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Welcome Home, Mike Green

Mike Green makes his first trip back to his first NHL home

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Tonight marks the second homecoming of the season for a longtime Cap, following in the footsteps of Joel Ward's early October return with the Sharks. While Ward's homecoming in another team's jersey was certainly bittersweet, however, it likely doesn't hold a candle for many Caps fans to the return of one Mike Green.

Green's tenure with the organization that drafted him spanned over a decade, parts of ten seasons starting with his NHL debut against the Carolina Hurricanes on October 12, 2005. He left town over the summer having cemented his reputation as one of the best offensive defensemen ever to lace ‘em up in DC, and the franchise record books are peppered with his name:

Franchise Rank - All Players Franchise Rank - Defensemen
Regular Season
575 games 20th 8th
113 goals T-22nd
(Calle Johansson)
T-3rd
(Johansson)
247 assists 16th 6th
360 points 19th 5th
Postseason
71 games T-10th
(Nicklas Backstrom)
4th
9 goals T-23rd
(Scott Stevens, Dmitri Khristich,
Larry Murphy, Bengt-Ake Gustafsson)
T-5th
(Stevens, Murphy)
26 assists T-12th
(Peter Bondra)
4th
35 points T-14th
(Dino Ciccarelli)
4th

Green's impact on the organization goes back to the start of his professional career, when he joined a Hershey Bears squad chock full of the players who would eventually go on to make up the bulk of the team's young post-lockout core. Under the guidance of Bruce Boudreau, he and the rest of the Bears steamrolled their way to Hershey's ninth Calder Cup win in 2006, and it was Boudreau who helped unleash Green's potential as an offensively-gifted defenseman at the NHL level two years later when both were with the Caps.

It's easy to forget just how dominant Green was, particularly in the early part of his Caps career. Injury struggles and adjustments to new systems curtailed his production in recent seasons, and he wasn't the same player that he had been at his peak, but what he's accomplished so far in his career is pretty darn impressive.

As a Cap, Green became the first defenseman since Kevin Hatcher to hit the 30-goal mark (the only two Caps to do so), and one of just seven defensemen to ever accomplish that feat, adding his name to a list that includes such legends as Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey. He put up at least 70 points twice in his career (something only three other defensemen have done even once since his NHL debut), and was a two-time Norris finalist and a two-time All-Star.

He basically was Erik Karlsson - a two-time Norris winner - before Erik Karlsson, and before the advancements in statistical analysis that have changed how we look at defensemen and hockey in general. Green was part of the new breed of offensive blueliners that could skate and handle pucks as well as (if not better than) most forwards, and had his best years been a few years later, it's likely we'd be able to talk about at least one Norris Trophy win on his resume.

All of that is worth remembering, and celebrating... but beyond all that is the simple fact that he was a part of this team, and its identity, for so long. While Alex Ovechkin was and remains the face of the Capitals, Green was the embodiment of those first few years coming out of the 2004-05 lockout: high-flying, high-scoring and sometimes high risk, but always exciting. We watched Green grow up into the uber-talented defenseman that he is today, saw him pile up points and make history and struggle with injury and evolve as a player and a person. We got to see him become a part of the community and contribute so much to it. The good he did, on and off the ice, won't be forgotten anytime soon.

The good [Green] did, on and off the ice, won't be forgotten anytime soon

The parting between the Caps and Green over the summer was an inevitable one but undoubtedly a mutually beneficial one, as well. For Green, it was a chance to take on a bigger role away from a lineup that no longer had a place for him, to get a fresh start; for the Caps, it opened up room to bring in the likes of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, to allow emerging players like Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt take their turn in an increasingly crowded blueline.

None of that, however, erases the legacy Green left behind, the impact he had on this franchise and the special relationship he has with the city of DC. He may take the ice in a Red Wings jersey tonight, but to us, he'll always be a Washington Capital.

Welcome back, Greenie.