Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma looked far and wide as he searched to fill the Penguins’ vacant assistant coaching position. After an extensive search, Bylsma found the perfect candidate already existed within the Pittsburgh organization.
|Newly-appointed Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden was a member of the Penguins extended coaching staff during the team's 2009 Stanley Cup championship. |
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden, who spent the previous year and a half coaching the Baby Penguins following Bylsma’s promotion to Pittsburgh on Feb. 15, 2009, was hired by Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero on Saturday to fill the void that opened earlier this summer when Mike Yeo left to become the head coach of the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.
“We seriously interviewed between 10 and 15 candidates and conducted an extensive search, and the best fit for us at the conclusion of the process was Todd Reirden,” Bylsma said. “Todd and I have developed a strong working relationship, which started when we played college hockey together at Bowling Green and continued in our time together in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He’s a valuable asset to our coaching staff.”
For Reirden, this promotion marks his first National Hockey League coaching assignment. The 39-year-old Deerfield, Illinois native began his coaching career as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Bowling Green, in 2007-08, before spending the past two seasons in WBS, where posted a head coaching record of 55-43-8 in 106 games.
Reirden was also a key contributor to Bylsma’s coaching staff during the Penguins’ run to the 2009 Stanley Cup championship, serving as an eye in the sky during games while traveling with the team during the Stanley Cup Final. He would watch the games from the media level and then report to the coaching staff via headset and during intermissions.
“When this opportunity became available it was something that I became very excited about – being an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Reirden said.
“I consider it an honor to be a part of this organization. Ever since they hired me two years ago to be a coach in WBS I have always been extremely proud to represent the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was very rewarding to help the coaching staff during the Stanley Cup run, and I look forward to another such run this season.”
To replace Reirden at WBS the Penguins promoted John Hynes, who spent the ’09-10 season as Reirden’s assistant coach, to head coach. Hynes, 35, joined the Pittsburgh organization prior to last season following a successful six-year stint as a head coach with the United States National Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
By adding Reirden to the coaching staff to join holdovers Tony Granato and Gilles Meloche, the Penguins will now have a full-time assistant coach who played defense at the NHL level to work with their impressive corps of young blueliners.
“That was certainly a big factor in Todd becoming the assistant coach,” Bylsma said. “He has played defense at many different levels, including the NHL. He has played with a guy like Chris Pronger during his MVP season and has that experience. He will be able to teach the details that come with playing defense, especially as our young group grows together.”
|Todd Reirden (left) and Dan Bylsma celebrate the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship at Joe Louis Arena. |
Reirden, who played parts of five NHL seasons and spent 13 years playing professionally, will come to training camp in September familiar with most of the Penguins’ defenseman after spending the past two training camps in Pittsburgh. Reirden has also joined the Penguins’ coaching staff during the postseason each of the past two campaigns.
Of the Penguins’ projected top-five defenseman, Reirden has worked with Brooks Orpik
and Kris Letang
in Pittsburgh, while Alex Goligoski was Reirden’s top defenseman in WBS in ’08-09. Reirden is also familiar with newcomer Zbynek Michalek
after the two spent the ’04-05 lockout season playing together with Houston in the AHL.
“I think this group of players made the job that much more enticing,” Reirden said. “When you have a group of players like that you get really excited to come to work every day. This is a defensive core I am very familiar with having gone through a couple training camps and helping during the run to the Cup.
“The only defenseman among those who will be competing for roster spots that I haven’t been around is Paul Martin
, but I’ve seen him play at a high level for a while. He makes our group that much better and makes it a core that I can’t wait to get to work with.”
In addition to his familiarity, it also helped Reirden that both he and Bylsma share similar philosophies on how to play the game. The two were teammates for two seasons at Bowling Green between 1990-92, and also spent time together with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL in ’03-04. Since reuniting the past couple of seasons as coaches in the Penguins’ organization, the two have chosen to play identical systems with their teams.
“There is certainly a similar philosophy where Todd understands and teaches the game the way that we want to play,” Bylsma said. “Being a defenseman, he also offers a different opinion in some regards. We are very similar in the way we coach, but Todd also brings some different concepts. There is a comfort level in that that I feel very good about.”
While Reirden is excited for his first chance to work in the NHL ranks, this opportunity to jump to the highest level is something Bylsma believes his good friend earned by displaying a tireless work ethic the past two seasons in WBS, especially this past season when 11 players had to be recalled at various points in the season.
“Todd was a guy who came in late in the ’08 season as an assistant coach and showed us what his work ethic and passion for working with defensemen were,” Bylsma said. “Then he had a chance to be a head coach in WBS. I think if you look at the quality of the way guys played last year when they came up from WBS – that is an indication of the development they had in WBS with Todd.”
The basis for Reirden’s teaching skills come from a successful playing career which included 183 NHL games with Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix between 1998 and 2004.
His best season came in ’99-00 when he suited up for head coach Joel Quenneville and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning St. Louis Blues, posting career highs across the board with four goals, 21 assists and 25 points in 56 games. That year Quenneville paired Reirden up with Pronger, who went on to have a career year of his own. Reirden also shared the blue line that season with Hall of Famer Al MacInnis, one of the top power-play specialists to ever play the game.
“Having played for 13 years at a number of different levels I was fortunate enough to play with a lot of very elite players,” Reirden said. “I learned a lot playing with Pronger that season as he won the Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy. He and Al MacInnis were two of the elite defensemen I played with and learned from. I plan to use that as a coaching tool here in Pittsburgh like I have done at other stops in my career.”