The Washington Capitals announced this afternoon that general manager Brian MacLellan has relieved head coach Todd Reirden of his duties as head coach. MacLellan also released a statement on Twitter:
Statement from Capitals senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan pic.twitter.com/SBCKSHUpQg— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) August 23, 2020
The first sentence of the press release regarding the “higher expectations” is no doubt a direct reference to the Capitals exiting the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round for the second year in a row. Last season’s Game 7 defeat at the hands of a strong Carolina Hurricanes team may have remained a minor blip on the radar without this season juxtaposed against it. The Capitals were outplayed, out-coached and outmatched at the hands of the New York Islanders and were dispatched in only five games.
During a conference call today, MacLellan discussed the inconsistent play that dogged the Capitals for much of the season. The GM spoke to the deterioration of the “team game” dating back as far as Christmas 2019.
In a conference call today, Washington Post reporter Samantha Pell asked:
“…as the organization moves on from Todd Reirden, what’s your criteria in looking for a next head coach and what do you want to see from that department”Samantha Pell, Washington Post
In his response, MacLellan made it clear that he was looking for an “experienced coach” and “someone who can come in and push some buttons.” The GM also elaborated on how it felt like the team structure was lacking during the team’s time in the bubble. In response to other questions regarding the choice to promote him in the first place, MacLellan was quick to defend Reirden’s contributions to the franchise during his time as an assistant. The team had sought to try to keep the Cup-winning core together as much as possible and Reirden had been a part of that.
Fortunately for MacLellan and the Capitals, there is currently no shortage of viable candidates that fit the description he has given. Mike Babcock, Gerard Gallant, Jacques Martin, Peter Laviolette, Guy Boucher, and Jim Montgomery are all currently available. It wouldn’t be shocking to see some rumors regarding Gallant, Babcock and Laviolette popping up within the next 24 hours.
Bruce Boudreau is a name that is likely to come up in discussions also. Boudreau had his successes with the Capitals organization, but I have a hard time believing they would wish to tread that path again. He is well respected and has a great track record to fall back on. However, with the other options available, circling back around to a coach who was notable for not being able to get the team over a playoff hump seems questionable.
Reirden was a fine assistant coach who was unable to fill the shoes left empty in the wake of his predecessor. The last two seasons have seen the Capitals exiting in the first round of the playoffs after capturing the team’s first Stanley Cup championship. That summer of 2018 feels very far away right now as the Capitals search for their new man behind the bench.
Jack Dawkins is a freelance scout, analyst and avid watcher of “way too much hockey.” He has joined The Hockey Writers team to cover all things Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers. He’s an absolute data hound and loves using stats and analytics to calculate and extrapolate data for analysis.