Washington Capitals

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The Washington Capitals play in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference. They play in the Verizon Center in Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood.

With a combined 30 teams between the NHL and the rival World Hockey Association (WHA), the Capitals had few players with professional experience and were at a disadvantage against the long-standing teams that were stocked with more experienced players. Like the other three teams who joined the league during the WHA era—the Scouts, Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders—the Capitals did not factor the arrival of the WHA into their plans.

The Capitals’ inaugural season was dreadful, even by expansion standards. They finished 8–67–5, far and away the worst record in the league. Their 21 points were half that of their expansion brethren, the Scouts. The eight wins are the fewest for an NHL team playing at least 70 games, and the .131 winning percentage is still the worst in NHL history.

In 1975–76, Washington went 25 straight games without a win and allowed 394 goals en route to another horrendous record: 11–59–10 (32 points). For the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s, the Capitals alternated between dreadful seasons and finishing only a few points out of the playoffs. To make the playoffs, first, the team hired David Poile as General Manager. Second, as his first move, Poile pulled off one of the biggest trades in franchise history on September 9, 1982, when he dealt longtime regulars Ryan Walter and Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens for Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis, and Craig Laughlin. This move turned the franchise around and they made the playoffs for the next 14 years consecutively.

The explosive goal-scoring of Dennis Maruk, Mike Gartner, and Bobby Carpenter fueled the offensive attack. Another significant move was the drafting of defenseman Scott Stevens during the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, the result was a 29-point jump, a third-place finish in the powerful Patrick Division, and the team’s first playoff appearance in 1983. Although they were eliminated by the three-time-defending Stanley Cup Champion New York Islanders (three games to one), the Caps’ dramatic turnaround ended any talk of the club leaving Washington.

By the mid-1990s, the Stanley Cup seemed to elude the Capitals. Despite having rising stars in right-winger Peter Bondra, defenseman Sergei Gonchar, and center/left-wing Joe Juneau, the team’s core players were mostly aging.The Capitals were favorites during the 1993 playoff series with the New York Islanders but they were upset in six games. That series was most remembered when center Dale Hunter checked the Isles’ Pierre Turgeon from behind in Game 6 after Turgeon scored the series-clinching goal. Turgeon fell awkwardly onto the ice and suffered a separated shoulder that caused him to miss the Isles’ second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, though he played in Game 7 of that series. Hunter, who had led his team with eight goals during that series, earned him a suspension for the first 21 games of the next season – at the time the longest suspension for an on-ice incident in NHL history.

In the summer of 2001, the Capitals landed five-time Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr, one of the best players in the NHL in the 1990s, by trading three young prospects to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jagr was signed to the largest contract ever in NHL history – $77 million over 7 years at an average salary of $11 million per year (over $134,000 per game), with an option for an eighth year. However, Jagr did not live up to expectations, as the Capitals failed to defend their division title and missed the playoffs in 2002 despite a winning record. Still, the 2001–2002 season marked the highest attendance in franchise history, drawing in 710,990 fans and 17,341 per game

In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals won the Draft Lottery, and selected Alexander Ovechkin first overall. Ovechkin’s rookie season exceeded the hype, as he led all 2005–06 NHL rookies in goals, points, power-play goals and shots. He finished third overall in the NHL in scoring and tied for third in goals; and his 425 shots not only led the league, but also set an NHL rookie record and was the fourth-highest total in NHL history, all earning him the Calder Trophy as top rookie.

In 2007-08, Alex Ovechkin won the Art Ross Trophy, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award. Ovechkin became the first player in NHL history to win all four awards.

Last year saw the emergence of Mike Green as a top offensive defensemen with 31 goals and 73 points.  Add that to the already talented core of Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom, and with young goaltender Simeon Varlamov shinning in the playoffs, the future is very bright for the Caps for many years to come.

1st Round Draft Picks

Franchise Scoring Leaders

Year # Player Player
2009 24 Marcus Johansson Peter Bondra
2008 21 Anton Gustafsson
Mike Gartner
2008 27 John Carlson Michal Pivonka
2007 5 Karl Alzner Dale Hunter
2006 4 Nicklas Backstrom Bengt Gustafsson
2006 23 Semen Varlamov Mike Ridley
2005 14 Sasha Pokulok Calle Johansson
2005 27 Joe Finley Dennis Maruk
2004 1 Alexander Ovechkin Scott Stevens
2004 27 Jeff Schultz Kevin Hatcher
2004 29 Mike Green  
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