Fantasy Take: Capitals Making Coaching Change

Ian Gooding

2020-08-23

The Washington Capitals have announced that Todd Reirden will not be returning as head coach next season.

In spite of back-to-back Metropolitan Division titles and an 89-46-16 record, Reirden could not advance the Capitals past the first round in either of his two seasons as head coach. Most recently, the Capitals were eliminated by previous head coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in five games.

In general, teams may be giving coaches the benefit of the doubt more often than normal this summer given the unusual circumstances of the return to play and the bubble. Yet after the Capitals were finally able to win their first Stanley Cup in 2018 after years of playoff failures, they are back to not meeting playoff expectations.  

The fact that potential starter Ilya Samsonov could not play at all in the postseason is not on the coach. Nor are the injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson. However, it appears that Reirden did not make the right adjustments, couldn't motivate his players, and/or was simply outcoached by Trotz and his stifling defensive system. For example, a bottom six that included Jakub Vrana and Ilya Kovalchuk could not record any points against the Islanders.

It's possible that GM Brian MacLellan is moving Reirden out to try to land a more experienced coach like Gerard Gallant or Peter Laviolette. There's always a slight chance that a reunion with former head coach Bruce Boudreau is in the works. However, history suggests that the Capitals are more likely to turn to a rookie head coach, when what they need is an experienced head coach to extend the aging core. Alex Ovechkin will be turning 35 soon and Backstrom will be turning 33 this year, so there aren't a lot of years left with the current core.