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Mike Gartner is one of the all-time greats for the Capitals.
Mike Gartner is one of the greatest players in NHL history. It is hard to argue otherwise. He also turned in one of the greatest rookie seasons in Washington Capitals history.
Gartner was drafted No. 4 overall by the Caps in 1979, and this would be the start of an absolutely amazing career in D.C. Blessed with a great shot and blazing speed, Gartner would soon prove that the Caps had made a wise investment in him.
In his very first game, on Oct. 11, 1979, against the Buffalo Sabres, Gartner would record an assist and from there, he was off and running.
Gartner would end up scoring 36 goals in his rookie season and was the Caps top goal scorer for the 1979-80 season. He would also add 32 assists for a very solid 68-point effort.
He would win the Caps' Rookie of the Year award for 1979-80 and was also selected as the team's MVP. That is quite a list of accomplishments for a rookie.
Now, some of you may be wondering why I rank Gartner's rookie season above Nicklas Backstrom's or Bobby Carpenter's. After all, from a points-scored perspective, only two points separate Carpenter's rookie production from Backstrom's, with Gartner's right in the middle. Gartner scored the most goals of any of the three, but Backstrom had, by far and away, more assists.
I rank Gartner's a bit higher—although all three men are very close, and you can argue for the exact opposite order—mainly because Gartner was productive on a pretty bad Caps team. Yes, I know....the 1981-82 team that Carpenter played for was actually worse, from a record standpoint. But the 1979-80 team had less talent to work with than the 1981-82 team.
The 1981-82 team on which Carpenter played had Gartner, Dennis Maruk, Ryan Walter, Bengt Gustafsson and Wes Jarvis on the roster. Though that team failed to gel as quickly as expected, there was quite a bit of talent with which Carpenter had to work.
The 2007-08 team on which Backstrom debuted had Alex Ovechkin at a time when Ovi was completely unstoppable. To top it off, that Caps team actually made the playoffs.
Compare this to the 1979-80 team on which Gartner debuted. They, too, had Gustafsson, Walter and Jarvis. But, Maruk only played in 27 games, and Gartner did not have Carpenter to play with.
Maruk's limited availability should not be overlooked because in 1981-82, when he played in 80 games, Maruk scored 60 goals.
Though the 1981-82 team was worse in the standings, the 1979-80 team just did not seem to have the overall talent the 1981-82 team had. Despite this, Gartner, a rookie, was the best player on the team.
Gartner would play for the Caps up until the 1988-1989 season when he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars. He would then play in the NHL for another 12 seasons for the North Stars, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes.
When he finally retired, Gartner was one of only six players to reach the 700-goal milestone. In 2001, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As far as the Caps are concerned, Gartner continues to hold several franchise records, including the record for longest points-streak at 17 games and the record for most points by a right winger in one season with 102.
Gartner also ranks second all-time on the Caps in goals (397), assists (392) and points (789).
He is one of the greatest players to ever don a Washington Capitals jersey, and his rookie season of 1979-80 ranks as one of the greatest in franchise history.