Yesterday the Washington Capitals fired their head coach Todd Reirden after two consecutive first round playoff exits since winning the Stanley Cup back in 2018. The Capitals won the cup under then head coach Barry Trotz who has since moved onto coach the New York Islanders. The Capitals haven’t had that same success in the playoffs since then.
My Thoughts: From watching, it seems that the players didn’t really respond very well or respect Todd Reirden as a head coach. His body language on the bench at times showed he was lost, confused, and lacking leadership. Team discipline was an issue as the Capitals committed a league high 267 penalties during the regular season, and 23 more against the Islanders in the playoffs. The power play used to be a dominant force for the Caps and would normally rank in the top ten. However, this season their power play rank slipped to 17th in the league with a 19.4% success rate. In the playoffs, the Caps power play was 5-for-28 (17.9%) during the playoffs. There were some red flags Reirden wasn’t going to work out going back to the playoffs last year as they collapsed against the Carolina Hurricanes. Since December of 2019, the Capitals went into a tailspin that they never seemed to get out of. Even the pause to the NHL season didn’t change that. Reirden wasn’t able to get the players to play correctly or fully committed. Seems like the players tuned him out. Trust me when I say this, the players definitely deserve a lot of blame for this lack of success lately. However, Todd Reirden was not working out and it was time for a change in leadership.
Possible Coaching Candidates
Girard Gallant: this to me is the hire the Capitals MUST make. Clearly this team needs an experienced head coach that knows how to win and can lead players to get the best from them. Gallant is a veteran coach and is very well respected coach around the league. It’s bothered me how he’s been treated when he was the coach of the Florida Panthers and especially the Vegas Golden Knights. I still don’t understand why Vegas let him go this season. The simple fact he took an expansion team to the Stanley Cup finals in their first year of existence is flat out amazing! This is the correct hire for the Caps for sure.
Peter Laviolette: this would be the second best hire after Girard Gallant. Laviolette is a great coach, we’ll respected, has had great offenses, and has won a Stanley Cup before as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes (2006). If Gallant for some reason doesn’t work out, then Laviolette would be the next best thing for sure.
Mike Babcock: Normally, Mike Babcock would be at the top of anyone’s list. He’s won a Stanley Cup (2008 – Detroit Red Wings) and two Olympic Gold Medals behind the bench for Team Canada. You would think he’d be at the top of this list, right? Unfortunately not the case here. The reasons he’s not at the top here is because, there has been some questions about how he has treated players recently while being the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a lack of recent playoff success.
Lane Lambert: If the Capitals were to go with another coach with no NHL head coaching experience, then Lane Lambert may be the guy to go with. If you remember, Lambert was an assistant coach that helped lead the Caps to Stanley Cup glory back in 2018 under former head coach Barry Trotz. Currently, he is the assistant coach with the New York islanders under Barry Trotz. Lambert is familiar with the players and has been coaching with Trotz for a long time. The players certainly respected Lambert while he was here in Washington. Question is, does Lambert wanna come back here after how things ended with Barry Trotz? We’ll have to wait and see.
Bruce Boudreau: This one I see as very unlikely but not completely far fetched. Boudreau was here before for many years and has coached players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The only knock on Bruce Boudreau is his lack of success in the postseason. As much as I liked Bruce when he was here, I don’t think a reunion will work here. If you want to maximize what’s left of the Ovechkin/Backstrom era, you need a coach that can win in the playoffs.
Julie Chu: A wild card indeed, but Chu would be a solid choice as she is a 5 time Gold Medalist and 4 time Silver Medalist in World Championship competition, and in the Olympics is a 3 time Silver Medalist and 1 time Bronze Medalist. Plus she’s also won three CWHL Championships and one WWHL Championship. Winning is in her blood, and with a coaching background to boot. Chu got her first taste of coaching in 2007-08 at the University of Minnesota-Duluth as an assistant coach, then in 2010-11 she would join Union College as an assistant coach and would remain there until the end of the 2012-13 season. After a season away she would make her way to Concordia University in Canada where she started as an assistant coach in 2014-15 until 2016-17 when she would take over as the head coach of the Stingers. Chu would make history as the first woman to be behind an NHL bench if she were to be hired.
Whatever the Capitals decide to do, they need a coach that’ll hold the team accountable. After listening to GM and SVP Brian MacLellan’s comments about the team, he is right. The culture that was brought in when he became general manager and with Barry Trotz as head coach has slipped under Reirden. The Capitals need to bring that culture back of accountability, and have everyone buy in. Also the Capitals will need to clean house completely on the bench. A Gerard Gallant flanked with Julie Chu and Peter Laviolette by his side would be a scary good coaching staff.
Contributions made by Michael Lindenbaum.