We are up to the last installment of our look at retired numbers not retired by the Washington Capitals. The 2001-2020 decade is a tough one, because a number of players who might be candidates are still active with the Caps. But there are departed players, retired or still active with other teams, who might deserve some thought as time goes by.
“90” In seven seasons with the Caps to open the decade, Marcus Johansson established himself as a well-rounded, reliably productive offensive player with a deceptively accurate shot when he decided to deploy it. He was one of six Capitals to post at least 100 goals for the decade (102), finished fifth in total points (290), tied for fourth in game-winning goals (20), and had the sixth-best shooting percentage of Capitals who recorded at least 100 shots on goal (13.8). He also holds the distinction of being one of seven Capitals to score a playoff series clinching goal in overtime (Dale Hunter, John Druce, Brian Bellows, Joe Juneau, Joel Ward, and Evgeny Kuznetsov being the others).
“42” Joel Ward could be thought of as an “any era” Capital, a rugged forward who could have fit in as a “plumber” in the 1980’s, a player who could hold his own in the “clutch-and-grab” 1990’s and early 2000’s, and as an all-around complementary player he was for the Caps in his four seasons in Washington. He was a decent goal scorer in his years in Nashville preceding his stay in DC, but he improved in that area as a Capital, posting his best two goal-scoring seasons in Washington – 24 goals in 2013-2014 and 19 goals in 2014-2015. And, he is one of only two Capitals in team history to score a series-clinching goal in Game 7 of a playoff series for the Caps (Hunter being the other) and the only one to do it on the road when his overtime goal in Boston in Game 7 clinched the series against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
“83” Odd to
find a grinder here, but Jay Beagle is a special case. His climb to the NHL was a long one, starting
with a tryout with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL in 2006-2007, ending when
he dressed for 31 games for the Caps in 2010-2011. He became a fan favorite for his embrace of
his role as a grinding defense-oriented player who eventually became an
offensive contributor from a fourth line role.
He was an adept faceoff performer (56.4 percent as a Capital) and had an
uncanny ability to score goals that mattered (the Caps were 41-1-5 in regular season games in
which he scored at least one goal). And, he is the first player to have won championships in the ECHL (with Idaho), the AHL (Hershey Bears), and the NHL (with the Caps).
“70” Braden Holtby or Olaf Kolzig? Who was the greatest goalie in Caps history? Whether one picks one or the other, Holtby deserves at least as much consideration for his number’s retirement as does Kolzig. Second to Kolzig in games played in team history (468 to 711), second in wins (282 to 301 for Kolzig), tied with Kolzig for first with 35 shutouts as a Capital, second in save percentage (.916) to Philipp Grubauer (.923) among goalies with at least 100 games played, third in goals against average among that same group (2.53), co-holder of the all-time record for wins in a single NHL season (48, with Martin Brodeur), twice a Vezina Trophy finalist and a winner in 2015-2016, first team NHL all-star in 2015-2016, and Jennings Trophy winner in 2016-2017. As a Capital, he had the second-best playoff save percentage in the post-original six era (.926 to Tim Thomas’ .933; minimum: 50 games played). And, he is the only goalie in team history to hoist the Stanley Cup.
It might seem a bit odd that no defensemen make this list, but it is a thin list of potential candidates with some still active with the Caps, others who might have made an impact but in a limited stay here, or just not quite worthy of consideration. As time goes by, the list will undoubtedly include some blueliners, but for now, these four candidates stand out as players and numbers who likely will not see their numbers retired (save for Holtby, perhaps), but are worthy of remembrance.