It’s been seven years since the Capitals last retired a number (Mike Gartner’s No. 11 on December 28, 2008) and it’s about time they did it again. There’s no shortage of candidates for both former and present day Capitals who are deserving of the honor. NoVa Caps is taking a look at options from both former Capitals, and current members who may be lucky enough to see their sweater number raised to the rafters alongside Gartner, Dale Hunter, Yvon Labre, and Rod Langway.
We are taking into consideration:
o Longevity with the team
o Production with the team
o How many players have worn it since that player left
o Accomplishments with the team.
Capitals Career: 1990-2004
Stats: 961 GP, 472 goals, 353 assists, 825 points
Why He’s Deserving: The Capitals’ “Alex Ovechkin of the 1990’s”, Bondra played 14 seasons in DC after being selected by the team with the 156th overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. The owner of most offensive franchise records before Ovechkin broke them, Bondra was as consistent a point-producer as any star not named Lemieux, Jagr, Hull, or Gretzky back in the 1990’s; he recorded two 52-goal seasons and eclipsed 50 points six times, while managing 40 or more twice. In his 1,081-game career, “Bonzai” registered 892 points. A fan favorite throughout his career, Bomdra was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Brooks Laich and second-round draft pick in 2004.
Players Who Have Worn it Since: Brian Willsie (2005-06)
Capitals Career: 1989-2008
Stats: 711 GP, 301 wins, .906 save percentage, 2.70 GAA, 35 shutouts
Why He’s Deserving: Olie Kolzig is the best goaltender in franchise history (although, by the time his Capitals career is over, current netminder Braden Holtby could have overtaken that title) and is the franchise leader in wins, saves, and shutouts, “Godzilla” is third in save percentage and goals-against average. In his 19-year Caps career, Kolzig established himself as a hard-working, consistent goalie and endeared himself to fans. Drafted by the team 19th overall in 1989, Kolzig did not become the full-time starter until the 1997-98 season, when he led the Capitals on an unprecedented run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Kolzig is the only player in team history to have worn every jersey in franchise history (excluding alternates and Winter Classic jerseys; the orginal used from 1974-1995, the eagle jersey, the black Capitol Building jersey, and the current home and away jersey). Kolzig won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie in 2000, and was named to two All-Star games.
Players who have worn it since: None
Capitals Career: 1988-2003
Stats: 983 GP, 113 goals, 361 assists, 474 points
Why he’s deserving: The franchise leader in games played is also one of the best blueliners to ever wear a Caps sweater. The highest scoring defenseman in team history with 474 points. One of the most dependable two-way blueliners during his time in DC, Johansson was a quarterback of the power play and was a staple on the blueline for many seasons. Johansson returned to the Caps as an assistant coach from 2012-14 and helped young defensemen like John Carlson refine their game. It will be interesting to see if Johansson’s No. 6 is retired, as many players have worn it since his last game as a Capital. Normally, a team will not use a number often, if at all, if that number is going to be retired or honored.
Players that have worn it since then: Jamie Heward (2006-2007), Dennis Wideman (2011-2012), Tim Gleason (2015)
Capitals Career: 2005-Present
Stats: 807 GP, 504 goals, 434 assists, 938 points
Why He’s Deserving: The greatest player in the history of the franchise, The Great Eight continues to light the lamp for the Capitals. Already in his eleventh season, Ovi has proven to be well-worth the first overall pick the team used on him in 2004. The surefire Hall of Famer is the franchise leader in goals scored, shots, power play goals, game-winning goals, even-strength goals, and is second in assists. Ovechkin has done so much for not only the Capitals and NHL, but for the DC community. It’s a safe bet that Caps fans won’t have to wait long after he retires to see his number in the rafters.
Capitals Career: 2007-Present
Stats: 623 GP, 162 goals, 458 assists, 620 points
Why He’s Deserving: The franchise leader in assists flew under the NHL radar for the first eight full seasons of his career before finally getting the recognition he deserved when he was selected to his first All-Star Game this season. One of the most important players to the team’s success, Backstrom is one of the NHL’s elite playmakers and is the first member of his draft class to reach the 600-point plateau. With five years remaining on his contract, Backstrom has plenty of time to build upon his already marvelous career. Aside from being the franchise leader in assists, he ranks fourth in points, and second in plus/minus.
Capitals Career: 2005-2015
Stats: 575 GP, 113 goals, 247 assists, 360 points
Why He’s Deserving: If not for multiple injuries that cost him playing time, Mike Green might be higher in points amongst franchise defensemen. A key part of the Capitals’ rise to prominence, Green was once one of the league’s brightest young blueliners. He finished runner-up in Norris Trophy voting twice, though he should’ve won at least one of those. Known for his penchant of scoring goals late in games or in overtime, “Game Over” Green became a pillar on the blueline. Injuries and a plethora of head coaches and different systems slowed his high-flying style of play and it wasn’t until current head coach Barry Trotz and defensive coach Todd Reirden arrived that Green could return to that style. In his final season with Washington, Green recorded 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists). After the season he signed with the Detroit Red Wings to a three-year contract. He ranks fifth in franchise history in points by a defenseman, eighth in games played, and fourth in goals-scored.
Capitals Career: 2009-Present
Stats: 218 GP, 132 wins, 2.37 GAA, .922, 22 shutouts
Why He’s Deserving: Amidst the best season of his professional career, Braden Holtby has established himself as arguably, the best goaltender in the league. A fourth-round pick in 2008, Holtby is on pace for an NHL-record 52 wins. He has proven to be the franchise netminder Washington had desperately needed and the scary part is that he’s only 26-years old. Holtby is currently 132-56-21 in his career and ranks second in franchise history in wins (169 away from leader Olaf Kolzig), first in goals-against average, first in save percentage, second in shutouts, and third in saves. It’s safe to assume that by the time his career is over, Holtby will be the franchise leader in most of the goaltending statistics and established as the best netminder in team history