On July 1st, the Capitals will watch one of the best players in franchise history sign with another NHL team. It will be the end of an era in Washington; one filled with much success and record-breaking games.
Mike Green will almost certainly play on the Verizon Center ice next season, but he will be trying to stop Alex Ovechkin from scoring instead of helping him score. Green will always be a fan favorite in Washington and he has every right to be. For ten seasons, the man affectionately known as “Game Over”, patrolled the Caps’ blueline; and scored goals while doing so. Green’s future in Washington became questioned after the Caps signed fellow right-handed blueliner Matt Niskanen, almost a year ago. While both Green and the front office were being optimistic about a return, they knew what the outcome would be.
To be honest, I did the same thing: saying that the team would find a way to keep Mike in the fold for the next few years. But like most, the writing had firmly been placed on the wall. But unlike former teammate Alex Semin (who is in the process of being bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes), Green’s departure, although expected, is far more meaningful. In 575 career games, Green posted 113 goals, 247 assists, and 360 points. He set the NHL-record for the longest goal-scoring streak by a defenseman, when he surpassed the previous record of seven by scoring a goal in eight consecutive games in 2008-09. It’s important to point out that the previous record had been set in 1983. And considering all of the great offensive defenseman who played during this time (Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque come to mind) it puts into perspective how much Green’s individual success has helped the Caps. When Green scored 31-goals, it added to Alex Ovechkin’s 56, giving the Capitals offense a huge boost. Green was also just the eighth defenseman in NHL history to score 30 goals. 18 of Green’s 31 goals were on the power play and was the runner-up to Nicklas Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara in 2007-08 and 2008-09, respectively.
But Green’s biggest impact may have been off the ice. His Green’s Gang charity donates seven tickets to underprivileged children in the D.C. area, and he is/was a big part in the Capitals’ construction of playgrounds in poorer DC neighborhoods. His ties to the Washington area will never be severed, no matter how far he goes.
Injuries limited Green’s ability to play at the elite level he had shown earlier in his career. From groin issues, to upper-body ailments, Green could not shake the injury-bug. And now, after staying relatively healthy throughout the season and putting up his best regular season numbers in five seasons, Green is taking his skills elsewhere. While there is no guarantee he will be able to continue avoiding injury, it is more likely than not that he will continue to produce for his new team.
Green’s departure also signals a time of transition for the team. With Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom entering the prime of their careers, and young players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky waiting to take on bigger roles in coming years, the Capitals have the team to win a Stanley Cup. While it’s hard to tell, Green’s 52 may be hanging in the Verizon Center rafters one day alongside those of Rod Langway, Dale Hunter, Yvon Labre, and Mike Gartner. And maybe, his number will be back together with those of Backstrom and Ovechkin. Green’s departure is the end of a remarkable era in Caps’ history and the end of a magical run for Green