It should have been obvious that changes were going to be coming for the Washington Capitals after a second straight First Round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Sunday, those changes began.
The Capitals announced that they have fired head coach Todd Reirden after just two years on the job.
“We have higher expectations for our team, and we felt a fresh approach in leadership was necessary,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan in a statement released by the team
“We would like to thank Todd for all of his hard work and efforts with our organization. Todd has been a big part of our team for more than half a decade, including our Stanley Cup run in 2018, and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”
Reirden had been the head coach of the Capitals since the start of the 2018-19 season, replacing Barry Trotz the year after the team won its first ever Stanley Cup. During Reirden’s two seasons they saw great regular season success, winning the Metropolitan Division each year. It was the playoffs where things became an issue, winning just four games over the two years and never getting out of the First Round.
Their early exit a year ago would have been easy to write off. It was the first year after a championship and they lost a tight, seven-game series (with the seventh game going to overtime) to an up-and-coming team that was just beginning a huge playoff run. It happens.
This year, though, something seemed off with the Capitals. They faded during the stretch run of the regular season and never seemed able to find an extra gear in the playoffs, whether it was in the Round Robin phase or their First Round series loss to Trotz’s Islanders. It was not just the fact they lost, but how they looked during it. They just never seemed to be a threat to score and were significantly outplayed.
MacLellan said he thought the team started to decline around Christmas time and was inconsistent for the remainder of the season. He added that they “paid the price at the end.”
It is not yet known what direction the Capitals will go in now behind the bench, but you have to figure Gerard Gallant and Peter Laviolette will be two names that get connected here. While the Capitals have had an extensive history of hiring first-time coaches (six of their past seven head coaching hires were first time NHL head coaches; Trotz is the only one out of that group that was not a first-time hire) MacLellan said on Sunday that the Capitals have an experienced team and need an experienced coach.
As for what other changes could be coming to the Capitals this offseason, long-time starting goalie Braden Holtby is an unrestricted free agent and could be on the move, while the Capitals could almost certainly use an infusion of youth into an aging lineup.