We typically spend as much time (if not more) finding fault with our current lineup as we do outlining the positives. And why not? It's in our nature as fans to complain.
We kvetch, therefore we are.
Yet sometimes it's important to step back and take stock of just exactly what's been built here, just how talented this lineup is and where they started. That's not to say there isn't plenty that can be improved - quite the contrary, as we saw last season. But while the current squad is but a few small tweaks away from being a true contender, it wasn't so long ago that this team was made up of prospects, castoffs and Alex Ovechkin.
Remember when Dainius Zubrus was the top-line center? Remember when Bryan Muir was getting 20+ minutes a night on the blue line? Remember when Kris Beech was...er, remember Kris Beech?
For some of you, this will be a nice (or painful) walk down memory lane; for others, an introduction to one of the more interesting, if less than talented, rosters in Caps' history - a look back at the 2005-06 , as we answer the question: Where are they now?
Picked up on waivers by Washington in October of 2003, Willsie played 131 games in a Capitals uniform (and another 53 with the Caps' AHL affiliate Portland Pirates during the lockout), picking up 29 goals and 29 assists in his two seasons here. But he's probably best remembered in DC for being Alex Ovechkin's first roommate, selected to help him learn English. No word on whether he was the culprit behind "sick".
Today he's...back! Sort of. Willsie was part of a veritable free agent splurge by General Manager George McPhee, signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Caps on July 14, 2010. Get your 'Willsie' Hershey jerseys now, folks.
Clymer came to the Caps fresh off a Stanley Cup run with the Tampa Bay Lightning, signing a one-year deal with Washington right after the lockout. He would go on to play three seasons in the Capitals organization, making up a third of the popular but shortlived "CBS" line with Brian Sutherby and Matt Bradley - and getting a brief and ill-fated look as a defenseman - before finishing his tenure here as a member of the Hershey Bears. The remainder of his contract was bought out during the 2007-08 season.
Today he's...a proud member of the Ingolstadt Panthers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (Germany), where the 32-year-old plays alongside fellow Caps alum Joe Motzko. Before that he spent a year with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL and was even selected to play in the KHL's outdoor All-Star Game. As a defenseman. Okay...sure, why not.
You always want your prospects to pan out, and Brian Sutherby was a prospect for whom the Caps had high hopes. A first-rounder drafted in 2000, Sutherby appeared in (and earned MVP honors for) the 2003 YoungStars Game but spent a few years bouncing between the AHL and NHL before finally earning a permanent roster spot with the big club coming out of the lockout. He put up 14 goals in his first full season but gradually saw his production - and his ice time - dwindle, suffered frequent injuries and was traded in 2007 for the pick that would eventually go back out for Cristobal Huet.
Today he's...playing for the Dallas Stars, where he was traded in 2008. Sutherby signed a two-year contract extension last summer and scored 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in an injury-shortened 46 games during the 2009-10 season.
Muir was one of McPhee's rescued mutts from European hockey purgatory, brought over after the lockout to provide a veteran presence (at a bargain price). He won a Cup with the Avalanche in 2001 but his career year came in that first season in DC; the following year, however, injuries shortened his season to just 26 games and he was let go after only two seasons with the Caps.
Today he's...fallen off the hockey grid completely. After leaving the Caps in 2008 he played a season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, then split the following year between Dynamo Minsk and the Frankfurt Lions of the DEL. His two-year tenure with the Caps seemed to mark his final days in the NHL, though - unless Philadelphia is looking for yet another defenseman...
By the 2005-06 season, Zubrus was one of the longer tenured Caps, having come to the team in a 2000 trade that brought him and Trevor Linden to DC from Montreal in exchange for Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis. The '05-'06 and '06-'07 seasons would prove to be his two best years - helped, no doubt, by plenty of playing time alongside a certain Russian winger. His six-year tenure with the Caps would end in 2007, when he was shuffled off to Buffalo for Jiri Novotny.
Today he's...about to start the fourth year of a six-year deal with the New Jersey Devils, barring any Kovalchuk-related trades. Since arriving in NJ, Zubrus has put up fairly consistent numbers (13-25-38 in 2007-08, 15-25-40 in 2008-09, 10-17-27 in 2009-10), but nothing close to his Capitals' heyday. He also tied a team record two seasons ago for the most goals in a game when he picked up four against the Lightning - two of which came against former teammate Olie Kolzig.
Like Brian Sutherby, Matt Pettinger was a homegrown prospect who was projected to be the next 20-30 goal scorer for the Caps. And he lived up to the hype for awhile, posting career highs in goals, assists and points right after the lockout. The next season saw his numbers drop a little but it was the 2008-09 season where injuries and lack of production caused his ice time under new head coach Bruce Boudreau to plummet. He was dealt at that season's trade deadline to Vancouver for Matt Cooke.
Today he's...floating in the UFA pool once again after a second go-round with the Vancouver organization that started as a professional tryout with their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
Jamie Heward proved to be a valuable addition for the Caps at the time of his signing, a veteran journeyman defender who could help mentor the young pups on the blue line while providing a calming presence. He played just 123 games as a Cap before being traded to LA in the 2006-07 season, but his fairly consistent play - and hard-luck injuries [warning: don't watch if easily grossed out] - earned him a loyal following.
