to the Caps, and it’s very well possible that he would rather stay in Washington than go elsewhere. Nevertheless, it’s a possibility to keep an eye on this summer.
By Michael Fleetwood