The Washington Capitals are an NHL franchise in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals joined the NHL in 1974 as an expansion team. The Caps’ first season, they won only 8 games, recording the worst record and winning percentage in NHL history. The next season wasn’t much better as the club won only 11 games. Washington was hampered by the fact that the talent pool at the time was nearly dry due to the fact that the NHL had added expansion teams and some teams from the newly-defunct WHA all in the same time period. In 1982, the Capitals were able to turn their franchise around, using some of their high draft picks to trade for solid veteran players and to draft young talent like Mike Gartner and Scott Stevens. The Capitals made the playoffs for the first time in 1983, and would make the playoffs every year for the next 14 seasons. Unfortunately, the Capitals were never able to carry their regular season success into the playoffs, with their only Conference title coming in their lone Stanley Cup run in 1997-98.
That season, led by Adam Oates, Peter Bondra, Joe Juneau and Dale Hunter, the Capitals rode goalie Olaf Kolzig to the Stanley Cup Finals, battling through Boston, Ottawa and Buffalo along the way. The Detroit Red Wings proved to be far too much for the Capitals to handle, sweeping them in 4 games. At the turn of the century, the Capitals began to move in a new direction, signing Jaromir Jagr and then Robert Lang to high profile contracts in hopes of boosting scoring and team talent. They made the playoffs a couple of times before the lockout, but never made it past the first round. After another early playoff exit in 2003, the Capitals got rid of their large contracts, dumping Jagr, Lang, Sergei Gonchar and Bondra. That season, the Caps would finish tied for the worst record in the NHL.
After the lockout, the Capitals were rejuvenated by the drafting of superstar Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin broke onto the scene in 2005-06, winning the Calder Trophy and leading all NHL rookies in goals and points. While the Capitals missed the playoffs, the framework was in place for a new start for the young team. While 2006-07 was plagued with injuries and ended in another poor finish, in 2007-08, the Capitals emerged as a quality team in the new NHL. With Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom leading the way, and big defenseman Mike Green anchoring the blueline, the Caps looked poised to finally make a comeback from years of last place finishes. Although they started slow, when Glen Hanlon was fired as coach and replaced by eventual Coach of the year winner Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals turned it on late in the season and finished atop the Southeast division, winning the title in the last game of the year. The Capitals would lose in the first round to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the improvement was unmistakable. Ovechkin won the Art Ross, Hart, Rocket Richard and Lester B. Pearson Awards as the league’s top point scorer, MVP, goal scorer and Outstanding Player. Mike Green led all defensemen in scoring and Backstrom was a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
The Capitals play out of the Verizon Center which holds 18,277 people and also hosts the Washington Wizards of the NBA.
Stanley Cups won: none
Notable Players: Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Bondra, Jim Carey, Sergei Fedorov, Mike Gartner, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Green, Kevin Hatcher, Phil Housley, Dale Hunter, Al Iafrate, Doug Jarvis, Calle Johansson, Joe Juneau, Olaf Kolzig, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Adam Oates, Alexander Oveckin, Michal Pivonka, Alexander Semin, Scott Stevens, Ryan Walter