Penguins Hire Former Capitals’ Head Coach Todd Reirden As Assistant To Help Defense, Power Play

Devils Capitals HockeyPhoto: DCist

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Wednesday morning that they have named Todd Reirden as an assistant coach. He will primarily work with the team’s defensive group and power-play. The team also announced Mike Vellucci was hired as an assistant coach. Vellucci will work with the team’s forwards and penalty-killing unit.

Reirden was an assistant coach (from 2014-2016), associate (one from 2016-2018), and head coach (from 2018-2020) in six seasons with the Washington Capitals. He worked with the team’s power-play and defense when he was an assistant with the Capitals. Reirden was an assistant with the Penguins prior to arriving in Washington.

The Penguins did not renew the contracts of assistant coaches Sergei Gonchar, Jacques Martin, and Mark Recchi after their four-game Qualifying Round series loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

The Capitals fired Reirden on August 23 after they lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

The team scored just eight goals in five games against the Islanders after averaging 3.42 goals-per-game during the regular season, second in the NHL, and allowed an average of 3.07 goals-per-game, 18th. In addition, the Capitals’ power-play failed to live up to its potential under Reirden as their 20.1% power-play efficiency over his two seasons was tied for 15th. However, the penalty-kill performed well under Reirden as it was 12th with an 80.7% efficiency.

From Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have named Todd Reirden and Mike Vellucci assistant coaches, and signed goaltending coach Mike Buckley to a two-year contract extension, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Reirden and Vellucci join head coach Mike Sullivan’s staff, replacing Jacques Martin, Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar, whose contracts were not renewed at the conclusion of Pittsburgh’s season. Reirden, 49, will oversee the team’s defensive group and power play unit. Vellucci, 54, will work with the team’s forwards and oversee the penalty kill.

“I am pleased to add Todd and Mike to our coaching staff, and believe they will complement Mike Sullivan’s coaching style,” Rutherford said. “Todd is a Stanley Cup winning coach with a decade of NHL experience as both an assistant and head coach. Mike brings championship experience at both the AHL and OHL level, and is very familiar with how we function as an organization.”

Reirden, a Deerfield, Illinois native, spent the past six seasons on the Washington Capitals coaching staff, serving as head coach for the past two seasons. He was an assistant coach from 2014-16, and then associate coach from 2016-18, where he helped the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history in 2018.

Prior to his time with Washington, Reirden was an assistant coach with the Penguins from 2010-14, where he assumed a similar role, working with the team’s defensemen and power play units. During his four seasons as Pittsburgh’s assistant coach, only the Washington Capitals (20.7%) and San Jose Sharks (20.5%) had a better power-play success rate from 2010-14 than the Penguins’ 20.3%.

While under Reirden’s tutelage, alternate captain Kris Letang played some of the best hockey of his career. In the four-year stretch from 2010-14 Letang averaged .74 points per game, which is .08 higher than his career average of .66. Letang was also a combined plus-44 over those four seasons, and was named a Norris Trophy finalist in 2012-13.

Before joining Pittsburgh’s coaching staff, Reirden spent three years with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from 2008-10 as both an assistant coach and head coach.

Vellucci is joining Pittsburgh’s NHL club after completing his first season as the general manager and head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, helping them to a 29-26-3-5 record in 63 games this year. In total, eight of Vellucci’s players at the AHL level saw action with Pittsburgh last season, most notably Sam LaffertyAnthony Angello and Andrew Agozzino.

The Farmington, Michigan native spent the previous five seasons as the assistant general manager and director of hockey operations for the Carolina Hurricanes where he oversaw player development and scouting. During the 2017-19 seasons, Vellucci also served as the Charlotte Checkers’ head coach where he compiled a record of 97-43-8-4 in 152 games.

Vellucci was instrumental to the success of the Carolina organization in 2018-19, leading the Checkers to a Calder Cup Championship after compiling the league’s best regular-season record (51-17-7-1) and winning the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award for AHL Coach of the Year.

Prior to his time with the Hurricanes organization, Vellucci spent 14 seasons in the same dual role as general manager and head coach of the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL from 2001-14. He became the first to receive both the OHL Executive of the Year award and OHL Coach of the Year award in the same season in 2012-13. He also won the Coach of the Year award during the Whalers’ 2006-07 championship season.

Mike Buckley’s new two-year extension keeps him with the Penguins until the conclusion of the 2021-22 campaign. The 43-year old has spent the last three seasons in his current role as goaltending coach, and prior to that was Pittsburgh’s goaltending development coach from 2013-17.

The Haverhill, Massachusetts native played an instrumental role in Matt Murray‘s development, helping him become a two-time Stanley Cup winning goaltender. During his two Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017, Murray had a combined 22-10 record with a 19.5 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage with four shutouts.

Additionally, Buckley played a key role in developing goaltender Tristan Jarry from an AHL netminder to a 2020 NHL All-Star. In 2019-20, Jarry set career highs in games played (33), wins (20), goals-against average (2.43), save percentage (.921) and shutouts (3). He finished in the top-10 among all NHL goaltenders in save percentage (T-8th), goals-against average (9th) and shutouts (T-8th).

The Penguins organization has begun the search for the next head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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3 Responses to Penguins Hire Former Capitals’ Head Coach Todd Reirden As Assistant To Help Defense, Power Play

  1. Anonymous says:

    Welp, we might as well hire Gonchar to complete the trade.

  2. Scottlew73 says:

    And if he does thier what he did with caps…”Penguins start your rebuild!!” To quote Reggie Dunlop to Joe McGrath “…every piece of crap that comes on the market & you got to buy it!”

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