General Manager Brian MacLellan and the Washington Capitals officially introduced Todd Reirden as their next head coach on Tuesday. Reirden, 47, was named the 18th head coach in franchise history on June 29 and only the second American (Ron Wilson) to lead the club. Reirden has been on the Capitals’ bench the past four seasons as an assistant coach behind Barry Trotz. Reirden got promoted to associate coach in 2016.
MacLellan said he was excited for the organization to play under Reirden, saying the Capitals are fortunate that Reirden is “ready to step in to build on what we accomplished last season,” and he thinks it will be a “seamless” transition.
Among the important qualities that MacLellan sees Reirden bringing to the table are his development of players, his communications with players, and his technical grasp of the systems used by the Capitals.
On development, MacLellan said Reirden has “a proven track record with defensemen. I can’t tell you how many ex-players, current players, new players … how highly they regard him and what he’s done for their careers and how he’s developed them throughout their careers … He has the ability to take young guys and make them better and he has established guys and tweaks their games and makes them better.”
On communications, MacLellan noted, “Todd has a unique ability to communicate with high-end players and with depth players … He has a great understanding of what it is to be one of those guys and how to work at your game and shows a lot of compassion with those types of players.”
Reirden began by thanking Caps management, his family, and former Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who brought Reirden into the organization in 2014. He said he believed his work with the players and the staff over the last four years will make the transition easier and said that assistant coach Blaine Forsythe and goaltending coach Scott Murray will be remaining with the team for the upcoming season, as will video and replay coaches, Tim Ohashi and Brett Leonhardt.
Reirden said the Capitals have a blend of skill, speed, and physicality that make it an exciting team to work with.
Asked about coming in on the heels of a Stanley Cup, Reirden said, “Certainly it’s a unique challenge … There’s going to be many things that stay the same but there’s going to be some things I have to be cognizant of with a team that’s going to be repeating.” He added, “I want to create an environment where the players are going to continue to be challenged with new ideas and new ways to improve their game but I want to create an environment where they are enjoying coming to the rink.” He also said players will also be held accountable. He said that having most of last year’s team in place will be a big advantage.
While Reirden has worked primarily with the defense, he was also worked with a number of the forwards as part of the power play and end-of-game 6-on-5 situations. Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly told NBCSports Washington’s Tarik El-Bashir last month that “in the room and in practice, [Reirden]’s always giving little tips to everyone — forwards, D. He taught me a lot of little things positional-wise, that maybe other coaches never told me.”
Prior to joining the Capitals, Reirden was an assistant coach during Dan Bylsma’s tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he worked with the defense and the penalty kill. Rierden coached Wilkes-Barrie Scranton, the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, from 2008-10 and went 55-43-8 during his tenure there. Reirden said that Bylsma’s attention to detail was a key part of Pittsburgh’s success.
MacLellan said the Capitals are in discussions with Mitch Korn, the director of goaltending who came with to Washington with Trotz in 2014 about staying with the team. Korn is taking some time to think about what he wants to do. Newsday reporter Andrew Gross reported that Korn is meeting with the Islanders about possibly joining their staff.
On the player front, MacLellan said the Capitals are in discussions with defenseman Brooks Orpik about rejoining the team. Orpik was traded with goaltender Philipp Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche on June 22. The Avalanche bought out Orpik, 37, the next day and is an unrestricted free agent. MacLellan said that Orpik is weighing some other options as well. Orpik was an alternate captain the past four years.
MacLellan said that the organization would like to add a veteran defenseman to anchor their third pairing but they think defenseman Madison Bowey, who tallied 12 assists in 51 games with the Capitals in 2017-18, can take that spot if necessary.
MacLellan said re-signing forward Tom Wilson, a restricted free agent, is a priority. Wilson, 24, tallied 14 goals and 35 points in 78 games last season while playing mostly on the top line with captain Alex Ovechkin. MacLellan and his agent will talk later today.
By Harrison Brown