The Capitals Through the Decades

A look at the best and worst the Capitals have had to offer over the years

[For background on this series, check out our posts covering the 1970s, '80s, '90s and 2000s.]

Is Alex Ovechkin the greatest player in Washington Capitals franchise history?

It's both an easy and a difficult question to answer. He's certainly the most dominant player that's ever donned a Caps sweater, but is his full body of work, to date, enough to earn such a lofty accolade? Has he done more for the organization than anyone who came before him? Perhaps.

More on that in a bit, but as you know, we've been going decade-by-decade and looking at individual players' point shares, a metric that endeavors "to estimate the number of wins (actually, win shares) 'created' by each player." We've looked at single-season and decade-long contributions, and we're going to pull it all together here to add both context and perspective. Whose seasons have shone brightest? Whose service has meant the most to the team, on-ice? Answers (and inevitably more questions) abound.

First up, a look at the top ten individual seasons, by total point shares:

Player Season Pos GP G A Pts +/- SOG OPS DPS PS
Alex Ovechkin 2007-08 LW 82 65 47 112 28 446 14.1 3.1 17.2
Alex Ovechkin 2009-10 LW 72 50 59 109 45 368 13.0 2.5 15.6
Alex Ovechkin 2008-09 LW 79 56 54 110 8 528 12.5 2.0 14.5
Mike Green 2008-09 D 68 31 42 74 24 243 9.0 4.9 13.9
Mike Green 2009-10 D 75 19 57 76 39 205 8.2 4.8 13.0
Alex Ovechkin 2005-06 LW 81 52 54 106 2 425 11.0 1.6 12.7
Nicklas Backstrom 2009-10 C 82 33 68 101 37 222 10.0 2.2 12.2
Peter Bondra 1997-98 RW 76 52 26 78 14 284 10.5 1.6 12.1
Larry Murphy 1986-87 D 80 23 58 81 25 226 6.1 5.7 11.9
Alexander Semin 2009-10 LW/RW 73 40 44 84 36 278 9.7 2.1 11.7

That top five, of course, is the same top five since 2000 - the top five individual seasons in team history have occurred over the past five seasons (and the top seven since the last lockout). And the top ten is another reminder of not only how special the 2009-10 season was, but how heavily the Caps leaned on the "Young Guns" - the quartet combined for 142 goals and 370 points (on 318 Caps tallies); two seasons later, those numbers dropped to 76 and 170 (on 222 goals). In fact, the only other time in franchise history that the team had four players with double-digit point shares was... well, never. In 2008-09 they had three (Ovechkin, Green, Semin), and three other times they had a pair (2007-08: Ovechkin, Green; 2000-01: Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar; 1992-93: Kevin Hatcher, Al Iafrate). Perhaps that reliance ultimately contributed to the squad's untimely demise.

Incidentally, four of the next nine individual seasons belong to Gonchar, who might be the most under-appreciated rearguard the team has had... if not for Murphy.

And now the big question - whose career body of work has contributed the most to Capitals victories? The answer probably won't surprise you:

Player Pos GP G A Pts +/- SOG OPS DPS PS
Peter Bondra LW/RW 961 472 353 825 74 3290 78.5 19.1 97.6
Alex Ovechkin LW 553 339 340 679 80 2829 75.8 14.5 90.3
Calle Johansson D 983 113 361 474 47 1768 30.1 55.7 85.9
Sergei Gonchar D 654 144 272 416 51 1609 41.9 38.4 80.3
Mike Gartner RW 758 397 392 789 60 2841 55.1 12.7 67.8
Kevin Hatcher D 685 149 277 426 -10 1863 29.4 37.3 66.7
Scott Stevens D 601 98 331 429 88 1301 25.8 40.1 65.9
Alexander Semin LW/RW 469 197 211 408 65 1400 42.9 10.4 53.2
Sylvain Cote D 622 75 195 270 60 1306 16.9 35.1 52.1
Larry Murphy D 453 85 259 344 57 1027 21.6 30.2 51.8

Rounding out the top 20 are Rod Langway, Green, Mike Ridley, Michal Pivonka, Backstrom, Bengt Gustafsson, Dale Hunter, Denis Maruk, Adam Oates and Dave Christrian. If we look at per-game point shares (with a minimum of, say, 150 games played), the top 10 is Ovechkin, Gonchar, Jaromir Jagr, Green, Murphy, Semin, Backstrom, Stevens, Iafrate, Bondra. Obviously point shares reward longevity, which makes sense as it is, after all, a counting stat and the longer a player is around, the more opportunity he has to contribue to wins. So do you generally buy this list of which skaters have contributed to Caps wins over the years? Who's too high/low?

Oh, and if you're wondering, Olie Kolzig is credited with 121.0 goalie point shares, which essentially means he's been responsible for more wins than anyone else in franchise history (to the extent that any individual can be responsible for victories in this most team-oriented of sports); I don't think anyone would disagree with that assertion.

Lastly, circling back to the question at the top of this post, in 2011-12, Alex Ovechkin had his worst season as an NHLer in terms of point shares, with just ("just") 8.8. With another season like that, he'd be comfortably atop this leaderboard. Of course, there are no indications that he'll get that opportunity any time soon. Metrics aside, how much more does Ovechkin need to do to be the greatest individual player in club history? Is he already there? Let's hope this lockout ends soon so we can add some new data and continue the debate.

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