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As part of the 2017 All Star Weekend festivities, the NHL announced the 100 Greatest Players in the league’s 100-year history. One of the Capitals players named was defenseman Scott Stevens, who spent eight seasons with the Washington Capitals.
Stevens was born in Kitchener, Ontario on April 1, 1964 and grew up there. He was the middle child of three boys, with Geoff being the oldest brother and Mike being the youngest brother. Geoff would later become a scout for the New Jersey Devils, while Mike played a few years in the NHL. While growing up in Kitchener, he was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and his favorite player was franchise icon, defenseman, Borje Salming. Salming influenced Scott to become a defenseman himself.
He played junior hockey with his hometown junior team, the Kitchener Rangers, one year with their Junior “B” team and the next year with the main club.
After scouting his play with their Junior B team, the Kitchener Rangers drafted him eighth in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) draft. The 1981-82 Kitchener Rangers featured several future NHL players, including Dave Shaw and Al MacInnis on defense, Wendell Young in goal, and forwards Jeff Larmer, Brian Bellows, and Grant Martin. Stevens and Shaw played in every game, as the team’s top-paring, for a team that went on to win the Memorial Cup.
Stevens also led all rookie defensemen in the OHL in scoring. His coach on the Rangers, Joe Crozier, complimented him, saying, “He’s come a long way this year … He’s strong, tough, handles the puck well and has tremendous hockey sense.”
The Washington Capitals drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up making the team out of training camp his rookie year, due to injuries to other players. He ended up never playing a single game in the minor leagues. His debut with the Caps was memorable, as he scored a goal on his very first shot. He finished his rookie campaign with nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points. He ended up making the All-Rookie Team for the 1982-83 season, won the Caps’ Rookie of the Year Award, and finished third in the Calder Trophy voting. He also led all rookie defensemen in penalty minutes with 158. Stevens was part of the first Caps team to ever make the playoffs. Before their series against the New York Islanders (the Caps would lose the series), knowing his hot temper, Caps’ Coach Bryan Murray advised him, “Watch what you’re doing. Behave yourself. We need you on the ice.”
The 1983-84 season would see Stevens improve his goal total from nine to 13, and his assists from 16 to 32, for a total of 45 points. He also finished with 201 penalty minutes. This time, the Caps made the playoffs, and advanced to the second round, where they were once again eliminated by the Islanders.
The 1984-85 season was a breakout one for Stevens. He set a team record for a defenseman by scoring 16 power play goals and he would finish the season with 21 goals overall, which tied a team record for goals by a defenseman, and led all Caps defensemen in scoring as he had 44 assists along with his 21 goals. He earned a spot in the All-Star Game that season. Once again, the Caps again lost to the Islanders in the second round of the playoffs. He remained with the Caps through the 1989-90 season. His remaining years in a Capitals sweater were notable for high offensive production and high penalty minutes. While he never topped 20 goals again, he had two seasons of more than 60 assists: the 1987-88 and the 1988-89 seasons.
His last season with the team, the 1989-90 season, was a year in which the Caps finally made it to the third round of the playoffs, where they were swept by the Boston Bruins. Stevens struggled heavily throughout the season. He suffered multiple injuries, including a broken foot that caused him to miss two months of the season. He was also suspended for three games after gouging Dave Manson of the Chicago Blackhawks in the eyes during a fight. Playing only 56 games, he recorded his lowest point totals for the team with 11 goals and 29 assists, which although low, was still good enough for second on the team for points for defensemen.
After that season, he became a restricted free agent and signed an offer sheet with the St. Louis Blues for $5.145 million over four years, which the Caps declined to match. He ended his career in Washington with 601 games played, scoring 98 goals and adding 329 assists for a total of 429 points. He also set team records (all since broken) for penalty minutes (1,630), games played by a defenseman (601), points by a defenseman (429), goals by a defenseman (98), assists by a defenseman (331), playoff games played (67), playoff points (53), playoff assists (44) and playoff goals by a defenseman (nine).
By declining to match the Blues’ offer for Stevens, the Caps ended up with $100,000 in cash, plus two first-round picks, which would become five first-round picks in the 1991 and 1992 NHL Entry Drafts if the Caps didn’t have a pick in the top seven picks in either of those drafts. The Capitals ended up selecting defensemen Brendan Witt and Sergei Gonchar with two of those picks. Abe Pollin, the Caps owner at the time, had also said that no player was worth over $1 million a year, which Stevens’ annual salary would have amounted to under his deal with the Blues.
Stevens became captain of the Blues, but played only one season in St. Louis, as he was awarded to the New Jersey Devils as compensation for them signing Brendan Shanahan. He ended up playing for the Devils for thirteen seasons, where he served as captain for them and was part of three Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1995, 2000, and 2003. The 2003-2004 season was his last.
He set the record for most games played by a defenseman when he appeared in his 1,616th game in November 2003. planned to play in the 2004-05 season, which was subsequently cancelled to the NHL lockout. He retired on September 6, 2005, after 1635 NHL games; fourth all-time at the time, but now seventh, first place in games played by a defenseman, and fourteenth in penalty minutes. The Devils retired his sweater number 4 in a ceremony on February 6, 2006.
He became an assistant coach for the Devils in 2012, but stepped down before the 2014-15 season. However, he was later named as a co-coach with former Capitals Adam Oates three months later when then-Devils head Coach, Peter DeBoer was fired. He is currently an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild.
By Diane Doyle