Once Barry Trotz resigned from head coaching duties of the Washington Capitals, the assumption was that associate coach Todd Reirden would take over. This finally came to pass on Friday afternoon as Washington named Reirden as the team’s new head coach.
Reirden has been on the Capitals coaching staff since 2014, as outlined in that press release. First as an assistant coach and then an associate coach. He had previously spent time in Pittsburgh as part of their coaching staff as well.
Needless to say that Reirden has his work cut out for him. Following in the footsteps of a man who coached the franchise to their first Stanley Cup is not an easy task. Having worked these past years under Trotz, though, should leave him well prepared for the future.
What can fantasy owners expect?
It should be noted there was very little turnover to the Caps roster. Brooks Orpik was traded but following his buyout he can be re-signed for cheap should they so choose. With John Carlson and Michal Kempny re-signed, the top-4 defence corps they had at the end of the year remains intact. Devante Smith-Pelly returning means nearly every forward the Caps had in their top-12 will be back, save for, at the moment, Jay Beagle.
The biggest question is what Reirden does with Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky. Vrana was finally left on the second line towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs except for a handful of games. In the meantime, Burakovsky flipped between the third and fourth line. Fantasy hockey owners have been waiting for the Burakovsky breakout for years now, but if he continues to be used in the bottom-6 with sparse power-play minutes – that last part is assured – then the breakout will continue to wait.
At least to start the season, I’m not expecting much to change. There doesn’t seem to be much sense in re-configuring a lineup that just won a Cup. The forward pairings of Ovechkin-Kuznetsov and Backstrom-Oshie should stay together. Tom Wilson was a fixture of the top line for most of the year and that won’t change. Vrana’s slotting is less certain but he should at least get the chance to maintain his position, though with Chandler Stephenson taking his spot at times, that chance might not be a lengthy rope with which to work.
Despite Reirden personally having to succeed a Cup-winning head coach, there really shouldn’t be a lot of changes to the team. The top PP will be heavily used, their stars will be featured, and the lesser wingers not named Tom Wilson will be moved around. Expect more of the same from the Caps next year.
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