A look at the best and worst the Capitals have had to offer in the 2000s
The new millennium coincided somewhat with a new era of Caps hockey, as Abe Pollin had sold the team to a group headed by Ted Leonsis in 1999, which was somewhat akin to a disfavored child raised in an overly frugal household getting new, rich parents. So that was neat. Tired of losing to the Penguins in the playoffs (six times in nine appearances over 11 years)? Trade for their best player. Not good enough? Sign their best center when he hits free agency. This was fun.
At least, it should have been.
Alas, with Ron Wilson and then Bruce Cassidy at the helm, the team that "only needed a scorer or two" turned out to need more than that, and in 2003-04, general manager George McPhee nuked the team - they'd rebuild nearly from scratch, the "right" way.
And while we'll never know what the rebuild would have looked like if the hockey gods hadn't finally smiled upon D.C. at the 2004 Draft Lottery and vaulted the Caps from "you're drafting Cam Barker" status to "hey, here's Alex Ovechkin" (or do we?) who really cares? A few more savvy first round picks and trades, another coach, and a couple of lean years later, Bruce Boudreau led the Caps on a near-miraculous run to the playoffs and the team continued on its upwards trajectory through its Presidents' Trophy-winning 2009-10 season.
And then... Montreal, over-correction, identity crisis, Dale Hunter, Joel Ward, Joel Ward, Adam Oates, lockout, and here we are today, wondering if the best is yet to come or if it's passed the Caps by.
Anyway, the millennium so far has been a roller-coaster, but marked by some of the highest individual highs the franchise has ever seen. So let's dive in and take a look at the top-five individual seasons, by total point shares:
What, you were expecting maybe Viktor Kozlov?
That list represents three Lindsay awards (i.e. the players' MVP), two Harts, and two Norris finalists; no big surprise to see these seasons make up the top-five, and that 65-goal Ovechkin season represented the highest single-season OPS since 1995-96 and the 14th-highest total PS of all-time.
Just beyond these five were Ovechkin's rookie year, Nicklas Backstrom's and Alexander Semin's 2009-10, Sergei Gonchar's 2002-03 and Ovechkin's 2010-11 rounding out the top-ten. It doesn't get much more special than 2009-10... at least for the first 82 (or 86) games of the season.
That's seven goals on 279 shots, or a cool 2.5%. Granted, most of these guys weren't counted on for offense, but the one who more or less was is at the very bottom of the list. Matt Pettinger was coming off having scored 36 goals in 135 games over the previous two seasons, but potted just two for the 2007-08 squad before being shipped out to Vancouver (where he'd score four goals in 20 games) for Matt Cooke at the trade deadline.
With the individual seasons behind us, take a guess at the millennium's cumulative top-five.
Go ahead, we'll wait.
Great. Here's the answer:
How good has Ovechkin been so far over his seven-year career? Through as many seasons, only two players in history have had a higher point-share total: Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr (and Ovi bests Orr - and Mario Lemieux, for that matter - in OPS). As relatively disappointing as his last two seasons have been, the fact that Ovechkin's eighth season is being played in a second-tier league is an absolute travesty.
The rest of the top-10 finds Peter Bondra, the man for whom he was traded (Brooks Laich), Jagr, Dainius Zubrus and... Jeff Schultz? Yep, there's been a lot of turnover, and if you've managed to stick around since the outset of the Bruce Boudreau era, you've ended up with some fine numbers (John Carlson is already 13th on the list, for example).
The list of the least-productive Caps of the decade suffers from small sample sizes and the same anti-pugilist bias we talked about yesterday, so click through to check it out if you're interested (though you may just want to skip it, Mr. Battaglia).
Thus concludes our look at individual Caps' point shares through the decades, but we'll squeeze one more post out of this lemon and wrap it all up on Monday.