Sunday, July 27, 2014

Washington Capitals: All-Franchise Teams by the Alphabet -- Team D

Having made our way through the letter “C” in the Washington Capitals’ All-Alphabet Franchise Teams, we are confronted for the first time with a unique problem.   Let’s hope we have a unique solution…

In 38 seasons of hockey, the Washington Capitals have had only nine players whose last names started with the letter “D.”  One of the nine played for the Caps this past season.  We will start with him.

Center: Nicolas Deschamps

Regular Season (with Capitals): 1 seasons, 3 games, 0-0-0, minus-1
Playoffs (with Capitals): none

Yes, seriously.  This is it.  One center in 38 years, and he played three games for the Capitals.  And, as a player with a small footprint in the NHL, he has a pretty small footprint in his professional development as well.  It started in the 2008 entry draft.  Deschamps was taken by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round with the 35th overall pick with what was a compensatory selection.  The pick belonged to the Phoenix Coyotes, who were awarded this pick when they failed to sign 2004 first round pick Blake Wheeler.   The Coyotes traded this pick and their own second round pick (39th overall) To Anaheim for the Ducks’ first round pick.  The Coyotes selected Viktor Tikhonov, Anaheim took Deschamps and Eric O’Dell.

Deschamps was traded to Toronto for winger Luca Caputi in January 2012, without having jumped to big club in Anaheim (he played a season and a half with the Syracuse Crunch).  He never cracked the Maple Leafs’ lineup, either, logging a season and a half with the AHL Toronto Marlies.

In March 2013 he was dealt by Toronto to Washington for Kevin Marshall, whereupon he landed in Hershey with the AHL Bears.  He finally made it to the NHL, called up by the Caps on February 26, 2014.  He made his NHL debut the following night against the Florida Panthers, getting 7:38 of ice time in a 5-4 Capitals win.

A week later, it was over.  After three games with the Caps, Deschamps was reassigned to the Bears on March 4th.  He would see no further action with the Caps.  Washington declined to offer him a qualifying contract, making him a free agent on July 1st.  On July 23rd he signed a contract with Oulun Kärpät in Finland’s top league, Liiga.

But hey, three games is three games, and when you are the only center who qualifies, you get a sweater on Team D.

Left Wing: Gaetan Duchesne

Regular Season (with Capitals): 6 seasons, 451 games, 87-138-225, plus-68
Playoffs (with Capitals): 5 seasons, 33 games, 10-6-16, plus-7

From 1982 to 1987, Gaetan Duchesne was one of the hardest working players on a team known for its ethic of hard work.  It was typical of an eighth-round (152nd overall) draft pick in the 1981 draft out of the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.  Although he had a big year in the season preceding his draft (27 goals in 72 games for Quebec), being a prolific scorer would not be part of his body of work as a professional.

He did not even merit being part of a “line.”  The Caps of the period had the “Plumbers Line” of Alan Haworth, Craig Laughlin, and Greg Adams.  But Duchesne, Bob Gould, and Doug Jarvis made for an effective group of checking forwards, part of an overall scheme that made playing the Caps difficult.  In each of his last five seasons with the Capitals Duchesne received votes for the Selke Trophy for outstanding defensive forward.

This is not to say Duchesne was without ability to contribute offensively.  In six full seasons with the Caps he was a very consistent player in this regard.  In his rookie season he recorded 23 points in 74 games, but then rolled off four consecutive seasons in which he put up between 36 and 39 points.  In his sixth season he posted a career high in points (52), assists (35), and plus-minus (plus-18).

That sixth season would be Duchesne’s last in Washington.  In June 1987 he, along with Alan Haworth and the Caps’ first round pick in the 1987 entry draft, were traded to Quebec for goalie Clint Malarchuk and center Dale Hunter.  That first round draft pick became Joe Sakic, as any Caps fan remembers.  It is Sakic and Hunter that folks remember most about that trade, not that the Caps parted with a defensive forward at the top of his game.

Duchesne went on to play another eight seasons with the Nordiques, the Minnesota North Stars, the San Jose Sharks, and the Florida Panthers.  He retired at the end of the 1994-1995 season.  On April 16, 2007, Duchesne passed away after suffering a heart attack while working out.   His son, Jeremy, was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005 (112th overall).  He played in one NHL game, getting 17 minutes of work in goal for the Flyers against the New York Islanders in April 2010.  Gaetan was later remembered by the Caps and then head coach Bruce Boudreau when Boudreau created a tournament during the team’s 2008 training camp.  Three teams competed for the training camp title, the prize being the Gaetan Duchesne Cup.

When Caps fans remember those teams of the 1980’s and their relentless, hard-working approach to the game, it is Gaetan Duchesne they might have in mind as just that sort of player.

