Photo: Sports Illustrated
Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden entered this season under an unusual and unique circumstance: taking over the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, something only four other coaches have done. Now that 20 games of Reirden’s first taste as an NHL head coach are in the rearview, NoVa Caps compares his first 20 games to other Capitals head coaches over the past decade.
Bruce Boudreau – 2007
Boudreau, 63, was promoted to the Capitals around Thanksgiving when the team was 6-14-1 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak after a 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2007-08 season. The Capitals won the first two games of the Boudreau era and went 10-6-4 in the first 20 games of his tenure in Washington. That pace would have been good for fourth-most points in the Eastern Conference over a full regular season. The team averaged 3.25 goals per game and gave up an average of 3.05 goals per game in the first 20 games of Boudreau’s tenure.
Boudreau also had a positive impact on current captain Alex Ovechkin, who amassed 15 goals and 27 points over the first 20 games of Boudreau’s tenure. That would have been good for a 62-goal and 111-point campaign over a full season, just three goals and one point behind his best season in the NHL, which he accomplished the next season.
Dale Hunter – 2011
After the Capitals started the season 7-0-0, they went to 5-9-1 in their next 15 games. The Caps were coming off another playoff disappointment the year before after being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after topping the Eastern Conference during the regular season. The losing stretch, combined with a streak of postseason failure, led to Boudreau’s exit and Dale Hunter’s entry as head coach.
The team started the short Hunter tenure losing the first two games and were an up-and-down team until close to the new calendar year. The team won four consecutive games but were swept on a two-game California road trip after their winning streak. The team concluded the first 20 games under Hunter with three consecutive wins and went 12-7-1 in that span.
The team dropped off offensively under Hunter, averaging only 2.65 goals per game, but improved defensively, yielding only 2.55 goals per game.
Adam Oates – 2012
Former-Capitals forward Adam Oates was hired as head coach after Hunter left to return home and coach the OHL’s London Knights.
The Capitals started the lockout season very slowly as it took them five games to get their first win of the season. The team went 5-10-1 in their first 16 games but won three of the next four games to head into the 20-game mark with a record of 8-11-1. They saw an even bigger dip offensively under Oates and averaged 2.25 while giving up an average of 2.95 goals per game.
Barry Trotz – 2014
After Oates was relieved of his coaching duties, the Capitals brought in Barry Trotz as their head coach after he had spent the past 15 years as the Predators’ head coach.
The Capitals got off to a hot start under Trotz, going 3-0-2 in their first five games, but lost six of their next seven, including five consecutive games to fall to 4-5-3. The team was very inconsistent over the next stretch of games, winning three in a row then losing two straight before winning two straight. Overall, the Capitals finished their first 20 games under Trotz with a 9-8-3 record.
The Capitals averaged 2.75 goals per game and 2.85 goals-against per game in the first 20 games of the Trotz tenure.
Todd Reirden – 2018
Reirden, the associate coach during the last two years of Trotz’s tenure and the assistant for two years prior, was promoted to head coach of the team shortly after Trotz resigned. Trotz and the team were unable to reach an agreement when his contract was up for renewal after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their franchise history.
The Capitals have gotten off to a bit of a slow start for them with a 10-7-3 record through their first 20 games and were inconsistent to start the season, earning their first winning streak of the season earlier this month, after a 2-0-1 start. They went 2-2-1 on a five-game homestand but made up for it with a 3-1-0 road trip.
The team has averaged 3.35 goals-per-game, which is good for seventh in the league, and 3.30 goals-against per game, which is the eighth-most in the NHL.
After dealing with a shorter summer than unusual and a dealing with a few key injuries, the Capitals are on pace for 94 points, though they are likely to pick up the pace once their lineup gets healthy.
Over the past decade, Reirden has had the third-best start among Capitals head coaches in their first 20 games, behind Boudreau and Hunter, though he’s in a different boat than both after the team won the Stanley Cup last season under Trotz and had a shortened offseason. Once the team picks it back up, Reirden and the Capitals will almost certainly have more success than they have had so far.
By Harrison Brown