By Corey Parkinson
Founded in 1974 along with the Kansas City Scouts (today’s New Jersey Devils), the Washington Capitals have become one of the NHL’s most storied franchises. Since their inception, they have won three Presidents Trophy Awards, 11 Division Championships, two Eastern Conference Titles, and a Stanley Cup Championship.
In total, the Capitals have appeared in the playoffs 28 out of their 44 seasons. Through the years, many great players, coaches and contributors have helped build the franchise into what it is today. From incredible plays such as Dale Hunter’s Game 7 goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers in the ’88 Patrick Division Semifinals to Alex Ovechkin’s 500th and 600th goals, the Capitals have a plethora of breathtaking moments, as well as some heartbreaking times.
While the team has honored players Yvon Labre, Mike Gartner, Dale Hunter, and Rod Langway by retiring their numbers and players such as Olaf Kolzig, Peter Bondra, Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Braden Holtby will inevitably follow, how can they honor all the key members who helped build this franchise into what it is today?
Professional sports teams honor players in various ways. The greatest of which is usually honored by having their jersey number retired by their respective franchise. And, in Wayne Gretzky and Jackie Robinson’s case, the player’s number is retired league-wide. Another way players are immortalized is by being inducted into a team’s hall of fame or ring of honor. Currently, 14 teams in the NHL have some variation while the Washington Capitals do not. A ring of honor at Capital One Center is a fitting way to honor and commemorate those contributors but, who would be deserving of that privilege? Here are more than few suggestions:
Barry Trotz (Head Coach 2014-2018)
Under Trotz, the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup Championship. With Trotz’s record of 328-205-89 in the regular season, the Capitals also won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy Awards (2015-16, 2016-17). And, the Capitals appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs all four seasons of Trotz’s tenure – with a postseason record of 36-27.
Craig Laughlin (Player 1982-1988; Broadcaster 1990-current)
Current Washington Capitals broadcaster for NBC Sports Washington since 1990, Laughlin has been a part of the Capitals organization for more than 35 years. ‘Locker’ has called some of the biggest plays in Caps’ history and many of Ovechkin’s incredible goals. Playing for the Capitals from 1982-1988 he scored 110 goals and recorded 173 assists in 428 regular season games.
Abe Pollin (Founder and Owner 1974-1999)
Pollin was the original owner and founder of the Washington Capitals and, under his ownership, the Caps appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 14 straight seasons from 1982-1996 and had its first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1998.
Calle Johansson (Defenseman 1988-2003)
One of the best defenseman to wear a Capitals sweater, Johansson was instrumental in the franchise’s run to the Final in 1998. During his time in Washington, Johansson tallied 113 goals and 361 assists – which ranks sixth in franchise history. Johansson’s 983 games played is also good for second in franchise history behind only Ovechkin.
Michal Pivonka (Center 1986-1999)
In 825 games for the Capitals, Pivonka had 418 assists – ranking him third in Assists and fifth in points (599). During the 1991-92 season, Pivonka scored a career-high 80 points in 80 games.
Alexander Semin (Left-Wing 2003, 2006-2012)
Some might argue this one, especially considering his unceremonious departure from the franchise and his infamous 2009 “I’m going to slap you silly” fight against the Rangers’ Mark Staal. However, over the course of seven seasons, Semin became an integral part of the team’s scoring attack that achieved a franchise record 121 points in the standings in 2009-10. Semin scored 196 goals and chalked-up 211 assists during regular-season play and 15 goals with 19 assists in his 51 playoff games.
Mike Green (Defenseman 2005-2015)
Drafted by the Capitals 29th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, Green became one of the greatest offensively minded defensemen in the NHL. With unmatched power-play abilities, Green scored 52 goals and 111 assists for the Capitals. In 2008-09 Green would scored a career-high 31 goals and also broke the record for consecutive games played with at least one goal by a defenseman. As a Capital, Green has 360 points including 113 goals and 247 assists.
Sergei Gonchar (Defenseman 1992-2004)
Drafted 14th overall in the 1992 NHL Draft, Gonchar was a key member of the 1998 Stanley Cup Final team. During the 1998-99 NHL season, Gonchar became the first Russian defenseman to score over 20 goals in a season. In 10 seasons as a Washington Capital, Gonchar tallied 144 goals and 272 assists while amassing 416 points – which is 14th all-time in franchise history.
Jim Carey (Goalie 1992-1997)
Drafted 32nd overall in the 1992 NHL Draft by the Capitals, Carey cemented his legacy in team history in only five seasons. Winning 35 games and recording nine shutouts, Carey ended up with a 2.26 GAA in 1996 and went on to win the Vezina Trophy. Carey holds the Capitals franchise records for career lowest GAA (2.37), lowest GAA in a single-season (2.13), and he is tied with Holtby for most shutouts in a single-season (nine).
George McPhee (General Manager, 1997-2014)
Joining the Capitals front office in 1997, the Caps won seven Southeast Division titles under his leadership, eight 40+ win seasons, and a franchise-record 121-point season in 2009-10. Under McPhee, the Capitals drafted Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, and Holtby. That’s not a bad bunch of players.
David Poile (General Manager, 1982-1996)
David Poile oversaw 14 straight Stanley Cup Playoff appearances from 1982-1995. In that time, the Capitals went 594-454-124. He also drafted Bondra, Kolzig, Carey, Gonchar, Johansson, and Pivonka. 10 days after being hired, Poile pulled off one of the biggest trades in Caps history when he traded Ryan Walter and Rick Green to Montreal for Langway, Laughlin, and Brian Engblom. Other notable acquisitions during his tenure include Hunter, Adam Oates, and Rick Tocchet.
Display a Ring of Honor
The Capitals have a storied legacy within the NHL. While the franchise doesn’t have the history of teams like the Canadiens, Red Wings, Oilers, or Bruins, when you speak of success in the NHL, you can’t help but mention the Washington Capitals. Many people have a played a monumental role in the success of the franchise, and the only way to truly thank them for their contributions is with a team ring of honor on full display at Capital One Arena.