[For background on this series, check out yesterday's Part I.]
At the outset of the 1980s, a political figure rose to national power asking the question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" For the Washington Capitals, the answer to that question was a resounding "yes" well into the decade... because four years earlier, they'd been pretty abysmal.
The franchise's fortunes turned around in September of 1982, when the Caps' kid general manager, David Poile, pulled the trigger on the most important trade in team history, not only making his Capitals competitive, but literally saving the franchise. That next spring would mark the first playoff appearance for the club, and start a string of 14 consecutive post-seasons... none of which ended as Caps faithful had hoped.
But these were indeed the salad days for the franchise, and there was plenty of reason for optimism - the team had plenty going for it, as we'll see below.
The Caps of the early-to-mid-80s were stacked. Just take a look at the top-five individual seasons, by total point shares:
Not included in those seasons? Mike Gartner's 50-goal/102-point 1984-85 season, or the 53 tallies his "Goal Dust Twin" partner, Bobby Carpenter, had that same season. Or another Maruk 50-goal season or any of eight different 40-goal seasons.
Of course, the strength of many of those teams was its blueline, and, to that end, Stevens accounted for five of the top-11 seasons and Murphy for five of the top-15 (and Rod Langway won two Norris's in seasons that ranked 20th and 50th). Oh, what might have been.
One last note - Dino Ciccarelli came over in a blockbuster trade that sent Gartner and Murphy the other way in late 1989 and finished out the season with a dozen goals and 15 points in 11 games, giving him the highest per-game point-share in the decade... and making him a Goal-Buster.
Then there were the bottom-five individual seasons:
Eh, not so bad, really... though in comparison to the Caps of the preceding decade, it would've been tough to stand out. Then again, Kastelic scored only as many goals as Flyers goalie Ron Hextall in 1987-88, so there's that.
As for the best individual performances for the decade overall, perhaps there should be some fanfare to intro the list. Or not. Anyway, here's the top-five:
Hall of Famer, Hall of Famer, Hall of Famer, Hall of Famer. Glad they dressed up for the occasion.
The top-ten is rounded out with Dave Christian, Kevin Hatcher, Carpenter, Darren Veitch and Maruk, with the one and only Craig Laughlin coming in 13th. If we went on a per-game rate with a minimum 100 games played, Geoff Courtnall sneaks into the fifth spot behind a top-four of Murphy, Stevens, Maruk and Gartner.
Finally, the least-productive Caps of the decade:
Sorry, Ed - your pugilistic ways earn you no respect in terms of point shares... but you once gave Barry Melrose the business, and for that, you're a shoo-in for hockey heaven.
The 1980s ended with the Caps a perennial contender... but underachiever. Would they be able to shake that identity in the '90s? Stay tuned.
Just kidding. You know the answer. But stay tuned anyway - the '90s were a good time.