Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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

We are up to Team E in our look at the All-Alphabet Franchise Teams for the Washington Capitals, in which we meet a couple of players we have already met.

Left Wing: Mike Eagles

Regular Season (with Capitals): 6 seasons, 266 games, 13-22-35, minus-17
Playoffs (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 25 games, 1-5-6, plus-3

With the abbreviated 1994-1995 season winding down, the Capitals were looking to solidify their grasp on a playoff sport. Part of that was enhancing their depth at forward, and they did just that on April 8th when they traded a third and a fifth round pick in the 1995 entry draft to Winnipeg for defenseman Igor Ulanov and forward Mike Eagles.

Ulanov would play in only three games for the Capitals before he was traded to Chicago the following October. Eagles, on the other hand, dressed for 18 regular season games at the end of that 1995 season and spent the next five full seasons in Washington. It was hardly a glamourous stay in the nation’s capital. Eagles was generally a fourth liner who was expected to play good defense (he received Selke Trophy votes as best defensive forward twice in four years in Winnipeg), chip in occasional offense, and be an “energy” player.

Offense would be an occasional contribution at best. Eagles had only two multi-point games in his six seasons with the Caps. However, Eagles did contribute an assist in Game 6 of the 1998 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Caps won in overtime to clinch that opening round series on their way to their only Stanley Cup final appearance in team history.

Eagles played two more seasons with the Caps following that Stanley Cup finals run, ending his career with the Caps after the 1999-2000 season. It capped a 16-year career in which Eagles appeared in 853 regular season and 44 playoff games – 266 of those regular season games and 25 of those playoff games with the Caps – not bad for a sixth round draft pick. Mike Eagles gets a sweater for Team E of the all-franchise alphabet teams.

Center: Rolf Edberg

Regular Season (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 184 games, 45-58-103, plus-7
Playoffs (with Capitals): none

Rolf Edberg came late to the NHL. The native of Stockholm, Sweden, played eight seasons with AIK Solna before signing as a free agent with the Capitals in June 1978, fast on the heels of his being named player of the year in Sweden the previous season.

Edberg’s “rookie” season (1978-1979 at age 28) was a solid one for a team that was still in the throes of its expansion team struggles. He finished 14-27-41, ninth in rookie scoring that season (teammate Ryan Walter, another rookie center, finished tied for fifth), finished with a plus-11 (by far best on the team), and he received votes (ok, one vote) for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward on a team that finished 12th of 21 teams in goals against.

Unfortunately for the Caps and Edberg, his games played diminished from the 76 he played in his rookie season to 63 in 1979-1980. He did manage to record 23 goals and 23 assists, seven of his goals being game winners for a club that won only 27 games. However, he finished minus-5, and with a change in coaches (Danny Belisle was relieved 16 games into the season in favor of Gary Green) appeared to fall out of favor. In 1980-1981, Edberg dressed for only 45 games, missing time because of demotions and injuries (back, broken jaw), and finished with just eight goals and eight assists.

The 1980-1981 season would be Edberg’s last in the NHL. His contract having run out, he returned to Sweden, rejoining AIK Solna, for whom he played two more seasons. He wrapped up his career playing two seasons with Hammarby IF Stockholm, his last season being in 1984-1985.

Right Wing: Pat Elynuik

Regular Season (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 84 games, 23-36-59, even
Playoffs (with Capitals): 1 season, 6 games, 2-3-5, minus-2

We first met Pat Elynuik in this series in our discussion of Team D when he was traded to Washington by the Winnipeg Jets for John Druce and a draft pick. Elynuik was a highly thought of player in his early years, a former eighth overall draft pick of the Jets in the 1986 entry draft and who posted 89 goals in his first three full seasons in the league. However, in his fourth full season (fifth in the league) Elynuik played in only 60 games, recording 25 goals, but developing something of a reputation for lacking grit in his game.

After his trade to Washington in October 1992, Elynuik posted respectable numbers: 22 goals (sixth on the club) and 57 points (eighth) in 80 games. To that he added a 2-3-5 scoring line in a six-game playoff series loss to the New York Islanders (three of the losses coming in overtime, two of those in double overtime), made famous by Dale Hunter’s mugging of Pierre Turgeon in the third period of Game 6. Lost in that noise was the fact that Elynuik had 15 minutes in penalties himself in the elimination game.

