The All-Time Greatest Washington Capitals at Every Position
Since the Washington Capitals entered the league in 1974, the team has enjoyed a reasonable amount of success, making postseason appearances in 24 of 38 seasons.
Along the way, the franchise has enjoyed the luxury of having Hall of Fame talents such as Scott Stevens, Larry Murphy, Adam Oates, Rod Langway, Mike Gartner and Dino Ciccarelli on the ice wearing Capitals uniforms, but overall, this team hasn't produced an extraordinary amount of superstar-caliber players.
That being said, a number of guys have forever etched their names in D.C. sports lore with their contributions during their playing days in Washington, and though the Caps have yet to win a Stanley Cup, this club has a very loyal fan base that's appreciative of their heroes.
With that in mind, here's a look at the all-time greatest Capitals by position.
Goaltender: Olaf Kolzig
As one of two goaltenders ever to win the Vezina Trophy while minding the net for the Capitals, Olaf Kolzig is an obvious choice for this spot, especially because the only other man to do so, Jim Carey, played his way out of Washington, and the NHL for that matter, soon after he won the award in 1996.
Kolzig was the backbone of the Caps’ run to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final and emerged as the team’s most reliable player for a decade.
He played on a couple of very mediocre teams, but regardless of the quality of the guys in front of him, the South African-born stopper gave Washington a chance to win virtually every night, which is why he remains a fan favorite in D.C. more than five years after his final game as a Capital.
Though he’ll never earn serious consideration for a spot in the Hall of Fame, Kolzig is a lock to have his number raised into the rafters at the Verizon Center in the near future.
And rightfully so, because the towering goalie was centerpiece of the most storied squad in franchise history and, in reality, is the only elite netminder this team has ever iced on a consistent basis.
Defense: Rod Langway
During the 1980s, the Capitals orchestrated a number of deep postseason runs, and arguably the biggest reason why was the steady play of captain Rod Langway.
A stay-at-homer by trait, Langway was never much of a threat offensively, but the two-time Norris Trophy recipient regularly shut down the game’s best, which is why he’s widely considered to be one of the game’s greatest defensive rearguards ever to play in the NHL.
He’s undoubtedly one of the most decorated players in Caps history, and since his retirement, he’s remained a figure in the community, so fans won’t soon forget how spectacularly stingy the six-time All-Star was during his 10 seasons in Washington.
Langway may have potted only 51 goals during his nearly 1000 games in the league, but fans in Washington will remember him for his grit, leadership and famous mustache far more than his lack of offensive production.
Defense: Calle Johansson
Yes, one could make arguments for everyone from Scott Stevens to Larry Murphy or Mike Green, but when taking consistency and longevity into account, none measure up to the contributions of Calle Johansson.
Never an All-Star but always on the cusp, Johansson was a steady two-way force during his 15 years with the Capitals, and was a big factor in keeping the team competitive, as Washington missed the postseason just three times over that span.
A star on the back end for Sweden internationally and earning an All-Star Team berth at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, Johansson remains today as Washington’s all-time leader in games played.
Like Kolzig, Johansson’s contributions to the franchise continue today, as the smart Swede now serves as a member of Adam Oates’ coaching staff.
Center: Dale Hunter
This is a tough one because there have been a handful of pivots that have made names for themselves in the minds of Capitals fans over the years, including Hall of Fame inductee Adam Oates, three-time 30-goal scorer Mike Ridley, all-time leading assist man Michal Pivonka and current No. 1 center Nicklas Backstrom.
However, one man stands above the rest, as former captain (and later, head coach) Dale Hunter was the heart and soul of the Capitals for more than a decade.
A member of the NHL’s exclusive 1,000-point club, Hunter ranks 10th among all Caps in goals, third in assists and fifth in points, so from a production standpoint, his numbers stack up relatively well.
But they don’t even begin to convey Hunter’s importance to Washington, because the former All-Star gave the Capitals a degree of grit that had been missing prior to his arrival in 1987.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s the only guy to captain Washington to an Eastern Conference title or that he became the third player in franchise history to have his number immortalized by the Capitals.
Right Wing: Peter Bondra
Ultimately, there are only two players even worth consideration for his spot, which is a shame, because right wingers Mike Gartner and Peter Bondra are the two most productive scorers in franchise history.
While Gartner is the Hall of Fame forward of the two, Bondra gets the nod over the 600-goal scorer because of how much he contributed to Washington’s success during his 961 games in a Capitals uniform.
Bondra’s speed, quick release and shifty hands are still legendary in D.C., and they helped him lead the league in goals on two occasions.
In addition, Bondra also lead the league in power-play tallies twice, and shorthanded goals during another, so needless to say, the Slovakian sniper was a pretty versatile scorer.
Perhaps most importantly, Bondra was the most dangerous offensive weapon on Washington’s Stanley Cup Final team, and he lead the NHL in game-winning goals that season with 13.
It was unfortunate that Bondra didn't score his 500th goal with Washington, but at some point, fans will see his familiar No. 12 hanging above the ice at the Verizon Center, because until Alex Ovechkin came to town, he was the most prolific scorer in team history.
Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin
This was the easiest choice of all, as Alex Ovechkin is undoubtedly the most dominant Washington Capital of all time.
As the only Hart Trophy, Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Ted Lindsay winner in team history, Ovechkin is one of the most decorated players ever to lace up a pair of skates, but his impact on the franchise has been just as impressive.
When the Caps took Ovechkin No. 1 overall in 2004, Washington was coming off of one of its worst seasons ever, and the team’s future looked bleak. Just under four years later, Ovechkin had led the Capitals to the first of five division championships in six seasons, and the team has managed to remain a legitimate contender in the East ever since.
A four-time 50-goal scorer and 100-point man, Ovechkin’s also coming off arguably the most impressive campaign of his storied career, as the Russian sniper rebounded from a pair of disappointing seasons to rack up 32 goals and 56 points in just 48 games to capture his third Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy honors.
Has Ovechkin done enough thus far to be considered the greatest player of his generation? No, but players as special as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin don’t grow on trees, so it’s not as if the sublimely talented 28-year-old is short on competition for that distinction. That being said, Ovechkin has more league MVP awards than than the two Penguins combined, and moreover, he’s the only active NHL player to win the Hart on more than one occasion.
Regardless of what he does from here, Ovechkin is without question the most memorable player the Caps have ever enjoyed the luxury of having on their roster, and that’s why he’s a hands-down choice to make this list.
Though he's moved to the right wing during the past year, Ovechkin broke into the league and made a name for himself on the left side, so he's done more than enough to earn the nod at his natural position.