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A few days ago, former and longtime Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, announced his retirement from the NHL after 15 seasons, 10 of them in Washington. Over the course of his time in the District, Green was a major component of the Caps’ return to playoff contention, leading a young Capitals team from a rebuild along with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look back at Green’s decade in Washington and some of the highlights from his tenure in a Capitals’ sweater.
In a total of 575 games played with the Capitals, Green totaled 113 goals, 247 assists, and 360 points, which currently rank him 10th, tied for third, seventh, and sixth in franchise history among blueliners. Green finished his decade in Washington on July 1, 2015, when he signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings in free agency. Green then spent three full seasons and parts of one with the Red Wings, before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers on February 24, 2020, with whom he played two games before injuries ended his season. Green dealt with injuries in the latter half of his Capitals’ career after breaking out as one of the league’s best Offensive defensemen in 2008. In this piece, NoVa Caps highlights some of the major moments from Green’s Capitals’ career.
2004 NHL ENTRY DRAFT AND CALDER CUP CHAMPION
Green was drafted by the Capitals with the 29th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, one of three first-round picks held by the Caps that year (the others were Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick and Green’s fellow defenseman Jeff Schultz with the 27th overall pick). Green began his professional career with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears in the 2005-06 season, and scored nine times to go along with 34 assists for 43 points in 56 Games Played, and plus-1 rating. Green was also a key component in the Bears’ run to the 2006 Calder Cup championship over the Milwaukee Admirals, recording 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 21 games played. Green would play just 12 more regular season games for the Bears, and 19 more playoff games, recording a combined 24 points.
BREAKOUT WITH THE CAPITALS, NORRIS TROPHY CONTENDER, AND BREAKING SCORING RECORD
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
2007-08 was Green’s first full season with the Capitals, and just over a month into the season, Green’s former bench boss in Hershey, Bruce Boudreau, was brought to Washington to replace Glen Hanlon as Head Coach. Under Boudreau, Green was given the opportunity to utilize his full offensive capabilities, and the result was a season that saw the former first-round pick score 18 goals and add 38 assists for 56 points in 82 Games Played. Green would go on to add seven points in the Capitals’ first round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2008 postseason. During the regular season, Green was given the nickname “Game Over” by Capitals television Play-by-Play announcer Joe Beninati due to his penchant for scoring game-winning goals late in regulation or overtime. Green, along with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin, were the core of a young Capitals team on the rise, and earned the moniker “Young Guns” for the high-flying offensive brand of hockey that returned the team to contention status.
The next season proved to be a banner season for Green, as he recorded 73 points in 68 Games Played in the regular season. This included an astounding 31 goals, making him only the eighth blueliner in NHL history to score 30 or more times in a regular season. Eight of Green’s 31 tallies came during a historic streak of games, from late January to mid-February, in which Green scored in each. The historic streak set the record for the longest goal-scoring streak by a defenseman in league history, breaking a previous record set by the Boston Bruins’ Mike O’Connell in the 1983-84 season. In 14 2009 Stanley Cup Playoff games, Green recorded nine (one goal, eight assists) points. During the 2009 playoffs, Green once again had his hair cut into a faux mohawk, something he had done the previous spring. Green’s remarkable season earned him a spot as a Norris Trophy finalist as the NHL’s Best Defenseman. However, he finished second to the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara in voting. Green would follow his historic 2008-09 season with an even better campaign, scoring-wise in 2009-10. Green recorded 76 points (including 19 goals) in 75 Games Played, helping the Capitals to an NHL-best 54 wins and the President’s Trophy. While the team would be upset in the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Green was once again a finalist for the Norris Trophy, but again finished runner-up to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith. The 2009-19 season would prove to be the last of Green’s truly productive seasons in a Capitals’ sweater, as injuries and a changing rotation of coaching staffs would see his role change and minimize. After a 2014-15 season in which he recorded 45 points in 72 games played, Green departed the Caps in free agency.