Elynuik returned to the Caps the following season, but his stay was brief. After just four games played, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional draft pick (that “conditional” pick was traded back to the Lightning later that season for defenseman Joe Reekie). Elynuik finished the season in Tampa, then was signed as a free agent by Ottawa in June 1994. He played in only 70 games over two seasons with the Senators, scoring just four goals and recording only 13 points. His career ended after the 1995-1996 season with 504 regular season and 20 playoff games played for four clubs.

Defense: Steve Eminger

Regular Season (with Capitals): 5 seasons, 212 games, 6-37-43, minus-44
Playoffs (with Capitals): 1 season, 5 games, 1-0-1, plus-2

The 2002 draft could have been something special.  The Caps had three of the first 17 picks.  Unfortunately, the Caps were a year early to have that many picks in the first 17 selections.  As it was, the 2002 draft was uncommonly weak (only four of 19 forwards taken in the first round have more than 150 career goals; only six of 27 skaters have at least 300 points).  The Caps first of those three first round picks in 2002 was defenseman Steve Eminger of the Kitchener Rangers, the fifth defenseman taken (after Jay Bouwmeester, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Whitney, and Keith Ballard).  Eminger had just completed his third year with Kitchener, putting up progressively higher goal, assist, and point totals in an increasing number of games played.  That, and a solid training camp, earned Eminger a spot in the Opening Night lineup against the Nashville Predators.  Eminger did not record a point that night, but he was a plus-2 in nine minutes of play.  It might have been the high point of his first season with the Caps.  In 17 games overall in that first season Eminger was 0-2-2, minus-3 (he had only three “plus” games) in 10 minutes of ice time a night.  He played his last game that season on December 1st, participated in the World Junior Championships, then was returned to Kitchener for the duration of the season.

One had the feeling watching him that first season that he was thrown in the deep end of the pool too soon.  He never really recovered from that.  The following season he split time between Washington and Portland in the AHL, then spent the entire 2004-2005 season with the Pirates while the NHL sorted out their labor differences over a canceled season.

In 2005-2006 he made the big club for good and logged big minutes (21:21 a game).  His statistics, for a two-way defenseman, were still underwhelming (5-13-18, minus-12, in 66 games), although the Caps were a struggling team overall.  In 2006-2007 he showed little, if any, improvement (1-16-17, minus-14, in 68 games) on another struggling team. 

By the time 2007-2008 started he seemed to have reached a plateau.  Then he suffered an ankle injury just before the season opener that sidelined him for the first 14 games. He reinjured the ankle in his first game, then missed another eight games, during which the Caps changed coaches – Glen Hanlon out, Bruce Boudreau in.  Eminger lost, by circumstance as much as anything, what chance he had to make a good first impression on Boudreau.  He played on November 26th against Buffalo, Boudreau’s third game with the club, then did not see action until January 5th

In all, Eminger would play in only 20 regular season games for the Caps in that 2007-2008 season and another five in the post season in a first round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.  He finished those 20 regular season games with no goals, two points, and was minus-4.  He did have one goal in the playoffs, coming in a loss in Game 3 in Philadelphia.  It was the last goal he scored for the Caps.

The following June the Caps traded Eminger to the Flyers with a third round pick in the 2008 draft for the Flyers’ first round pick (27th overall, with which the Caps selected John Carlson).  One might have thought at the time that with a change of scenery Eminger might find his game, but he became more or less a journeyman defenseman, playing with the Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers, the Anaheim Ducks, and the New York Rangers.  In 2013-2014 he played for CSKA Moscow in the KHL and the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL.  At the age of 30, when he should be in his prime, it is not clear just where his career is headed.

Defense: John Erskine

Regular Season (with Capitals): 8 seasons, 350 games, 12-37-49, plus-14
Playoffs (with Capitals): 5 seasons, 39 games, 1-6-7, minus-2

In 38 seasons of Washington Capitals hockey, only 13 defensemen have dressed for more games than John Erskine.  Despite enduring a fractured foot, a thumb injury, lower body injury, upper body injury, concussion, flu, leg injury, hand injury, shoulder injury that required surgery, a series of upper body injuries and a knee injury (facts courtesy of, Erskine has appeared in 350 regular season and 39 playoff games.

