Sunday, August 03, 2014

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

We have had some interesting teams in our walk through the alphabet of the Washington Capitals All-Alphabet Franchise Teams.  Now, we are up to the letter “F,” and we have a team of old and new.

Left Wing: Tomas Fleischmann

Regular Season (with Capitals): 6 seasons, 283 games, 60-78-138, minus-11
Playoffs (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 22 games, 3-2-5, minus-3

When the Washington Capitals were in the midst of cratering in their 2003-2004 season, they took on the task of moving high-priced, older, underperforming veterans for young, promising prospects and draft picks.  One of the former was Robert Lang, although he did not really fit the mold of “underachieving.”  In late February 2004 he was the league’s leading scorer,  But, with the Caps cleaning house, he was going out with the rest of the disposables. On February 27th he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for two draft picks (one of which became Mike Green) and a 19-year old former second-round pick out of the Czech Republic – Tomas Fleischmann.

The following season he started his climb up the Caps’ organizational ladder.  In three years in the AHL with the Portland Pirates and the Hershey Bears, Fleischmann recorded 59 goals and 133 points in 155 games and added 16 goals and 37 points in 39 post-season games over two seasons, both with Hershey, in which his teams appeared in the Calder Cup finals twice, winning once.

While he was building a solid AHL resume, he was getting spoon-fed time with the big club – 14 games in 2005-2006 and another 29 in 2006-2007.  In 2007-2008 he made the big club for good, going 10-20-30 in 75 games.  He almost doubled his goal output in the 2008-2008 season, scoring 19 goals.  However, after the Capitals were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the post-season, Fleischmann headed home to Europe, during which it was suspected he contracted deep vein thrombosis.  The condition, evidenced by blood clots in his leg, kept Fleischmann out of 2009-2010 training camp.  He did, however, answer the bell for Opening Night, and he played in 69 games that season, scoring a career high (at the time) 23 goals. 

In 2010-2011 Fleischmann lasted just 23 games with the Capitals.  On November 30th he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Scott Hannan.  Flesichmann went on to finish that season in Colorado, then signed as a free agent in July 2011 where he remains.  It might have seemed odd at the time he was traded that the Caps would jettison a player who displayed constant improvement in his production, boosting his goals scored and points in each of his first five seasons with the club.  However, there was that playoff record of production, too.  In three post-season appearances over 22 games, Fleischmann managed just three goals and five points.  For a top-six forward, it just was not enough production.  He did, however, have that potential and for a brief time displayed it, giving him the nod on the left side on Team F.

Center: Sergei Fedorov

Regular Season (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 70 games, 13-33-46, plus-2
Playoffs (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 21 games, 2-11-13, even

By the time Sergei Fedorov arrived in Washington in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was a hockey legend.  In his 17th season at the time of the trade he had played in 838 games, posting 387 goals and 908 points.  His accomplishments were many:
  • Calder Trophy finalist (1991, finishing second)
  • All-rookie team (1991)
  • NHL All Star Team (1994)
  • Six all-star game appearances
  • Hart Trophy winner (1994)
  • Ted Lindsay Award winner (1994)
  • Frank J. Selke Trophy winner (1994, 1996)
  • Three Stanley Cup championships (1997, 1998, 2002)
He became the first player in Detroit Red Wings history to record five goals in a game (against the Caps, naturally), a feat neither Gordie Howe nor Ted Lindsay ever achieved.  Even though he was in the winter of his NHL career, he was precisely what the Caps needed as they were making their final push to a playoff spot denied them over the previous three seasons, the longest stretch of such futility since the first eight years of franchise history.

Fedorov had the bona fides to mentor a collection of young Capitals forwards on the ice.  Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Tomas Flesichmann, and Brooks Laich were all under 25 years of age and could benefit from Fedorov’s vast experience and the stability he could provide over a career of having seen just about everything.

If it was about the intangibles as much as the number, it was a good thing.  Fedorov’s numbers were not particularly good in his first games with the Caps.  He was 1-4-5 in his first dozen games with his new club.  However, he finished strong, going 1-7-8 in his last six games to close the regular season.  His playoff production in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers mirrored that of his 18 regular season games with the Caps.  Held to one assist and a minus-3 in the first four games as the Caps fell into a 3-1 hole in games, Fedorov was 1-3-4, plus-2 in Games 5-7 when the Caps came within an overtime goal of overtaking the Flyers.

The next season would be more memorable.  Not so much for the regular season in which Fedorov went 11-22-33, plus-4 in an injury-interrupted season, but for the post-season.  In the first six games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New York Rangers, Fedorov was held to three assists.  He was without a point in Game 7 against the Rangers, but he had one more rush left in him as the clock was winding down in regulation with team tied, 1-1, and looking at an overtime to decide things…

In the holy trinity of game-deciding playoff goals in Capitals history, there is Dale Hunter’s breakaway in overtime of Game 7 to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the 1988 playoffs, there is Joe Juneau’s overtime winner against Buffalo in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to send the Caps to their only Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1998, and there is this game-winning, series-clinching goal in late in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals that reminded folks of everything that made Sergei Fedorov a hockey legend – speed, anticipation, vision, a rifle for a wrist shot.  Washington, for a brief moment, was treated to the presence of hockey royalty, and it places Sergei Fedorov in the middle on Team F.