Today he's...sidelined indefinitely from a concussion sustained when former teammate Alex Ovechkin hit him back in January 2009. While both maintained the hit was accidental, they did clear the air a few months later after Heward was traded to Toronto - but a return to the ice seems in doubt. Best wishes to Hewie.
A hometown hero from the start, Jeff Halpern took the long way to the NHL but eventually made his dream come true when he suited up for his childhood team for the 1999-2000 season. In 438 games as a Cap, Halpern scored 87 goals and 127 assists - but he's best remembered for his role on one of the great checking lines in Caps' history, for wearing the 'C' as the franchise's 12th captain, and for scoring one of the more memorable OT goals against the team everyone loves to hate.
Today he's...back on the free agent market after a trio of warm weather stints with Los Angeles, Tampa and Dallas. Halpern made the tough decision to leave the Caps in the summer of 2006 and played parts of two seasons with the Dallas Stars before being traded twice, first to the Lightning and then to the Kings.
It’s probably safe to say that Steve Eminger never really got a fair shot with the Caps. Drafted 12th overall in 2002, Eminger was somewhat rushed into NHL duty and then proceeded to ride a roller coaster of injuries and healthy scratches. It was only because of injuries to his teammates that he even saw ice time in the 2008 playoffs, where he performed well against the Flyers – so well that Philadelphia traded their first round pick to the Caps for him that very summer. Which became John Carlson. So…thanks for that, Steve.
Today he's...recovering from a recent trade that sent him away from the sunny beaches of Anaheim to the mean streets of Manhattan, where he'll suit up as a member of the New York Rangers.
It was a contentious beginning for Brendan Witt and the team that drafted him, but Witt would eventually become a leader on the team and a fixture on the Washington blueline. His gritty style earned him a lot of fans, and he played parts of ten seasons with the organization before requesting a trade to a "contender" during the 2005-06 season. The Caps traded him to Nashville. Ha ha.
Today he’s…been bought out by the New York Islanders after clearing unconditional waivers. It is still unknown whether his quest to block shots and battle killer SUVs will continue for another season or whether Witt will hang 'em up for good.
A salary cap squeeze in New Jersey (...whaaa?) brought Friesen to Washington in September of 2005 in exchange for the 2006 draft pick that became defenseman and household name Kirill Tulupov. His time in DC was shortlived, barely giving him enough time to tick off the locals with his jersey selection before being shipped off to Anaheim in March - just 33 games as a Cap under his belt.
Today he's...starring with the Eisbaren (Polar Bears) Berlin of the DEL, where he tallied 15 goals, 45 points and a whopping 130 penalty minutes in just 53 games. One of his teammates? Former Caps 3rd round draft pick (and German native) Stefan Ustorf.
Cassels was a well-known journeyman center who had played in Montreal, Hartford, Calgary, Vancouver, and Columbus before signing with the Caps as a free agent in August of 2005. Injuries and family issues greatly diminished his effectiveness, and both player and team agreed to make a clean break of things just over five months later.
Today he's...retired, hanging up the skates for good after his time in DC and capping off a career that spanned 6 teams, 16 seasons, 732 points and 1015 games played.
Ah, Kris Beech...also known as "the draft pick that just won't go away". Beech was originally taken seventh overall by the Caps in the 1999 draft but was shipped off to Pittsburgh as part of the infamous trade for Jaromir Jagr in July 2001 and appeared to be gone for good. But just under five years later he was back with the Caps, coming from Nashville in exchange for Brendan Witt. He would go on to play 69 games for the Caps (and help lead the Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup Championship) over the course of two seasons.
Today he's...resurfaced in the Swedish Elite League, where he's entering his third year with HV71. His journey to Sweden was preceded by a fair bit of travel, however, as Beech saw his rights bounce around via the waiver wire in January 2008 - from Columbus to Vancouver, Vancouver to Washington, and Washington back to Pittsburgh. No wonder he fled the country...
A poor showing in training camp by goalie prospect Maxime Ouellet led the Caps to pick Johnson off the waiver wire as a backup for Olie Kolzig at the start of the 2005-06 season. Johnson would go on to play four seasons in that role, first behind Kolzig and then behind Cristobal Huet and Jose Theodore. The emergence of Semyon Varlamov at the end of the 2008-09 season resulted in the end of Johnson's tenure with the Caps.
Today he's...backing up Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh, where he signed in the summer of 2009 and re-upped for another two years this past April. And, we hope, working to bring down the organization from the inside.
You may also remember...
Mathieu Biron - Also known as "Martin Biron's brother", Mathieu stayed in Washington long enough to appear in 52 games with the Caps before moving on to San Jose's AHL affiliate in Worcester and Montreal's affiliate in Hamilton. Today he's...playing for the Hamburg Freezers in Germany.
Jakub Klepis - Acquired in 2004 from Buffalo in exchange for Mike Grier, Klepis spent the better part of three years bouncing between the AHL and NHL, spending time with the Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears between stints with the big club. Today he's...skating alongside our old pal Jaromir Jagr with the KHL's Avangard Omsk.
Nolan Yonkman - Another player with a well-worn AHL-to-NHL passport, Yonkman was drafted by the Caps in 1999 and spent five years in and around the organization before becoming a free agent in 2006. Today he's...the newest member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Ivan Majesky - Journeyman defenseman whose one season in DC is best known for "The Goal". No, not that one -this one. Today he’s…playing for Skellefteå of the Swedish Elite League. (h/t Ice Warrior for the redirect)