Okay, last time we went a little more serious... this time around, let’s do a fun (and impossible?) one, as the Rink squad picks their faves.
Who are your top-five favorite players in Caps history?
J.P.: Yeesh. I could do a top-five favorites by position, by decade, by uniform… hell, I could probably do a top-five by letter (top-five A’s: Allison, Alzner, Adams, Aucoin, Angelstad). So I’m going to limit myself to inactive players because perspective, recency bias and, in reality, damn-near every member of the 2018 team would be near the top of the list for the pure joy they provided over the course of those two months. How do you even begin to compare a DSP to, say, Ulf Dahlen? Plus there are three if not four guys who would make the list, and what fun is that?
Right at the top of the list, then, would be Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra. Not the most original picks, but the way they played the game and the way they carried themselves on and off the ice made them easy to root for. Bengt Gustafsson was my first favorite Cap, so he makes the list. Calle Johansson too. And rounding out my top-five… gimme Dino Ciccarelli. Or Alan May.
Luke: I feel like the easy answer would be to pick some of the Cup-winning guys: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Holtby, Carlson. But I’m going to go with guys not on the team anymore, much like JP. My favorite for a while has been Alexander Semin. When that guy had the puck he was just electric. He had a lot to desire effort-wise but when he was on, he was a top-five player in the league. I’ll go with another young gun guy in Mike Green. One of the best modern offensive defenseman that didn’t get the proper praise he deserved. Hard to pass on Peter Bonda, another criminally underrated hockey player. The speedy Mike Gartner was always a fun watch, bringing that in your face speed game every team covets now. Lastly, I’ll throw in the Secretary of Defense Rod Langway, who might have single-handedly saved the franchise.
Becca: I’m not going to stick to the arbitrary rule these guys set of leaving current Caps off my list, because there’s no way I talk about my faves without mentioning the legend himself, Nicklas Backstrom. In my mind, there’s no one who has done or does what he can do on the ice when he’s healthy, and I don’t think I’ll ever love watching another player as much as I’ve loved watching him over the years.
Behind him, in no particular order, I’ll add Lars Eller (who I’ve adored since his time in Montreal) - the only other current Cap on my list, as much as I love most of these dudes - and of course my local boy, Jeff Halpern. My very first favorite player, and the player whose jersey was the first I ever owned, is Sylvain Cote, so he of course goes on the list. As for that fifth spot? It’s a tough one. Bondra, Kolzig, Holtby, Miller, Johansson, these are all players I could make an argument for filling out the group... at one time I might have even tossed Brooks Laich in there (but he’s become a bit of a wackadoodle so I don’t know that I can do so). Instead I think I’m going with Joe Juneau - not only did he give us one of the greatest moments in franchise history, 20 years before the franchise’s first Cup, but he’s also a smart dude who used to do great things to help Inuit children through hockey.
Peerless: Leaving current Caps off the list for now, Bengt Gustafsson tops my list (and would even if I included current Caps). He played the game the right way, was a talented (and very underrated) offensive player, an effective defender, as steady and consistent a player as could be. Olaf Kolzig would have to be on the list, a take-no-nonsense sort who paid his dues and was a better goalie than his career numbers suggest (having suffered behind some bad teams at the end of his career with the Caps). Kelly Miller would be on my list. OK, so I have a soft spot for Spartans, but he sacrificed his offensive game to a large degree to be one of the best defensive forwards in team history. Peter Bondra gets a spot. It wasn’t called an “office” in his time, but his one-timer from the right side on power plays was lethal. And Rod Langway gets the last spot, “The Secretary of Defense” and for good reason.
Alex: It’s harder for me to focus solely on guys who aren’t on the team anymore because I started closely following the team a little later than everybody else, so I’m going to do a combo. This is still a hard question though, so bear with me. I have to give Braden Holtby the top spot on the list, to the shock and awe of absolutely no one who knows me. I am of course a huge fan of everything he did on the ice, but his You Can Play and LGBTQ+ activism is what catapults him to the top of my list. Nicklas Backstrom is a very close second, he was my first favorite Cap and has been quietly good for so long (no one speak to me about his current status). I think Mike Green gets a spot for sure, he was always so much fun to watch and was criminally underrated. I really wish I could have watched Mike Gartner play hockey live, but even though I didn’t I still think he makes the list for me. To round out the top five, I think…Olaf Kolzig. I have a soft spot for goalies, what can I say?
Okay, we’ve had our say. Now it’s your turn! Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below. It’s harder than it looks!