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Reirden Circles Back to Pittsburgh

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

A lot happened in the six seasons Todd Reirden spent with the Washington Capitals after leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Reirden was an assistant coach with Washington from 2014-16 and then associate coach from 2016-18, where he helped the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in 2018. He spent the last two seasons as head coach before getting relieved of his duties following Washington's First Round exit from the playoffs.

The whole time, Reirden worked with some of the league's other star players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson, gathering new insights and perspectives.

Now returning to Pittsburgh for his second stint as an assistant coach, Reirden feels that he is coming back to the organization with a greater wealth of experience and knowledge.

Video: Assistant Coach Todd Reirden speaks to media

"To circle back with them is something where I know that I've grown as a coach, I know I've improved," Reirden said. "And the things that I learned over the six years in Washington and eventually winning a Stanley Cup there is only going to make me a much better product than I was when I left here. So I think that's the exciting thing. I've learned a lot and I'm excited to share it with the players here who I know are under great direction from Mike Sullivan."

That being said, Reirden still wants to continue growing and improving as a coach, which is why the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh was one he couldn't refuse.

"I'm looking forward to learning from Mike Sullivan and the success he's had in winning back-to-back championships," Reirden said. "It certainly has been a challenge going against him for the last six years on the opposite bench. I respect this organization and team so much for what they've been able to accomplish. I couldn't pass up this opportunity."

During Reirden's first stint as a Penguins assistant coach from 2010-14, he worked with the team's defensemen and power-play units. He will undertake a similar role this time around.

The power play in particular is something that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford singled out as something that needs to be fixed, as he was particularly displeased with their performance in the Qualifying Round versus Montreal.

During Reirden's four seasons as Pittsburgh's assistant coach, only the Washington Capitals (20.7%) and San Jose Sharks (20.5%) had a better power-play success rate from 2010-14 than the Penguins' 20.3%.

Washington went on to have the NHL's top-ranked power play under Reirden's direct guidance as assistant coach and associate coach from 2014-18. He's confident that he can help the Penguins get back on track in that regard, especially taking into consideration his familiarity with their top power-play personnel.

"I think obviously there's a lot of special skill on there," Reirden said. "Finding some structure and making sure that we're utilizing everybody's strengths and minimizing their weaknesses I think can allow us to have success. I think the importance of evaluating the power play properly is something that we had instilled years ago when I worked with these same guys. It will again be a really important measuring stick for us to figure out how we can get back to the top of the league here."

In general, Reirden is looking forward to reconnecting with that core group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and his prior relationships with those players will help make the transition seamless.

"One of the real strong reasons why I wanted to come back and be a part of the Penguins organization again is the drive that those players have to win another Stanley Cup," Reirden said. "I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of getting them back to where they are accustomed to being, and I think we can do that here."

Letang in particular is someone that Reirden worked extensively with. After Reirden originally joined the Penguins staff in the summer of 2010 after three years in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as both as assistant and head coach, the two of them had a meeting.

They decided Letang would try to improve and develop his game with the goal of being one of the league's best in mind. And that's exactly what he did.

Under Reirden's tutelage, Letang played some of the best hockey of his career. In that four-year stretch, Letang averaged .74 points per game, which is .08 higher than his career average of .66. Letang was also a combined plus-44 over those four seasons, named a Norris Trophy finalist in 2012-13 and an NHL All-Star in '11 and '12.

Letang has obviously built on that even more in the years since, and Reirden is looking forward to reuniting with him and continuing to maximize his potential, which is exactly what he did with Carlson - who is currently a finalist for the Norris Trophy.

"Definitely coming back to work with Kris is something I'm looking forward to," Reirden said.
"We spent a lot of time in those infant stages of him becoming an NHL defenseman and being able to find a common ground between the unbelievable talent level that he has and staying healthy, and then being able to still contribute at both ends of the ice. He's obviously a special player."

Reirden is also excited about working with the overall group of defensemen that the Penguins have in addition to Letang, particularly Brian Dumoulin, someone he also previously coached.

"Brian Dumoulin is a guy that really continues to get better and better every year," Reirden said. "It was disappointing for the Penguins to not have him healthy this year. I think that was one of the things that made things more difficult. He's really blossomed into not only a good defender, but he's been able to add some more offensive tools to his game. In addition to that, you can see his leadership. When you're on the opposite bench, you can see certain guys that take charge of situations and he's one of them."

Reirden is someone who has built a reputation as a detail-oriented, hard-working coach, and he'll do everything in his power moving forward to help the Penguins win.

"It's something where I feel like I can add some different elements," Reirden said. "Whether we're talking about defense or power play or just dealing with star players and how to maximize them. So that's the fun part, is trying to get those players in our team over the hump and become in the elite again here."

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