Right Wing: John Druce

Regular Season (with Capitals): 4 seasons, 240 games, 57-64-121, plus-22
Playoffs (with Capitals): 4 seasons, 34 games, 16-4-20, minus-7

John Druce played in 274 regular season and playoff games with the Caps, but it is a 15-game run in the 1990 post season for which he is best remembered.  A second-round pick in the 1985 entry draft by the Caps, to that point in his career Druce had a rather non-descript record: 93 games over two seasons, 16 goals, and 26 points, plus one playoff game in which he did not record a point.

Then came April 5, 1990 – Game 1 of the Patrick Division semi-finals against the New Jersey Devils.  Druce scored a goal in a 5-4 Caps win.  He would score three goals in the six-game series that eliminated the Devils, but that was just a hint of what was to come. 

Druce scored a goal in Game 1 of the Patrick Division final against the New York Rangers, a footnote in a 7-3 Capitals loss.  In Game 2, though, Druce recorded his first NHL hat trick in a 6-3 Caps win.  It started a string of three multi-goal games for Druce, who scored a pair in Game 3 (a 7-1 Caps win) and Game 4 (a 4-3 Caps win).  Druce did not record a multi-goal game in Game 5 of the series against the Rangers, but one was enough.  It came 6:48 into overtime to give the Caps a 2-1 win and the series by a 4-1 margin, their first Patrick Division championship.

Druce scored nine goals on 20 shots in five games against the Rangers.  He was not as productive in the next series, scoring twice in four games against the Boston Bruins, and the Caps lost in a sweep.  In all, Druce had an amazing 1990 post-season: 14 goals on 44 shots (a 31.8 percent shooting percentage), eight of those goals coming on the power play.

Druce could not reproduce that level of performance in either of the next two seasons, although he was a productive player with 41 goals and 95 points in 147 regular season games.  In the post-season, though, the magic was gone.  Over the 1990-1991 and 1991-1992 playoffs Druce managed only two goals in 18 games.  Just before the 1992-1993 season Druce was traded with a fourth round pick in the 1993 draft to Winnipeg for forward Pat Elynuik.

Druce spent one season in Winnipeg before signing on as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings where he spent three seasons.  He wrapped up his career with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997-1998.  After leaving the Caps, Druce would participate in four post-season Stanley Cup tournaments, scoring just one goal in 19 games.  But that 1990 post-season of “Druce on the Loose” remains one of the vivid memories in franchise history and is the reason John Druce is the right wing on Team D.

Defense: Jason Doig

Regular Season (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 120 games, 5-14-19, minus-15
Playoffs (with Capitals): 1 season, 6 games, 0-1-1, plus-1

Jason Doig played only two seasons with the Washington Capitals.  It seems as if he played longer, but maybe that’s because he packed some moments into those two seasons.  Getting to Washington in first place took a while.  Taken in the second round (34th overall) by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1995 draft, spent three seasons playing infrequently (28 games) with the Jets/Phoenix Coyotes before he was traded to the New York Rangers in March 1999 with a sixth round draft pick in 1999 for defenseman Stan Neckar.

Doig did not get any more work with the Rangers than he had in Winnipeg or Phoenix, dressing for only 10 games over two seasons before he was traded to Ottawa with Jeff Ulmer for another defenseman, Sean Gagnon.  Doig didn’t get any work with the Senators.  He spent the 2001-2002 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL, after which he signed as a free agent with the Capitals.

Doig had more regular work with the Capitals, dressing for 55 games in the 2002-2003 regular season and finishing 3-5-8, minus-3 while averaging 14 minutes a game.  It would be his post-season that was memorable, though, and not in a good way.  The Capitals won Games 1 and 2 in their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The Bolts came back to win three straight and looked to close out the series in Washington on Easter Sunday.  The teams fought to a 1-1 tie in regulation, then extended the game through two scoreless overtimes.  Early in the third overtime, the Caps tried to execute a line change, and Doig stepped on.  He did so a bit too soon and found the puck on his stick in the offensive zone before the Caps could get the sixth skater off.  Washington was whistled for too many men on the ice, giving the Lightning a power play.  Just 18 seconds later, Martin St. Louis circled from behind the net and roofed a backhand past goalie Olaf Kolzig, and the Caps were eliminated.

In 2003-2004 Doig played in 65 games, his career high.  One of them would stand out.  On January 28th the Caps visited the Rangers in New York.  Washington took a 2-0 lead early in the second period.  With the Rangers looking to apply some offensive pressure, Eric Lindros tried to generate some momentum with a rush down the left side.   He dropped his shoulder and sped past Mike Grier, but in doing so left his head down.  He did not see Doig stepping up on him.  Doig dropped Lindros in front of the players’ bench. 

Lindros went off, but he was able to jump back on for his next shift, going after Doig after a faceoff.  After a brief wrestling match Lindros went off again, having suffered what would be diagnosed as a concussion, by one count the eighth of his career.  It was his last game of the 2003-2004 season. 

