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Since Barry Trotz took over behind the Capitals bench before the 2014-15 season, the Capitals have won three Metropolitan Division titles, two President’s Trophies, and have returned to being a perennial playoff team. Associate Coach Todd Reirden was also one of the new members of the team’s coaching staff and four seasons later, both coaches’ respective futures after this season are firmly intertwined.
Despite Trotz’ regular season success, he has failed to guide the Caps to a Stanley Cup win, this despite a roster that was jam-packed with star players the last two seasons. With the Capitals clinching their third consecutive Metropolitan Division title just two days ago, the Caps are heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs four the fourth consecutive season under Trotz. Unlike the last two seasons, when the expectations were sky-high when it came to results, the hype around the Caps is somewhat tempered. Trotz could very well be coaching for his job, as his contract is set to expire after the season, and General Manager Brian MacLellan was non-committal when asked last spring if an extension with Trotz would be explored during the summer. MacLellan himself recently signed an extension of his own, but Trotz has yet to receive one.
Reirden was hired by the Capitals as one of Trotz’ assistant coaches and his primary job since coming to Washington from the Pittsburgh Penguins has been to work with the Capitals’ defensemen, something that has worked wonders for multiple players, including longtime Capital John Carlson (who is finishing up a career, Norris Trophy-worthy season), Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen, and Christian Djoos, as well as former Capital Nate Schmidt. In his four seasons with the Capitals, Reirden has earned himself a well-deserved reputation as a budding head coaching candidate. The Capitals promoted Reirden to the role of Associate Coach last season, an indication they too think highly of him and he was given the task of running the Capitals’ Training Camp before the 2016-17 season while Trotz was at the World Cup of Hockey.
Which makes the decision on Trotz’ future one that will ultimately decide whether or not Reirden goes elsewhere for a head coaching job. There was heavy interest in Reirden for several of the head coaching vacancies around the league last summer, however, the Capitals did not allow him to speak with any of the teams interested. The Caps have stated before they will always allow their assistant coaches to explore head coaching jobs if the opportunity ever presented itself and last summer was a contradiction to that. It’s unlikely the Capitals would have prohibited Reirden from interviewing elsewhere if they did not have bigger plans for him in the future. His promotion to Associate Coach only provides support to that theory. If the Capitals were to re-sign Trotz to a multi-year extension following this season, it is safe to assume that Reirden would more than likely want to explore other opportunities.
The Capitals’ front office clearly faces a tough decision this offseason (one that may or may not be easier depending on how the team performs during the playoffs this spring) and it is not often that a team finds itself in a position like this. Re-sign Trotz and the team would likely risk losing Reirden to another club; allow Trotz (a future Hall of Fame coach who has done so much for the Capitals in his four seasons behind the bench) to leave, and Reirden (who has proven himself ready for a promotion) could prove a worthy replacement. Either way, the decision isn’t easier.
By Michael Fleetwood
Trotz has been, by far, the best coach the Caps have had in the last two decades, taking a team that was a relative joke in the NHL and turning them into perennial playoff contenders. The fact that the Caps have won the division for the past three seasons proves that point. The fact that Washington has yet to win a Cup under Trotz is less an indication of his lack of ability to coach a Cup-winning team; in fact, for the last three seasons the Caps have lost in the second round to the eventual Cup winners and those losses have been close ones at that.
Those fans crying for Trotz head should take a step back and realize that there’s no guarantees that Reirden or anyone else who takes over will be even as good as Trotz is, and until Trotz shows that he can’t take a team to the playoffs and at least make the Caps contenders its rather short-sighted to let him loose. Dynasties, in any sport, aren’t built on 4-year coaching stints, they’re built on long, slow progressions under stable leadership and an ability to develop young talent — something it seems Trotz has been able to do rather successfully with Wilson, Vrana, and Burakovsky (to a lesser extent, he still has consistency issues). This season should be especially impressive considering the fact that the Caps lost a good chunk of starting talent, including Johansson (arguably our best power play forward), and when considering that Chiasson, Stephenson, Vrana, and Djoos were all relatively untested in the NHL until this season. By all accounts Washington should be fighting for a wild card spot, or even out of the playoffs completely, but the fact that they won the division with three games left in the season with a convincing win over a very good Pittsburgh just shows how well the team has been coached.
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Fighting for WC spot and playing almost elimination game since february / games similar to play off games/ is exactly what caps need.
In teams like colorado , columbus ……players are utilized properly. In last 3 seasons , especially previous 2 seasons Caps only had to wait for play off instead of fighting for play off spot. Underutilization spoiled players. That why they were not prepared for play off. Caps have their regular season habits, not play off habits.
Last season Caps were utilized properly and were in play off mode was 1914/15, they were prepared perfectly,only GM failed to upgrade team for play off /P. Kane was supposed to come but had an injury, no new young faces/
GM able to create some urgency in regular season must come to make the transition from regular season to playoff easier / to make reg. season games harder – start with worse roster, to get better performance from each player./
What about coach replacement from outside? What about John Tortorella?His contract expires this summer. How is it with his contract extension.?
Players deserves coach who will not bother them with meaningless excessive practices and morning skates,
no practice no training can replace real game. It is better to see player happy and performing
on the top level every night rather than exhausted from meaningles practices and morning skate.
Trotz as a lame duck is getting little better , / some practices and some morning skates are obtional, still too much practices under Trotz a who knows what Todd plans to do????
With replacement from inside there is a risk – Trotz is out but Trotz continues to rule.
Owner needs to search for GM who has already won SC, he does not need to fire B Mac today and bring worse GM tommorrow, he needs to take his time .
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