After a long offseason that included the loss and addition of team personnel, training camp is well underway for Capitals Head Coach Todd Reirden in his second year behind the bench as Head Coach. After a media day session and two days of camp, Reirden has discussed the Capitals’ long summer, new additions, limited roster spots, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s suspension, and Brooks Orpik’s new role within the organization, among other things.
When asked about the development of the first of the team’s two 2018 second-round picks, defenseman Martin Fehervary, Reirden praised the young blueliner’s skating ability and play, saying, “We’ve liked him since we got him, his ability to skate, he’s really a ‘today-style’ defenseman and a [type of] defenseman we’ve had success with”. Reirden likened Fehervary’s playing style to that of blueliners Michal Kempny and Nick Jensen, both who have found homes on the Capitals’ blueline in the last two seasons.
When asked about center Evgeny Kuznetsov’s three-game suspension, saying, “We’re going to move forward from here, both the team and Evgeny”. Reirden indicated that as a result of Kuznetsov missing the first three games of the regular season, the coaching staff will likely utilize Kuznetsov in more preseason games to keep him “as fresh as we can”.
Reirden stated that he is happy the team found out early enough to prepare the team heading into the season. Reirden also called the suspension a “career-defining time” for Kuznetsov, emphasizing that the former first-round pick can learn from the suspension and move forward. He also reiterated that the team supports Kuznetsov through this rough period.
Reirden touched on the Capitals’ early end to the season during his media day session on September 13, after being eliminated in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games, saying that, “After too long of a summer we’re anxious to get back at it, calling the 2019 postseason a missed “opportunity”.
Reirden mentioned after the first day of training camp that it is important for him as a coach to get a feel for how hard players train in the offseason, emphasizing in his media day session it is important for coaches to get a feel of the physical and mental aspects of the team.
During free agency, the Capitals signed several players including forwards Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic, and Richard Pánik to bolster the bottom-six forward group, and traded for defenseman Radko Gudas to add a physical presence to the team’s blueline. Reirden commented on the moves, complimenting Hathaway’s penalty killing, Leipsic as a “smaller player with a ton of speed” and describing Panik as a “complete, two-way player”. Regarding open spots on the roster, Reirden described it as, “Every time they’re on the ice, it’s competition”, adding that “it’s on guys to earn time”
On September 9, the Capitals named Brooks Orpik to the Player Development Department, a role in which the former defenseman will aid and work with defensive prospects within the organization. Reirden commented on the move for the longtime NHL blueliner and an important locker room leader for the Caps in the past five season, saying, “This’ll be the first time that I’ve coached an NHL team as an assistant or head coach that I didn’t have Brooks Orpik on my roster.” After coaching Orpik for eleven years (with both the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, Reirden mentioned the two have a “good working relationship” and credits him as a “great resource to have” after playing a huge part in the Capitals’ winning culture. He believes this new role Orpik has taken will help with the defensive development in [the American Hockey League] Hershey to get players to the next step.
By Della Young and Michael Fleetwood