Reirden Out, But Who’s In??

After failing to make the second round in as many playoffs due to the inability to adjust to their opponents, the Washington Capitals shipped off Todd Reirden to Parts Unknown, leaving the head coaching spot of the 2018 Stanley Cup champions vacant. The next coach will be the 19th coach in team history and fifth within a decade, which shows the standard the Caps are putting out there.

It’s not that Reirden was a bad choice, but probably ill-advised. He drew rave reviews getting hired from Pittsburgh to join Barry Trotz’s staff, but once he took over due to the Caps not wanting to pay Trotz’s asking price; the real Reirden showed. Offense was fine, but things seemed to have dropped off the second half of the seasons, especially this year where the Caps went 14-11-3 after January 1st and into the pause. Once they got to the bubble, the Caps didn’t look motivated or ready to play– as shown by their quick ousting.

The question now is who is out there. In land of recycled coaches, there are many to choose from, though some Caps (and NHL) fans would like to see a fresher face behind the NHL benches. Plus, the Capitals don’t like to spend a lot of money for their coaches, which means guys like Peter Laviolette and Gerard Gallant will probably be out because, while experienced, probably carry a higher price tag than most.

Management also has to worry about who will be able to guide this current core into a winning direction, while also holstering the younger core to be the leaders of this team without necessitating an entire strip-down rebuild. Nick Backstrom signed what will be likely his last contract, Alex Ovechkin has one more year left on his deal and it remains to be seen what his future will hold with the NHL, and who knows what TJ Oshie is thinking with the Seattle Kraken coming to existence and him being born in the an hour north of there in Mount Vernon. The new core of Caps will have Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson at the forefront, with Jakub Vrana and Connor McMichael in their shadow.

The blue line is an interesting beast, as John Carlson and Dmitri Orlov are the guys with Michal Kempny and Nick Jensen…well, they’re there, too. The young crop has started with Jonas Siegenthaler shuffling in and out, while the younger guys like Martin Fehervary, Alexander Alexeyev, and Lucas Johansen could be hungry enough to be shuttle guys next year. But there’s work to be done, for sure, with the new crop coming up.

The goaltending seems to have went back to the future with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek in the mix, though the former seems to have the edge as the starter next year and beyond. Of course, we thought that about Semyon Varlamov and next thing you know Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby are coming for him.

Whoever is the new coach, they’ll need to be able to manage all of that…and at an affordable price. My mind went to Phil Housley, who is the defensive coach and power play coordinator in Arizona. People don’t like him because his wife could be a problem to fans due to her political leanings and fans may also hate his tenure in Buffalo enough to not want him…but he could be a good add for the young defense coming up. There’s always promoting from within with Spencer Carbery, but two seasons in the AHL may not be enough seasoning for him to make the move up.

But if you want an out-of-nowhere pick, maybe the play is Mike Grier out of New Jersey. A former Cap, sure, but a guy who knows the game and has vaulted the ranks from pro scout to assistant coach in a very short time in the NHL. There has been plenty of rave-reviews for Grier behind the bench and what he brings to the game and a fresh view is probably what the Caps want right now in their weird time of transition.

On the Topic Of Fickle Coaching Decisions

Sunday, both Phil Housley and Bob Boughner were fired from their teams only two years into their tenure behind the benches of the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers respectively. We all know coaches are hired to be fired and often they get fired due to the general manager’s inability to build a good roster for them– but only two years behind the bench seems like a mere blink of the eye when you look at the bigger picture.

These are teams that need stability and to have coaches there for that little of a time doesn’t help their cause for that. For Buffalo, post-Lindy Ruff since November 2013– no head coach has survived more than two years. Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma and now Housley have all had short tenures not lasting longer than two seasons. For Florida post-Kevin Dineen after the 2012-13 season the Panthers have gone through Peter Horachek, Gerard Gallant, Tom Rowe, and now Boughner.

Of course, of the two, Housley didn’t have the best of success, only going 58-84-22 in his two years while having a group of young talent at his disposal, but goaltending being a question mark since Dominik Hasek left. Boughner went 80-62-22 while having a talented group that had a top power play, penalty kill, but lacked goaltending. I’m sensing a theme with the goaltending.

Regardless of that, having only a limited time to actually figure out how to coach a team that may not be the top notch squad seems like an impossible task that makes someone destined to fail. Only one year to get situation and then if you can’t get to the playoffs in the second year, it’s done?? I get that there’s a “win now, make money” mentality, but to have this lack of stability– especially for young players on the team– can’t be great from outsiders who teams may be courting in free agency.

It seems to always come to the GMs making bad deals and the owners allowing them to make those bad deals. It hampers any kind of progress most of the times, while giving anyone behind the bench a payday, but a short-term payday. Hell, even college coaches get a full class (four years) to prove their worth. Of course, this isn’t college and some players aren’t willing to adjust and adapt to win. Some players want coaches to fit their styles rather than the other way around. That’s on the GM to get the right chemistry in the room to make them a winner regardless of the coach.

Head coaching is a fickle thing. Most times you’re given a bad roster and tasked to make them into Cup champions. Owners and GM have lofty goals from the onset and these guys aren’t paid enough to have to deal with these lofty goals and deal with some prima donnas that don’t fit the vision they have for the team they want to inherit.

Granted, if they go somewhere else and succeed with the right roster in the right situation, then these GMs and owners will look even more foolish than they have been for letting them go in such a short time.