Monday, December 29, 2008

Ten Stories from 2008 -- Number 3

Number 3. Capitals Depot

The Capitals had a reputation for a long while as one of those clubs that would out-work you to death. Defense, checking, grit. That was the philosophy of the team. It even showed up in the nicknames applied to the team. If you go back through time in NHL history you will find a lot of top lines with nicknames – The French Connection, The GAG (Goal-a-Game) Line, The Production Line – and not because they kept goals out of their own nets. Meanwhile, in Washington, you had The Plumbers Line, a trio of checkers (Craig Laughlin, Gaetan Duschesne, and Greg Adams) that could chip in a goal here and there. The only individual who had a lasting label attached to him for his play in Capitals history was Rod Langway – The Secretary of Defense.

And in case you haven't noticed, most of the NHL hardware that gets handed out to individuals is done so on the basis of offense. The Ross Trophy is for top scorer. The Richard is for top goal scorer. The Hart is biased toward players with prolific scoring numbers. Even the Norris and Selke, while awarded to defensive players in name, often go to players who put up good to great offensive numbers.

Hence, you won’t find a lot of Capitals having won NHL hardware over the years. In 30-plus seasons, the list (quantity-wise) is not impressive:

Hart Trophy (MVP): none
Pearson (top player): none
Ross Trophy (top scorer): none
Richard Trophy (top goal scorer): none
Selke Trophy (top defensive forward): Doug Jarvis (1984)
Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Rod Langway (1983, 1984)
Lady Byng (gentlemanly play): none
Vezina (top goalie): Jim Carey (1996), Olaf Kolzig (2000)
Calder (top rookie): Alex Ovechkin (2006)
Masterton (perseverance to hockey): none
Adams Award (top coach): Bryan Murray (1984)

Teams without a reputation for success that don’t put up big numbers among their individuals don’t generally win a lot of league awards, and such has been the case for the Caps, although they are represented among those awards for defensive players (Selke, Vezina, Norris).

In 2008, with the abrupt change in philosophy that came with the coaching change in November 2007, the Caps had players who could put up points and a coach willing to put them in positions to do precisely that. A 28-12-3 finish in 2008 put the team in a position to have people recognized for their efforts. Bruce Boudreau was the man behind the bench for that run, made more memorable by his ability to coax the club to an 11-1-0 finish in the last dozen games in what resembled a single elimination tournament for the Caps. Alex Ovechkin finished the 2008 portion of the season 35-29-64, +23. Nicklas Backstrom emerged as a top rookie and contender for post season recognition by finishing the 2008 portion of the season 7-34-41, +19, in 43 games. Mike Green got some mention as a potential Norris Trophy winner on the heels of a fast finish – 10-28-38, +10 in 43 games.

When all was said and done, Capitals would take home five trophies, four of them by Ovechkin and one by Boudreau, but the team was represented well in the voting with a number of top ten finishes in the NHL awards…

Hart Trophy:

1. Alex Ovechkin (WAS): 1,313 votes
2. Evgeni Malkin (PIT): 659 votes

Norris Trophy:

1. Nicklas Lidstrom (DET): 1,313 votes
7. Mike Green (WAS): 84 votes

Vezina Trophy:

1. Martin Brodeur (NJD): 113 votes
8. Cristobal Huet (WAS): 4 votes

Calder Trophy:

1. Patrick Kane (CHI): 1,078 votes
2. Nicklas Backstrom (WAS): 872 votes

Lady Byng Trophy:

1. Pavel Datsyuk (DET): 984 votes
9. Alex Ovechkin (WAS): 115 votes

Jack Adams Award:

1. Bruce Boudreau (WAS): 208 votes
2. Guy Carbonneau (MTL): 196 votes

Add the Ross (scoring) and Richard (goal-scoring) among the NHL awards, and the Pearson an award of the NHL Players Association, and Capitals nailed down five major awards for the 2007-2008 season. It would not have been possible without the performances in the 2008 portion of the season, making the haul of hardware that would befit a display at Home Depot one of the top stories of 2008.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the "plumbers line" had Alan Haworth at center.