(RC Note - I made a wager with CapsChick at View From The Cheapseats on Thursday's Habs - Caps game. The loser would have to post about the winning team on site at the losers blog. It sounded like fun to me and she was game. Well the Habs went and blew it big time so here I am, foot in mouth, owning up.)
I have watched grass grow before my eyes.
I once sat witness, staring as paint dried.
I have seen the wind not blow.
And now I have written about the Washington Capitals.
I did have a choice, an option, an opportunity to shut up. Look where bravado has taken me. If I were smarter, I'd feel humiliated instead of humidified.
What can I say but "Oh Lord, It's hard to be humbled!"
Never in my worst of bloggosmares would I have dreamt my Habs would be so undone. I still can't believe they were so creamed. They met a week ago and the Canadiens seemed rightfully superior. I looked for a reason, not an excuse, as to WTF went wrong. I hate excuses and this doesn't make me feel any better.
I won't beat around the Bush - she is in Washington! So here, as (kinda) promised, are the "10 Greatest And Not So Great Moments In Washington Capitals History", ...in random order because I feel feel that way.
Number 1 - September 9, 1982, a red letter day in Washingston Capitals history - and they have former bowling alley entrepreneur and then current Habs GM Irving Grundman to say a gros merci to for it. Grundman, stung by criticism resulting from consecutive early playoff exits by the Habs, pulls the trigger on a mega six player deal that launches the Caps franchise from the edges of extinction to prosperity all in one season.
Grundman sends defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom, future NHL iron man Doug Jarvis, and RW Craig Laughlin to the Caps for defenseman Rick Green, a former # 1 pick in 1976, and the rugged Ryan Walter, another high Washington draft choice.
GM Grundman's rationale for the deal was that he was about to lose Langway to free agency in another season. In Montreal, he was seen as having been fleeced by Caps counterpart David Poile. While Poile continued to prove his worth as a GM for decades, Grundman was fed to the wolves two years later.
The moves improved the Capitals by 29 points and into the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. Langway played 12 seasons in Washington, winning the Norris Trophy (a rarety for such a defensive rearguard) in his first two seasons. He was a member of many All-Star teams and had his number retired by the Capitals at the end of his career, in which he was their longest serving captain.
Jarvis won a Selke Trophy with the Capitals, never missing a game in his quest to become the NHL's all time ironman. Laughlin was a perrenial 20 goal scorer in his six years in Washington. Engblom, after two solid seasons with the Caps, was sent to Los Angeles Kings for Larry Murphy, who went on to enjoy the most offensive years of a brilliant career with Washington.
For their part, Green and Walter fared well with the Canadiens. While never becoming quite as key to the team as Langway would with the Caps, they were still solid team players. Both would have injury plagued tenures with the Habs before winning a Stanley Cup in 1986.
Number 2 - The infamous missing "o" typo! TSN Sports commentator Bob McKenzie built his good reputation as a writer and editor with The Hockey News. In the early 1980's the future of the Capitals franchise was in doubt and threatening to be moved. In a THN piece, McKenzie was covering a "Save The Capitals" ticket drive that would ultimately prove succesful. Perhaps poor Bob was as tired as those working the phone lines for the team when he proofread his article for the paper. McKenzie wrote that "Capitals staffers are working cuntless hours" trying to save the team. In the following weeks edition, one letter writer suggested that it "was too much of a sacrifice". Two decades later, while being interviewed, McKenzie called it the most embarrassing moment of his life.
Number 3 - Six solid draft choices in 7 years solidified the Capitals future. Starting in 1978, Washington struck first round gold with a series of picks that panned out very well for the team. The run included Walter (78), Mike Gartner (79), Darren Veitch (80), Bobby Carpenter (81), Scott Stevens (82), and Derian Hatcher (84). While Walter paid the aforementioned dividend in the Langway trade, all but Veitch would become All-Stars. He was, nevertheless, a solid and rugged contributor to a strong Capitals defense. GM, at the time, Max McNab was very big on the highly touted Veitch and was thrilled to add him as a cornerstone to a burgeoning D-corps. History suggest the Caps would have done better taking the next player chosen - Paul Coffey.
