A look at the best and worst the Capitals had to offer in the 1970s
[What follows is the first in a series taking a look at individual Caps, decade-by-decade, using Hockey Reference's Point Shares metric, an imperfect statistical measure, to be sure, but one that's plenty good enough to get the requisite conversation going.]
There's really no way to sugarcoat it - the 1974-75 Washington Capitals were not just an abysmal hockey team, they were a historically bad sports team (and one to which losing was a special kind of embarrassing). They weren't much better the next season, either. In fact, they'd make it out of the '70s with a record of 93-281-63 and it would still be a few years before they even sniffed a winning record (or even a .500 points percentage) over a full season.
There were some notable individual Caps performances during The Me Decade, of course, and surprisingly, not all of it was awful.
But most of it was.
So who were the most (and least) productive Caps of the 1970s? Which seasons - good and bad - stood out among the rest? That's what we're going to look at here (skaters only, and we're going to include the full 1979-80 season). First up, the top-five individual seasons, by total point shares:
For those of you unfamiliar with Picard (who also posted the 6th- and 12th-best seasons of the decade), he was the Caps' first pick in the 1977 draft (third overall), and was traded to Toronto in a deal for goalie Mike Palmateer after his third season in Washington. He'd go on to play 899 NHL games and make two All-Star teams.
And then there were the bottom-five individual seasons (hide the kids):
For Lynch, that's a minus-54 rating in just 20 games, which prorates to a mind-boggling minus-216 over a full season, making Mikkelson look downright Norris-worthy in his historic worst-single-season-plus-minus campaign. (Of course, I'm sure Lynch just had bad puck luck and his presumably low PDO would've regressed with more games played.)
The name that stands out on this list, though, is Joly, whom the Caps took first overall with their first pick ever in 1974. He'd play two seasons in D.C. before being traded to Detroit for Bugsy Watson, and only played 370 total NHL games. Needless to say, there were better picks made that year.
Those are the best and worst of the individual seasons, but how about for the (half) decade, overall? Here's the top-five:
Of note, if we were to look at a per-game rate with a 100 games played minimum, Maruk and Ryan Walter both would have made the list. Also, the Caps' first retired jersey makes the list here, as Number Seven stands out primarily for his service - no Cap played more games in the '70s than Yvon Labre.
Lastly, let's look at the worst Caps of the decade:
Not surprisingly, when you're this bad, you don't usually get much more of a chance to prove otherwise, which is why a couple of the lines from the earlier list of worst individual seasons re-appear here (but good on Jack Lynch for turning around his minus-54 in 20 games by posting only a minus-52 in 79 games in 1975-76). And while Mike Marson was a great story (seriously, go read that), his point-shares-per-game was the worst among any Cap skater with 100 games played in the decade.
And so we're through the '70s, memories and minuses aplenty. Trust me, it gets better from here.