The Capitals have fired Head Coach Todd Reirden after a back to back lackluster performances in the playoffs. In 2019 the Capitals were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and in the 2020 the Capitals were only able to muster 2 wins in 8 games played. They were able to beat the Bruins in a Round Robin game after losing to the Lighting and Flyers. The Islanders then beat up the Capitals the entire series and eliminated them in just 5 games. After the two humdrum, and frankly embarrassing, playoff runs in the last two years it makes perfect sense for the Capitals to move on from Reirden after two years of coaching. Weird how the two bad years coincide with the two years one time Capitals assistant coach Reirden was the head guy. The two might even be related.
Just two years ago the Capitals were hoisting their first Stanley Cup. Ovi finally got to hold the cup high above his head after years of being the best goal scoring forward in the league. A lot of it had to do with the phenomenal coaching of Barry Trotz. Rather than give the man a pay raise after giving the franchise their first ever Stanley Cup the front office let him walk. They promote Todd Reirden from assistant to head coach and Trotz left for the Islanders. The Islanders have now gone 8-1 in the first round of the playoffs since Trotz became the head coach sweeping the Penguins last year and defeating the Capitals in 4-1 in this years playoffs. I’m really starting to see a trend developing here. Barry Trotz was able to coach the Capitals to a cup, and now he’s coaching the Islanders in to a pretty damn good team. They have a legitimate chance at winning the cup this year with Trotz at head coach. Especially after his Islanders were able to bully the Capitals out of the playoffs.
I get that keeping contract costs low is a big point of success for teams, even on the coaching side. Teams don’t want to overpay for mediocrity from players or coaches. When Trotz signed his initial contract with the Capitals the salary of head coaches was much lower and after winning the Stanley Cup his automatic extension kicked in, but the Capitals didn’t want to pay him at the new elite head coaching salaries. I don’t know why they didn’t want to give the man a pay raise after getting the Capitals their first Stanley Cup, but they didn’t want to. They instead decided to promote an assistant coach so they didn’t have to pay him as much. That always seems to work out. Let the guy go who did his absolute best job and got the best possible result, and then go promote the assistant and expect him to do the job just as good because he helped.
The Capitals will be looking for their seventh head coach since Alex Ovechkin entered the NHL. Only one of the coaches the Capitals hired in that time had previous head coaching experience, that was Barry Trotz. For every other one, it was their first time. The Capitals just love popping the head coaching cherry of guys. If that’s what they are in to then good for them, but the one time they went a different direction and gave somebody their second chance at a head coaching job it took them all the way to the top. They hoisted the Stanley Cup, just stay on that high and bring the guy back for a second try at least. Sure you’d have to pay top dollar to maybe hoist the cup again, but at least you know this coach knows how to get you one. Todd Reirden was seen as head coaching material before the Capitals let Trotz go. He was a finalist for the head coaching gig in Calgary in 2016 and the front office felt he was fit for the job for years. He was an integral part of the Capitals success in 2018, but he wasn’t THE head guy. That was Trotz. The Capitals letting him leave for the Islanders was a stupid decision. Trotz got to prove that to them by knocking them out of the playoffs.
It would be awesome to see Alex Ovechkin hoist another Stanley Cup, but with the Capitals going from coach to coach all the time it seems less and less likely. I’m not a fan of constantly recycling old head coaches, but hiring a head coach with a little bit of experience has worked for the Capitals in the past. One name that comes to mind is for me is Mike Babcock. He was a great coach with the Red Wings winning them a cup in 2008. Babcock was last coaching in Toronto. They didn’t have a lot of playoff success in Toronto under Babcock, then again Toronto hasn’t had playoff success since 67′. However, under Babcock the Leafs played a fast, and uptempo game. Something the Capitals couldn’t do for the life of them the last two playoffs. Combine Babcock’s fast tempo play with the Capitals physical roster and it could be a success. Wherever the Capitals go next with their head coach it would have just been easier to resign Trotz.