The Capitals Through the Decades: 1980s

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A look at the best and worst the Capitals had to offer in the 1980s

[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:

Player Season Pos GP G A Pts +/- SOG OPS DPS PS
Larry Murphy 1986-87 D 80 23 58 81 25 226 6.1 5.7 11.9
Dennis Maruk 1981-82 C 80 60 76 136 -4 268 9.9 1.1 11.0
Scott Stevens 1987-88 D 80 12 60 72 14 231 4.5 5.8 10.3
Scott Stevens 1984-85 D 80 21 44 65 19 170 4.5 5.6 10.0
Scott Stevens 1983-84 D 78 13 32 45 26 155 2.4 6.8 9.2

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:

Player Season Pos GP G A Pts +/- SOG OPS DPS PS
Mark Taylor 1985-86 C 30 2 1 3 -4 23 -0.8 0.3 -0.5
Greg Adams 1983-84 LW 57 2 6 8 1 37 -1.5 1.0 -0.6
Glen Currie 1984-85 C 44 1 5 6 2 27 -1.2 0.6 -0.6
Gary Sampson 1986-87 LW 25 1 2 3 -9 14 -0.7 0.1 -0.6
Ed Kastelic 1987-88 RW 35 1 0 1 -3 20 -1.2 0.5 -0.7

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.

Also, if we're talking about bad individual performances, this (and some of its siblings) probably deserves a mention.

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:

Player Pos GP G A Pts +/- SOG OPS DPS PS
Scott Stevens D 601 98 331 429 88 1301 25.8 40.1 65.9
Mike Gartner RW 681 361 360 721 45 2613 50.1 11.1 61.2
Larry Murphy D 453 85 259 344 57 1027 21.6 30.2 51.8
Rod Langway D 585 24 157 181 107 701 2.8 40.1 42.9
Bengt Gustafsson C 549 174 321 495 66 1051 25.5 9.8 35.3

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:

Player Pos GP G A Pts +/- SOG OPS DPS PS
Jim Thomson RW 24 2 0 2 -5 14 -0.6 0.2 -0.4
Rob Murray C 41 2 7 9 -10 29 -0.8 0.3 -0.5
Grant Martin C 20 0 1 1 -6 10 -0.7 0.1 -0.6
Mark Taylor C 39 3 2 5 -5 33 -1.0 0.4 -0.6
Ed Kastelic RW 73 2 1 3 -6 37 -2.4 0.9 -1.5

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.

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