Photo: USA Today
Throughout the Capitals’ 42 years in existence, they’ve issued a total of 87 different jersey numbers to the hundreds of players that have suited up in the District. In NoVa Caps’ feature, History Behind A Number, NoVa Caps’ writer Michael Fleetwood looks at a few notable players that have worn a given number. Today’s number: 8
Capitals Career: 2005-Present
Background: The greatest player in franchise history, Alex Ovechkin has been arguably, the face of D.C. sports since his first game in the NHL. One of the greatest goal-scorers the NHL has ever seen, Ovechkin has worn the familiar No. 8 since his career began.
Drafted by the Caps first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Ovechkin has shattered most of the franchise records in the major offensive categories and has also put himself in the league record books as well. In 921 games played, all with Washington, Ovechkin has scored 558 goals and recorded 477 assists for 1,035 points and is first in franchise history in goals, points, power play goals, game-winning goals, shots, goals per game, and second in assists. He has scored 50 or more goals in a season seven times and reached the 100-point mark four times.
While Ovechkin’s individual stats are outstanding, the Capitals have not been able to capture the Stanley Cup despite having teams capable of doing so. At 32-years old (33 on September 17) and with just four years left on his 13-year, $124 million contract signed in 2007, time is running out for Ovechkin to lift Lord Stanley’s mug. And while some may disagree, Ovechkin doesn’t need a Cup to prove his legacy. His numbers speak for themselves and there may not be another player in the NHL for a long time that combines pure goal-scoring with brute physicality like Ovechkin does. While his game will ultimately need to change as he ages, there’s no doubting Ovechkin is the greatest player to wear No. 8.
Capitals Career: 1983-1989
Background: A former first-round pick (fourth overall in 1980) by the Los Angeles Kings, Larry Murphy was acquired by the Caps on October 13, 1983, for Ken Houston and Brian Engblom. A defenseman known for his offensive prowess, Murphy played 72 games for the Capitals after being acquired, scoring 13 times and adding 33 assists for 46 points. In his first full season in Red, White, and Blue, Murphy recorded 55 points (13 goals, 42 assists) in 79 games played, while finishing with a plus/minus rating of plus-21 and finishing fourth on the team in scoring.
Murphy’s best season came in his third full campaign in Washington in 1986-87, when he scored an astronomically high 23 goals and added 58 assists for 81 points in 80 games played. His performance landed him numerous votes for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, for which he placed third, and he also made the All-Star team. In his final full season in the District in 1987-88, Murphy recorded 61 points in 79 games played.
Murphy would play 65 more games as a Capital before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars along with Mike Gartner for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse on March 17, 1989. He would play the final 13 games of the season with Minnesota, recording 10 points in 13 games. He would play only one full season for the North Stars before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 11, 1990, along with Peter Taglianetti for Chris Dahlquist and Jim Johnson. He would go on to win two Stanley Cups with the Penguins before seeing stops in Toronto and Detroit, finally retiring in 2001. In 453 career games played in Washington, Murphy recorded 344 points (85 goals, 259 assists).
Capitals Career: 1990-1995, 2000-2002
Background: A sixth-round pick of the Caps (124th overall) in 1988, Dmitri Khristich began and ended his NHL career with the Capitals. In his rookie season in 1990-91, Khristich showed offensive potential with a respectable 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 40 games played, while finishing with a minus-1 rating. He more than doubled his totals the next season, as he had a career-high 36 goals, 37 assists, and 73 points in 80 games played, finishing fourth on the team in scoring and just eight points off being the leader.
Khristich continued to impress over the next three seasons, however, his production declined steadily, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on July 8, 1995, along with Byron Dafoe for the Kings’ first-round pick (later used on Alexandre Volchkov), and a fourth-round pick originally belonging to the Dallas Stars (used on Justin Davis). Khristich would play two seasons in Los Angeles, during which he saw his offensive totals recover, recording 120 points in 151 games played, before being traded to the Boston Bruins in August 1999 and then to the Toronto Maple Leafs just two months later, playing just 80 games with the Leafs before being traded back to the Caps in December 2000. He would play 104 games in a Capitals sweater, recording 50 points, before concluding his career with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2004. In 419 games played with the Capitals, Khristich recorded an even 300 points (140 goals, 160 assists).
Check out NoVa Caps’ other History Behind A Number features:
By Michael Fleetwood