Doig wrapped up the 2003-2004 season having survived the Caps selloff of players, suiting up for 65 games.  It would be his last season with the Caps, though.  Doig signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks in October 2005, but he did not appear in the NHL again after leaving Washington. 

One of the odd quirks of the all-alphabet team is that Jason Doig is the only defenseman in team history whose last name begins with the letter “D.”  It might not be the best way to make a team, but made it he did.

Defense: Doug Mohns

Regular Season (with Capitals): 1 seasons, 75 games, 2-19-21, minus-52
Playoffs (with Capitals): none

Doug Mohns played 21 seasons for four NHL teams – Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota North Stars, and Atlanta Flames.  In June 1974, at the age of 40 and having just wrapped up his 21st season in the NHL, the Flames traded Mohns to the Capitals for cash.  Having come to the NHL as a defenseman, he was moved to left wing as part of the “Scooter Line” in Chicago with Stan Mikita and Ken Wharram.  By the time he arrived in Washington he was back on defense.

Defense was not a strength of that inaugural edition of the Caps, though.  Of all the players on that team who appeared in at least half of the games, not one had a plus-minus better than minus-25 (Steve Atkinson was minus-26 in 46 games).  Mohns played in 75 games that season, finishing with a minus-52.  He also finished 2-19-21, his 21 points finishing second among defensemen in scoring (Yvon Labre: 27 points).

It was not the easiest way for a long career to come to an end, but that was Mohns’ last season in the NHL.  He did it as the Capitals’ first captain in team history, a bit like E.J. Smith being the first captain of the Titanic.  Mohns passed away this past February.  His toiling hard with little reward, and his being the first captain in team history, not to mention "D stands for 'Doug,'" gets Doug Mohns a spot on Team D.

Goalie: Byron Dafoe

Regular Season (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 10 games, 3-3-1, 3.44, .867
Playoffs (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 3 games, 0-2, 2.61, .857

Washington Capitals fans of recent vintage might remember that in 2006 the club selected a goaltender in the first round (Semyon Varlamov, 23rd overall) and another goalie in the second round (Michal Neuvirth, 34th overall).  It was not the first time the club pursued that strategy.  In 1989 the Caps selected Olaf Kolzig with the 19th overall pick in the first round, then they took Byron Dafoe of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League with the 35th overall pick in the second round.  Dafoe’s journey to the NHL involved the usual progression – another two seasons in Canadian juniors, a short stint in the ECHL (Hampton Roads Admirals), and half a season in the AHL (split between the Baltimore Skipjacks and the New Haven Nighthawks).

In 1992-1993 Dafoe finally made it to the NHL.  OK, it was 1:25 of one game, a 7-4 loss to the New York Rangers on Veterans Day 1992 which he did not face a shot.  Dafoe found it just as hard to crack the Capitals lineup the following season.  Don Beaupre and Rick Tabaracci were splitting time, while Dafoe (five games) and Kolzig (seven games) were getting infrequent looks.  What he did get in that 1993-1994 season, however, was a couple of playoff starts.  In the opening round of the 1994 playoffs Dafoe got the call in Games 2 and 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  In Game 2 Dafoe allowed only a power play goal and another goal with Mario Lemieux standing in the crease in what would be a 2-1 Penguins win.  In Game 5, with the Caps holding a 3-1 lead in games and looking to close out the Penguins, Dafoe got the nod once more.  He allowed three goals on 22 shots, including the game-winner in the third period by Jaromir Jagr, in a 3-2 loss.  The Caps closed out the Penguins in Game 6 with Don Beaupre in goal.

Dafoe made only four appearances in the 1994-1995 season for the Caps.  That season, one abbreviated to 48 games, featured quite a collection of goaltenders for the Caps.  Jim Carey, Rick Tabaracci, Olaf Kolzig, and Dafoe all appeared for the Caps.  In the playoffs Dafoe appeared only once, part of a rare instance of three goalies appearing for one team in a single game.  Jim Carey started Game 6 in the opening round series against Pittsburgh and was mauled for six goals on 13 shots in 34 minutes of work.  Olaf Kolzig came into the game in relief but injured his knee in what would be his last game of the season.  Dafoe came in to close out the last 20 minutes in a 7-1 loss to the Penguins. 

After that season Dafoe was traded to the Los Angeles Kings with Dmitri Khristich for a first and a fourth round pick in the 1996 entry draft.  That did not work out so well for the Caps, as it turned out.  With that first round pick the Caps selected Alexandre Volchkov.  Dafoe went on to win 168 NHL games with the Kings, Boston Bruins, and Atlanta Thrashers after leaving Washington.  And no Byron Dafoe review is complete without his Dancing With The Stars moment…

Byron Dafoe might not have had a long history with the Caps, but it was enough (not to mention he’s the only goalie who qualifies) to get him a spot on Team D.

Team D… short on experience in places, but long on heart in others.