Washington Capitals fire coach Todd Reirden after postseason disappointment

Reirden, who was the 18th coach in franchise history and the only person interviewed for the head coaching job two years ago, finished with a 151-89-46 regular season record. The Capitals finished atop the Metropolitan Division both years.

But the 49-year-old failed to record a playoff series win as Washington’s head coach, losing to Carolina in 2019 then to the New York Islanders in 2020. The Islanders, now coached by Barry Trotz, dispatched the Capitals in five games this year. Trotz coached the Capitals to the Stanley Cup but left amid a contract dispute. Reirden was on Trotz’s coaching staff and was promoted after Trotz’s departure.

“We have higher expectations for our team, and we felt a fresh approach in leadership was necessary,” said General Manager Brian MacLellan. “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, who was in his first head coaching job, earned praise from his players, especially the defensemen he helped mold — a group that includes John Carlson, a Norris Trophy finalist this season. But he ultimately didn’t find success when it mattered most.

Early in Reirden’s sophomore year behind the bench, the team looked primed to win another Presidents’ Trophy through the first 40 games, but after squandering a strong start, the Capitals spiraled as the postseason loomed. By the time the novel coronavirus pandemic forced a pause in the season, Washington was 8-9-3 in its past 20 games. The team was able to string together consecutive wins only once in that span.

When play finally resumed months later and teams jumped directly into the postseason, there was hope that the Capitals would be able to fix their problems and start anew. But, the Capitals reverted to their old ways and, after dropping their first three first-round games, never recovered.

At the time of his promotion, General Manager Brian MacLellan said the emphasis on development made Reirden a favorite to replace Trotz. MacLellan said Washington wanted “someone that’s up to date on the modern game,” and someone who was progressive, was looking to try new things and who had a good relationship with the players.

In his four years as an assistant, Reirden mainly worked with Washington’s defensemen and earned a reputation for shaping and developing blue-liners, particularly Carlson. He also had a hand in helping Dmitry Orlov blossom under his watch, and he worked with former Capitals Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in Washington and in his previous coaching stop as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The previous coach to be fired in Washington was Adam Oates in 2014, when Oates and general manager George McPhee lost their jobs about two weeks after the Capitals failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Washington finished that season with the ninth-most points in the Eastern Conference, one spot out of a playoff berth.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.