Capitals Todd Reirden – Waiting in the Wings

Todd Reirden is all about hockey. And he has always had his eyes on the prize.

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And now we know that he is close to getting the golden ring as Brian MacLellen threw his support behind him saying Monday:  “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.” Additionally, the players have always spoken well of Todd. Former Capitals blue-liner Karl Alzner once praised him for changing the culture and the work ethic of the defensemen, and we would say the team as well.

We had the first look at his potential while Coach Barry Trotz was off coaching for Canada during World Cup Hockey in 2016.  Reirden was promoted to associate coach. He would get the Capital’s training camp going until Trotz returned. Reirden said of that time that the “players respect the way I communicate with them. They understand that when things go wrong, I’m going to tell them.” Given the number of rookie players on the team, that is a great characteristic to have. After all, good leadership begins with respect.

Todd Reirden  joined the Pittsburg Penguins franchise in 2010 under the mentor ship of Dan Blysma. Even then he had his eyes on the head coach job telling reporters: “This is something that’s going to prepare me one day for being a head coach.” By June 2014 Blysma and Reirden were both gone from Pittsburgh with the arrival of Mike Johnston. After six years with the Pens franchise, he found himself working the defense for the Capitals with another coach with a lot of experience and wisdom to share with him.

In 2014, Pens coach Blysma had this to say about his defense coach: “Our power play has been at a pretty solid clip, 25 percent or more, the last couple of years. Todd is a huge, huge part of that power play in terms of setting the stage for those guys.” He brought that skill with him to the Capitals who have the second best PP percentage in the 2017/18 season (29.33) which likely benefited from Reirden’s expertise. However, their penalty kill percentage dropped to 76 (10th in NHL)  from the previous season of 83.8 (7th in the NHL). Something to work on this summer.

He also has the experience of a player, playing between the AHL and NHL from 1998 to 2005 with the likes of Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix. The 46-year old American from Illinois got his start in hockey playing for Bowling Green University in 1990. He returned in 2007 as an associate coach for a year. before heading to the AHL to coach.  He played defense for all those teams and has always had a leaning toward a defense playing strategy. In eight seasons of assistant/associate coaching in the NHL, he only went to the final round one time – this time.

His expertise with the Capitals and Penguins has kept him in front of the line for other teams looking for a new coach. In 2017, Fanside suggested the LA Kings might be interested in him after they released Darryl Sutter.  Hockey News thought he might be the right man for the Buffalo Sabres. The year prior there was talk that the Calgary Flames wanted to bring him in as their coach. There are reports that the Caps general manager put the kibosh on Reirden leaving the Caps. Bottom line is if not the Capitals, someone is going to hire him as their head coach.

Author: Maggie Marcum

Managing Editor for Friends in Cold Places.

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