Right Wing:  Lou Franceschetti

Regular Season (with Capitals): 7 seasons, 327 games, 36-58-94, minus-20
Playoffs (with Capitals): 6 seasons, 33 games, 2-1-3, minus-8

On a team known for its hard work ethic and making it tough on opposing teams on a night-in, night-out basis, Lou Franceschetti seemed to have a particularly loyal following among Caps fans.  Perhaps part of it was an ability to get under the skin of opponents.  He had 35 regular season and post-season fights and compiled 645 penalty minutes in his seven seasons with the Caps.  In four consecutive seasons spanning 1985-1986 through 1988-1989 he was one of three skaters and the only forward to post 100 or more penalty minutes in each season (defensemen Kevin Hatcher and Scott Stevens were the other skaters).

Franceschetti’s rise to the NHL was hardly meteoric, but it did reflect the persistence that would serve him well once he made it.  A fifth-round (71st overall) draft pick in the 1978 amateur draft out of Niagara Falls of the OMJHL (later the Ontario Hockey League), Franceschetti spent the next four seasons bouncing between the IHL (Saginaw Gears, Port Huron Flags) and the AHL (Hershey Bears).  He got his first chance with the big club in 1981-1982 when he appeared in 30 games for the Caps, registering two goals and 12 points.  After two more seasons in which he appeared in a total of only 24 games with Washington, spending the remainder of the time with Hershey and Binghamton of the AHL, Franceschetti stuck for good in 1985-1986 when he appeared in 76 games and went 7-14-21. 

Given his history with the club, it might not surprise anyone that it was in that first full season with the club that Franceschetti set what would be his career high in fighting majors (eight).  Parenthetically, the last of his fights that season came 4:47 into the third period of a game against the New York Islanders on March 28, 1986.  His dance partner was Islander defenseman Denis Potvin, who earlier in the game broke the leg of Caps forward Bengt Gustafsson when the two tangled up just 19 seconds into the game.

It was that sort of thing that contributed to the following Franceschetti had in the mid-1980s with the club.  After the 1988-1998 season, though, Franceschetti was traded to Toronto for the Maple Leafs’ fifth round pick in the 1990 entry draft.  He would go on to play another 132 games over three seasons with Toronto and the Buffalo Sabres before his NHL career ended.  He spent another five seasons in hockey before hanging up his skates with the Nashville Knights of the ECHL following the 1995-1996 season.

On a club known for its lunch pail style in the 1980’s, Lou Franceschetti was one of the more colorful of the Caps players.  He was, in his own way, a predecessor of Dale Hunter (whose number “32” he wore), a player who just had a knack of creating havoc and getting opponents off their game.  For that, he is the right wing on Team F.

Defense: Chris Felix

Regular Season (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 35 games, 1-12-13, plus-1
Playoffs (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 2 games, 0-1-1, even

When looking back at the Capitals in the 1989-1991 period, one might remember the big years of Mike Ridley (41 goals in 1988-1989) or Geoff Courtnall (77 goals over two seasons), the memorable playoff run of John Druce in 1990, and even the playoff goal scored against the Caps by Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ron Hextall in the Game 5 of the second round of the 1989 playoffs.

It would be easy to overlook a Chris Felix, who appeared in 35 games for the Caps over that period.  It does not diminish his determination to make it to the NHL, though.  An undrafted defenseman from Bramalea, Ontario, Felix spent four seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, another three seasons with the Canadian National Team (including an appearance at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games), and 19 games with the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL in 1988.

He finally got a chance at the NHL when he signed with the Caps as a free agent in March 1988.  He would make his NHL debut with the Caps a month later, in the playoffs no less, skating in Game 4 of the Caps’ opening round series against the Philadelphia Flyers (the Caps lost, 5-4).  After spending a year with the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL, Felix got his first chance in the NHL in the 1988-1989 season, appearing in 21 regular season games, going 0-8-8, plus-7, and appearing in one playoff game, recording an assist in the Caps’ 3-2 win over the Flyers in Game 1 of the Patrick Division finals.

That would be his high-water mark with Washington.  Felix played in only 14 regular season games over the next two seasons.  He did record his only NHL goal in that period, though, even if that, too, was overshadowed by other events.  That goal came in an otherwise forgettable 8-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in October 1989, the only memory surviving that debacle perhaps being that it was a rookie goalie in just his second NHL game who allowed those eight goals on 40 shots, the most he would allow in a career that would span 16 seasons and 711 games – Olaf Kolzig.

Chris Felix might not have had a long and storied career with the Caps, but he showed s singular determination in carving out his niche with the club.  For that he gets a sweater on Team F.