“GAME OVER” STRIKES AGAIN
By the time the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs arrived, the Capitals were on the fourth Head Coach of the Alex Ovechkin era, former Capitals forward Adam Oates. The 2012-13 season had been shortened due to a labor lockout and the Capitals entered the first round of the postseason against the New York Rangers. The Caps took Game 1 by a score of 3-1, giving them the opportunity to take a sizable lead in Game 3 at the Verizon Center (now Capital One Arena). After 60 minutes of play, the two teams were deadlocked at 0-0, setting up a sudden-death situation at a crucial time of the year. With the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh in the penalty box for a Delay of Game infraction the Capitals had an opportunity to seal the game. With the team set up in the offensive zone, Green and Center Mike Ribeiro played keep away with the puck for several seconds. With 12:00 left to play in the overtime period, Ribeiro faked a shot and dished the puck across to Green, who one-timed it from the point past Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist to give the Caps a victory and a 2-0 series lead. The moment sent the Capitals crowd into a frenzy. Green’s heroics, however, would be for naught, as the Capitals eventually fell in seven games to the Blueshirts.
While Green’s actions on the ice were well documented and appreciated, his work off ice was perhaps even more endearing to the Capitals’ fan base. Green was often involved in the team’s community charitable events and initiatives, and he founded his own organization, “Green’s Gang”, which purchased several season tickets and donated them to the Most Valuable Kids organization, which would gift the tickets to military families and kids 18 and under in low-income or underprivileged communities; during his time in Washington, Green’s Gang donated thousands of tickets to families in the area. Green was also involved with community events such as serving meals to underprivileged families during the holiday season, and was also involved with work at local schools. Green’s status as a fan favorite also earned him his own “Gang Green” fan club at games.
Green officially announced his retirement on August 26, 2020 after 15 seasons in the National Hockey League, 10 of them in a Capitals sweater. After the announcement, the Capitals and Hershey Bears posted tributes to the longtime blueliner, and former teammates (as well as Capitals Majority Owner Ted Leonsis) also posted congratulations and well wishes to their social media accounts. In 880 NHL Games Played with three clubs, Green scored 150 goals and recorded 351 assists for 501 points, with a minus-17 rating. He ranks in the Top 10 in many major offensive and statistical categories for the Capitals, and Green jerseys and “shirseys” can still be found dotting the Capital One Arena seats and concourse during home games. Green’s retirement leaves Ovechkin and Backstrom as the only remaining members of the “Young Guns” core, with Semin having not played in the NHL since 2015.
Congratulations to @GreenLife52 on your fantastic career and thank you for a decade of great memories on and off the ice in DC.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) August 26, 2020
Forever Young Guns pic.twitter.com/RkidAM101v
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) August 26, 2020
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) August 26, 2020
— Michael Latta (@Latta17) August 26, 2020
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) August 28, 2020
I never underappreciated Mike Green. We spoke yesterday and I congratulated him on an amazing career. A gifted human being and a great hockey player. https://t.co/XuLJFTh2wg
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) August 28, 2020
FROM THE FANS
During his time in Washington, Green was a fan favorite of many and over his time with the Caps, left an imprint through off-ice encounters or amusing moments with teammates. A few of NoVa Caps’ other contributors look back on their favorite memories of Green:
Jon Sorensen: Two of Jon’s favorite memories came during two on-camera moments with Alex Ovechkin, which can be seen below:
Diane Doyle: Diane recalls two of her favorite and memorable off-ice encounters with Green during his time Washington:
“I was at a Capitals Casino Night in February 2012 (February 11). He [Green] was out with an injury at the time but in attendance at the event. And the next week, the Caps had a trip to Florida coming up (and we were going to Florida at the same time.) I asked Green when he thought he’d be back and he said, “Next week” which, at the time, seemed like an insanely optimistic estimate. Sure enough, he was back on February 18 and they played seven defensemen, including Green. So, I was sitting on a really big story to tell”.
“I was attending a Capitals practice in 2013 but didn’t know what time it was as it was after a game. There seemed to a lot of people crowding at the entrance for some reason. I then saw that a couple of people on one side were taking pictures. And I saw Green on the other side. I probably said “Hello, how are you” to Green before sitting down. Practice was late and he wasn’t attending since he had an appearance to make somewhere”.
By Michael Fleetwood
Stats Provided by Hockey Reference