Even though he’d been an assistant with the Washington Capitals’ top minor league affiliate in Hershey the past two years, Reid Cashman watched the club’s historic run to the Stanley Cup championship at home on television like everyone else.
The Capitals were in the process of making changes to Hershey’s coaching staff and chose to keep remaining assistants away during the playoffs.
A few weeks later there was a staff party during the team’s rookie developmental camp where, unbeknownst to those in attendance, the Cup made a surprise appearance.
“It was the first time in my life I’ve ever been in the same room with it,” Cashman said. “You always see the polished version with the guys in white gloves. But there’s a lot of character to it; dings and dents. I didn’t touch it, but I took some pictures and got up close and personal with it. It’s pretty cool.”
That Cashman, a three-time All-American and later an assistant coach at Quinnipiac, was able to familiarize himself with the Stanley Cup is fitting. It wasn’t long before the Capitals tasked him to help defend it.
Cashman, a three-time All-American defenseman and later assistant coach at Quinnipiac, was hired as an assistant coach by Washington a month ago. The move was officially announced by the club on Monday.
Just 35, Cashman becomes one of the youngest assistants in the NHL. Since retiring from playing seven years ago, he’s compiled an impressive resume that includes two trips to the NCAA championship game on Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold’s staff, a job on one of the American Hockey League’s premier franchises and a promotion to the NHL after just two seasons in the minors.
Cashman insists his good career fortune is due in part to impeccable timing.
He says he stepped into a perfect situation at Quinnipiac in the summer of 2011 because the recruiting of Pecknold, associate head coach Bill Riga and former assistant Ben Syer, now at Cornell, had already set Quinnipiac up for success.
And his relationship with Todd Reirden got him on the NHL fast track. Cashman, who spent four seasons as a minor league player, spent a large portion of 2008-09 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the AHL, a team coached by Reirden.
In the summer of 2016, a few months after Quinnipiac lost to North Dakota in the NCAA championship game, Reirden, then a Capitals assistant, called Cashman to gauge his interest in a job with the team’s AHL affiliate in Hershey.
The two remained close the past two seasons. During Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup, they spoke on the phone at least once a week, discussing the team’s defensemen. When Reirden was promoted to head coach after Barry Trotz bolted to the Islanders, he quickly turned to Cashman to run the Capitals’ defense.
“We have similar philosophies,” Cashman said of Reirden. “They are things I learned from him when I played for him and the same stuff I brought to Quinnipiac. He’s been a mentor to me and I’m looking forward to working for him.”
Though his first NHL job carries the daunting task of following up the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, it should be a smooth transition for Cashman.
He coached defensemen Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey for a full season in Hershey and worked with four of the team’s other five defensemen during NHL training camp. That includes assistant captain Brooks Orpik, nearly three years older than Cashman.
When he left for Hershey two summers ago Cashman said he intended to someday return to Quinnipiac when Pecknold retired, even if it’s not for another 20 years. His love for the school began as a freshman in 2003, when the Bobcats played in Atlantic hockey and home games were held at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
By the time he graduated there was a new arena and membership in ECAC Hockey, a vehicle to national prominence, attained a few years later with Cashman on staff as an assistant.
Last weekend Cashman attended the wedding of Kellen Jones, a forward on Quinnipiac’s 2013 national runner-up team. At one point, Cashman found himself standing with Devon Toews, Matthew Peca and Travis St. Denis, former Bobcats he coached during the two Frozen Four runs.
All four signed NHL contracts this offseason. Toews (Islanders) and Peca (Canadiens) inked two-year deals. St. Denis (Islanders) and Cashman received their first NHL contracts.
“It was a cool moment for the four of us,” Cashman said. “It’s been a good summer for Quinnipiac hockey.”
For Cashman, it was a reminder of how far the program has come and how perfectly his coaching career has unfolded. How he returned to his alma mater with a seemingly endless supply of talent in the pipeline. How an unprecedented four-year run led to an opportunity with the Capitals minor league affiliate. And how a position on staff opened just weeks after the team won the Stanley Cup.
Of course, his success goes far beyond merely being in the right place at the right time. Cashman, plain and simple, can coach; a natural teacher and leader with a deep understanding of the game and an eminently likeable personality.
Once a rising star as a college player, he’s suddenly just become one of the most intriguing young coaching candidates in the NHL. In two months he’ll watch the Capitals raise a championship banner, then get to work to ensure he’s present for the next one.