There is a popular saying in almost every team sport that goes: “You have to be strong up the middle”. In baseball, that refers to having a strong defensive second baseman, shortstop, and center fielder (and to an extent, catcher). In basketball, that refers to having big men who can dominate in the paint. In football, it means dominating the line of scrimmage. In hockey, it means having strong centers. The Washington Capitals All-Time team, regardless of how the voting turns out, will definitely be strong up the middle. The Washington Capitals have been extremely blessed at the center position. I had to move two guys over from center for voting purposes just so that they could have an opportunity to get some love because I knew that they wouldn’t make the cut at center. Good luck finding just four centers to vote for. The candidates are: Adam Oates, Dale Hunter, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Michal Pivonka, Mike Ridley, Dennis Maruk, and Bob Carpenter.
Yes, Oates was a horrible head coach. However, let’s just pretend that he was never the head coach because we’re just judging Oates as a player. As a player, Oates was amazing. His career stats with the Washington Capitals:
- 387 games played
- 73 goals
- 290 assists (first in assists per game with 0.75)
- 363 points (eighth in points per game)
Oates led the Washington Capitals to their first ever Stanley Cup appearance and he’s a Hall of Famer. He also served as the team captain from 1999 to 2001.
Again, let’s just imagine a world where Dale was never the head coach of the Washington Capitals. That just taints the memory of the player that he was. Hunter’s career stats with the Washington Capitals:
- 872 games played (fourth)
- 181 goals (tied for tenth)
- 375 assists (fourth)
- 556 points (fifth)
- 2003 penalty minutes (first)
- 72 power play goals (fourth)
Hunter also served as the team captain from 1994 to 1999.
Backstrom has only played for seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, but during those seven seasons, he has amassed some extremely impressive stats. Keep in mind that Backstrom is only 26 years old. His career stats with the Washington Capitals so far:
- 495 games played
- 367 assists (fifth)
- 0.74 assists per game (second)
- 127 goals
- 494 points (eighth)
- Point per game (fifth)
Backstrom will probably wind up being the career leader in assists and among the leaders in points and games played.
Laich has been a remarkably consistent player for the Washington Capitals for ten seasons. Over those ten seasons, he’s amassed:
- 617 games played
- 125 goals
- 172 assists
- 297 points
- 10 short handed goals (seventh)
A lot of what Laich has accomplished and does well cannot be measured in traditional statistics. He’s been a leader both on and off the ice. He’s a remarkable penalty killer. He’s been greatly affected by injuries, but if he can stay healthy, he still has a few good years left in him.
It says a lot that Pivonka is the career points leader among all Washington Capitals centers. In 13 seasons with the Capitals, Pivonka put up some impressive stats.
- 825 games played (fifth)
- 181 goals (tied for tenth)
- 418 assists (first)
- 599 points (fourth)
- 56 power play goals (seventh)
- 12 short handed goals (fifth)
Ridley only played eight seasons with the Washington Capitals, but he definitely left his mark on the franchise. His stats with the Capitals:
- 588 games played
- 218 goals (fourth)
- 329 assists (tenth)
- 132 even strength goals (sixth)
- 20.1% shooting percentage (second)
- 17 short handed goals (second)
Maruk left a huge mark on the Washington Capitals franchise despite only playing five seasons for them. His stats with the Capitals:
- 343 games played
- 182 goals (ninth)
- 249 assists
- 431 points (tenth)
- 0.53 goals per game (second)
- 0.73 assists per game (third)
- 1.26 points per game (first)
He didn’t spend that long with the Washington Capitals, but man those stats are impressive!
Carpenter played a total of seven seasons with the Washington Capitals. His stats with the Capitals:
- 490 games played
- 188 goals (eighth)
- 207 assists
- 395 points
- 133 even strength goals (fifth)
Time to vote! Remember, you can vote for up to four. I know I’m going to have a very difficult time choosing just four.