Photo: Knights On Ice
After the Washington Capitals lost to the New York Islanders in five games in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are plenty of questions surrounding the team, including the future of head coach Todd Reirden.
The Capitals ended the regular-season by going 19-16-3, including 8-9-3 in their final 20 games, before the NHL paused due to COVID-19. Their average of 3.44 goals-against per game after December 22 was the most of any of the 24 qualifying round teams. The Capitals arguably came up short of expectations in Reirden’s first two seasons as head coach, falling in the first round to teams they should have beaten and getting outplayed and, some argue, out-coached in both series. Reirden did not want to discuss his job security after the team’s 4-0 season-ending loss in Game 5 on Thursday. NoVa Caps takes a look at a few head coaching candidates to fill the position should Reirden depart.
The Capitals have not shown a willingness to spend big on a head coach, opting to let Barry Trotz depart after he won the Stanley Cup rather than meeting his demands to be paid top-tier money. Trotz reportedly signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Islanders shortly after leaving Washington. Reirden’s contract salary and term is unknown.
The 57-year-old was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 20 after a 9-10-4 start to the season and three consecutive seasons of losing in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a talented but inexperienced core. Babcock guided the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came just one win shy of a repeat the next season. He has gone 700-418-19 (.608 points percentage) in 1,301 career games behind the bench with the Maple Leafs and Red Wings and has taken his teams to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 of his 15 seasons as a coach. He is 90-74 (.549 points percentage) during the tournament in his career.
During his tenure with the Red Wings, the team allowed an average of just 2.55 goals-per-game, tied for fourth in the NHL over that span, while they scored an average of 3.03 per game, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first. That changed when he was in Toronto, but that was more due to the team’s personnel on the backend.
Under Babcock’s guidance, the Maple Leafs averaged 3.05 goals-per-game (sixth), a 2.94 goals-against per game (tied for 22nd), a 21.3% efficiency on the power-play (fifth), and 81.4% penalty-killing efficiency (12th). Babcock also led the Canadian men’s Olympic team to two consecutive gold medal wins in 2010 and 2014 as head coach. Though there were complaints about how he treated his players in Toronto, his track record combined with the fact that he is a free agent makes him a possibility. He has been nominated twice for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s head coach of the year.
The 62-year-old went 634-467-101 (.565 points percentage) in 1,285 career games behind the bench with the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, and Chicago Blackhawks but has not been in a coaching role since 2017. He has been an advisor with the Anaheim Ducks.
Sutter guided the Kings to two Stanley Cup Championships in three years after coming over mid-season during the 2011-12 campaign. In addition, he is 42-27 (.609 winning percentage) during his time behind the Kings bench and 89-81 (.524) in his Stanley Cup Playoff career. The Kings were tied for fifth with a 83.5% penalty-killing rate and 15th with an 18.1% power-play efficiency under Sutter. They also allowed the fewest goals-per-game (average of 2.27) and but were 22nd in goals-per-game average (2.56).
The 51-year-old went 61-43-10 (.579 points percentage) in 114 career games behind the bench with the Dallas Stars and 7-6 (.538 winning percentage) in 13 career Stanley Cup Playoff games with them, getting them one overtime goal away from the Western Conference Final in 2019. He coached the University of Denver’s mens team prior to his brief stint in Dallas and went 125-57-26, becoming the second-winningest coach in college hockey during that span.
Under his leadership, the Stars gave up an average of just 2.40 goals-per-game, the second-fewest in the NHL, but scored an average of 2.56, 28th. Though, the goals-per-game average is on the General Manager for not giving Montgomery enough offensive firepower to work with. The Stars ranked 13th with a 19.9% power-play efficiency and tied for second with an 83.5% penalty-killing rate under Montgomery’s leadership. He was fired on December 11, 2019, due to problems with alcohol and after-hour behavior but he sought treatment and appears to be successfully dealing with his issues.
In 1,210 career NHL games, the 55-year-old has gone 637-425-123 (.588 points percentage) with the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders. He is 75-68 (.524 winning percentage) in 143 Stanley Cup Playoff games and took the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and the Flyers to the Final in 2010 after winning the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. He also led the Predators to their first Presidents’ Trophy in 2018. During his tenure, the Predators’ 2.63 goals-against per game ranked fifth in the NHL, 2.94 goals-per-game was tied for eighth, and 80.7% penalty-killing percentage was tied for 15th. Though, their 17.8% power-play efficiency under Laviolette was 28th. He has been nominated for the Jack Adams Award twice.
In 541 career games behind the bench with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Vegas Golden Knights, the 56-year-old went 270-216-51 (.550 points percentage) in the regular season and 18-15 (.545 winning percentage) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He took the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, where they lost to the Capitals in five games but set every expansion team record.
During his tenure with the Golden Knights, they were one of the league’s best possession teams, ranked 10th with a 3.11 goals-per-game average, ninth with a 2.83 goals-against per game, 16th with a 19.6% power-play efficiency, and tied for 11th with an 80.6% penalty-killing rate. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2018 and was nominated in 2016 with the Panthers.
By Harrison Brown