Number 4 - The Capitals, as a team, were getting better slowly in 1981-82, but pretty much going nowhere fast. The Caps were 26-41-13 for 65 points in their eighth season and seemed on the verge of better days. One reason for hope was the play of Dennis Maruk, who set offensive marks that have yet to be bettered in the D.C. State. Seemingly out of nowhere, Maruk tallied an amazing 60 goals and 76 assists for 136 points - still Capitals records more than 25 years later. While Maruk had hit 50 goals the previous season, nothing of this sort was expected from him. The following season, while hampered by injuries, his goal production shuted to 31 and Washington offed him to the Minnesota North Stars for a 2nd round draft pick in 1984. Maruk would top out with a best 21 goals in Minny, while the aquired pick Stephen Leach, would become a journeyman NHLer.
Number 5 - The Easter Epic! Though the Capitals came out on the losing end, they along with the Islanders, produced the second longest overtime game in NHL playoff history. The game began on April 18, 1987 and ended 7 periods later in the wee morning hours when Pat Lafontaine's goal eliminated the Capitals in the seventh game of the series. Goalltenders Kelly Hrudey of the Islanders and Bob Mason of the Capitals were kept busy all game, with Washington outshooting the Isalnders 75-57. The game lasted an incredible 6 hours and 18 minutes and ended at 1:58 a.m.
Number 6 - Somewhere in here I should fit in the All-Time Caps team I originally promised, so here it is: In goal, Olaf "Godzilla" Kolzig, on defense Scott "I Turned Lindros Into A Cottonball" Stevens, and Rod "the Mod" Langway. The forwards are Peter "Why'd You Trade Me" Bondra, Dale "Head" Hunter, and Alexander " I Look Like I Should Be In Eric Burden and the Animals" Ovechkin. Now you know why I chose a different post.
Number 7 - No Cigar! In 1998, the Capitals surprised just about everyone by reaching the Stanley Cup final - where just about anything is possible! After finishing third in the Atlantic division with 92 points, the Capitals upset Boston, Ottawa, and Buffalo in succession to reach the final for the only time in their history. Unfortunately they ran up against a determined Detroit Red Wings and were broomed off in 4 straight. Hey, it was a long way from 1974, when they set records for being bad by allowing 446 goals against, racking up a grand total of 8 wins, and totalling an incomprehensible 21 points.
Number 8 - Alexander The Gr-8, what else! Ovechkin, he of the inhuman highlight reel, is quickly becoming the best foundation the Capitals have ever had to build upon. With Semin, and soon Backstrom, Washington has a trio of offensive weaponry more dangerous than what sits behind a desk in the White House. The Capitals are well prepared to do battle with the flying Penguins, hockey's (hopefully) next great rivalry. Ovie ran away with the Calder Trophy race while scoring THE greatest goal ever scored. If he never did another worthy thing, he would still be legendary.
Number 9 - Nevermind 1998, better days should have been on the horizon, as owner Ted Leonis promised. Two years after making the finals, the brash tycoon did his best to better the team, looking for the missing pieces, and polling fans on a myriad of questions. He delived by aquiring Jaromir Jagr for what amounted to a song. Trouble was, the song turned out to be "Highway To Hell" as Jagr was confused, misunderstood, moody and completely incompatible with fitting into the Capitals system. The system, for crying out loud, should have been built around him. The square peg analogy doesn't get any simpler than this.
Number 10 - A little more hardware on the table, please. I went looking for trophies, but the shelf is almost bare. Since Langway took the double Norris' in '83 and '84, Washington has not been the blessed recipient of many individual awards. 1984 also yielded a Selke Trophy for Doug Jarvis and Coach of the year nod for Bryan Murray. Jim Carey grabbed the Vezina in 1996 and Olaf Kolzig duplicated the feat four years later before adding the King Clancy Trophy in 2006. Ovechkin nabbed the calder in 2006 and has his sights poised on many an MVP award, scoring titles and Rocket Richard trophies in the not too distant future.