Erskine has never been much of a scorer (12 goals), doesn’t shoot much (310 shots on goal in eight seasons; Alex Ovechkin has only one full season with fewer), and his ice time has been all over the place, averaging between 12:06 and 18:28 a game over his eight seasons with the Caps.  But since he arrived in the 2006-2007 as a free agent from the New York Islanders, Erskine has outlasted the likes of defensemen:
  • Alexander Urbom
  • Tyson Strachan
  • Jeff Schultz
  • Tom Poti
  • Roman Hamrlik
  • Dennis Wideman
  • Sean Collins
  • Tyler Sloan
  • Scott Hannan
  • Brian Fahey
  • Shaone Morrisonn
  • Milan Jurcina
  • Brian Pothier
  • Joe Corvo
  • Sami Lepisto
  • Bryan Helmer
  • Staffan Kronwall
  • Steve Eminger
  • Ben Clymer
  • Jamie Heward
  • Bryan Muir
  • Lawrence Nycholat
  • Timo Helbling
  • Jamie Hunt

From the Obscure Erskine Facts file, Caps fans might not be aware that John Erskine is a past winner of the Max Kaminsky Trophy, awarded to the top defenseman of the Ontario Hockey League.  It is no small feat.  Other past winners include: Chris Pronger, Bryan Berard, Brian Campbell, James Wisniewski, Marc Staal, and Drew Doughty.

Another Obscure Erskine Fact.  If someone asks you, “hey, has John Erskine ever taken a turn in the shootout?”  You can show how smart you are and answer, “yes sirree.”  And no, it was not in the 11-round shootout the Caps had against Florida in November 2007, although it was in that season.  It happened in a 12-round shootout against the Edmonton Oilers the following January.  Erskine missed his chance in Round 11, one round before Matt Bradley ended it in a 5-4 Caps win.

Erskine is known more for being a stand-up guy who gives as good as he gets when it comes time to establish some order.  And he has not preyed on lightweights.  He has taken on some very accomplished enforcers when the gloves came off: Brian McGrattan, Chris Simon, Shawn Thornton, Andrew Peters, Georges Laraque, David Koci, Jared Boll, Arron Asham, George Parros, and Colton Orr among them.

John Erskine has endured a lot of physical abuse over his years with the Caps. Contributing to the fact that only once in eight seasons has he appeared in more than 55 games.  But when he has taken the ice, it has been with giving the most of effort.  He earns a place on Team E with that hard work attitude.

Goalie: Sebastien Charpentier

Regular Season (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 26 games, 6-14-1, 2.93, .902
Playoffs (with Capitals): none

If we cannot have a goalie whose last name ends in “E,” we will take one whose name has the most “E’s.”  Sebastien “Four E’s” Charpentier, you’re up.  For a guy who seemed to get no work in his three seasons with the Caps, Charpentier did manage to record more appearances than 17 other goalies in Capitals history (he ranks 28th in games played).

It took him a while to get that first game, though.  Drafted by the Caps in 1995 with the 93rd overall pick (fourth round, selected before Miikka Kiprusoff, Chris Mason, and Brent Johnson), spent another two seasons in Canadian juniors, then moved up to Hampton Roads in the ECHL in 1997-1998.   The following two seasons almost cost him his career.  In October 1998, Charpentier suffered an ankle injury that ended his 1998-1999 season with the Portland Pirates in the AHL early.  In coming back in 1999-2000 he began having problems in his other foot, finally being diagnosed with arthritis and missing four months.  He returned late in the 1999-2000 season for Portland, then returned in 2000-2001 and played in 34 games. 

In 2001-2002 he played in 49 games for the Pirates, but more important, he got his first taste of NHL action. Charpentier had been called up in 1998 to serve as third goaltender for the post-season, but he never saw action.  Having been called up in February 2002 when Olaf Kolzig injured a knee, he did not see any action then, either.  However, in April he got his chance.  Called on to face the Buffalo Sabres with the season winding down, Charpentier stopped 38 of 39 shots in a 3-1 win in Buffalo.  He lost the following night to the New Jersey Devils, 4-3, in overtime, the last game of the season for Washington.

Over the next two seasons he played sparingly for poor teams, going 5-7-1, 2.79, .906 in 2002-2003.  He then went 0-6-0, 3.41, .875 in 2003-2004 in what would be his last season with the Capitals.  After that, Charpentier spent time shuttling between Europe and the Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey, last playing for the Sorel-Tracy Hawks.  His accomplishments might have been modest, but Sebastien Charpentier fought hard to realize them.  He gets the goaltending spot on Team E.

Team E… “E” had better stand for “effort,” because it probably won’t stand for “excellence.”