Defense: Jean-Francois Fortin

Regular Season (with Capitals): 3 seasons, 71 games, 1-4-5, minus-4
Playoffs (with Capitals): none

When you look at the 1997 NHL entry draft, it is forwards who come to mind.  The first round featured such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Sergei Samsonov, and Marian Hossa.  Out of that draft also came the grittier types – Matt Cooke, Dan Cleary, and Brenden Morrow among them.  It was not a draft known for defensemen.  Five of the first six picks of the first round – Eric Brewer, Paul Mara, Nick Boynton, Brad Ference, and Scott Hannan – carved out substantial careers for themselves, but “stardom” would not be a word associated with them.

Jean-Francois Fortin was the tenth defenseman taken in that 1997 draft, taken in the second round (35th overall) by the Caps, the third straight defenseman selected at  that point of the draft (Kyle Kos and Ryan Bonni, with three career NHL games between them, taken just before Fortin).

After his selection by the Caps out of Sherbrooke in the QMJHL, Fortin played another two seasons with the Faucons before making the jump to professional hockey in 1999-2000.  He split time that season between the Portland Pirates of the AHL (43 games) and the Hampton Roads Admirals of the ECHL (seven games).  The next season he made the leap to Washington, appearing in 36 games with the Caps, recording his first (and only) NHL goal and four points in 36 games.

That rookie season would be Fortin’s pinnacle with the Caps.  In 2002-2003 he was limited to 33 games, in part because of a back injury.  That problem would linger, and in 2003-2004 Fortin was able to dress only twice for the Caps, appearing for a total of 16 minutes on ice.  It was his last season with Washington.  He returned to Portland in 2004-2005 as a free agent and would spend that and the following season in the AHL.  In August 2006 he signed with Fushse Duisburg in Germany and would spend three seasons in Europe before ending his career in 2009 with HK MVD Moscow in the KHL.

It is hard what to make of Jean-Francois “J-F” Fortin’s career in Washington.  It did not appear as if he would be a top-tier defenseman, but injuries cut into any opportunity to improve and grow into a reliable top-six blueliner.  Nevertheless, he does have a body of work that merits consideration on Team F, and he gets the nod as the second defenseman.

Goalie: Frederic Cassivi

Regular Season (with Capitals): 2 seasons, 5 games, 0-2-1, 3.03, .886
Playoffs (with Capitals): none

Here we are with another instance of that problem.  We have no goaltenders in Capitals history whose last name begins with the letter “F,” so we go to our fallback.  Let’s see who we have whose first name starts with the magic letter.

The ninth round of the 1994 NHL entry draft was an interesting one for goaltenders.  Out of that round in that year came such goaltenders as Tim Thomas, Johan Hedberg, Evgeni Nabokov, Tomas Vokoun, and John Grahame.  Taken ahead of all of them in the ninth round was Frederic Cassivi of the St-Hyacinthe Laser of the QMJHL, selected by the Ottawa Senators.

It would be almost eight years until Cassivi would dress for an NHL game.  In the meantime he wandered the hockey landscape: another year in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads and St-Jean Lynx, a year split between two “Senators” clubs (Thunder Bay and P.E.I.), two years in the AHL (one apiece in Syracuse and Worcester), a year in the IHL (Cincinnati), then back to the AHL for two seasons with the Hershey Bears in what would be his first stint with that team.  While this was going on he was let go by the Senators in 1999 and picked up by the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent, then traded in January 2002 to Atlanta for Brett Clark.

Finally, in March 2002, he got his break.  Late in the season he was called up by the Thrashers, for whom he played in six games, going 2-3-0, 3.32, .918.  He got two more appearances with the Thrashers the following year (2-2-0, 5.37, .810), but he was not able to stick in the NHL, splitting time both seasons with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.  The next season he was picked up by the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL as a free agent where he played one season.

In August 2005, he joined the Capitals organization as a free agent and joined the new AHL affiliate in Hershey.  It was a good fit.  In his first two seasons with the Bears, Cassivi won 56 games and appeared in two Calder Cup finals, winning in 2006 and being named winner of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the playoff MVP.

In addition to leading Hershey to post-season success in those first two years with the organization, Cassivi appeared in five games with the Caps.  Unfortunately, he could not duplicate his success in Hershey with Washington.  He did not record a win in any of those five appearances, although on a team that won only 57 of 164 games over those two seasons, his lack of success was not uncommon.

Cassivi spent one more season in the organization, appearing in 45 games for the Bears in 2007-2008 and another five in the post-season without being called up by the Caps.  After that season Cassivi signed with the Sinupret Ice Tigers in Germany for what would be his last season in hockey.

Frederic Cassivi did not have a long or impressive resume at the NHL level.  However, he was an important element in forging a relationship between Washington and its new AHL affiliate in Hershey.  He might have a much richer and accomplished relationship with Hershey and the Bears, but he deserves some notice as a member of the Capitals organization as well.  He gets the call in goal for Team F.

There they are, Team F.  It might not be the most accomplished team we will see in this review (save for the hockey legend centering the squad), but it seems to be one with a lot of interesting stories.