With the recent news less-than-surprising revelation that Caps' top right-wing prospect Eric Fehr still has not skated since late February due to a wonky back (and is "nowhere close" to getting back on the ice), one can't help but wonder if this is going to be the kind of injury that will linger and dog Fehr throughout his career. If it is, the former Western Hockey League scoring champ may have no one to blame but himself. You see, it seems as though the number 14 for the Washington Capitals is [cue eerie music]... cursed!
Here's a run-down of all the players to ever wear the number for the Caps and the ill-fates with which many of them met:
Tommy Williams (1974-75) - Williams (pictured - awesome pants), a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Squaw Valley a decade-and-a-half earlier, led the Capitals in scoring in their inaugural season with 22 goals and 36 assists (and a woeful minus-48 plus-minus rating). He retired after playing just 34 NHL games the following year and died prematurely at the age of 51 some 16 years later.
Gerry Meehan (1975-79) - Meehan tallied 65 goals and 79 assists in 208 games for some pretty miserable early Caps teams before retiring... and becoming a lawyer (frightening!).
Blair Stewart (1978-79) - Stewart wore #23 for his first four seasons with the Caps, switched to #14 and only played 75 NHL games after the change.
Antero Lehtonen (1979-80) - Despite apparently being pretty sweet back in his native Finland, Lehtonen didn't play a single game in the NHL after taking off the Caps' #14 for the last time.
Dwayne Lowdermilk (1980-81) - An "offensive minded blueliner who put up big numbers in junior and enjoyed a solid minor pro career," Lowdermilk played both - yes, both - of his NHL games for the Caps wearing #14.
Errol Rausse (1980-81) - Picked 24th overall in 1979, Rausse tried to salvage his career by switching from #14 to #12, but it was of no use. 31 NHL games, only two of which came after wearing the big one-four in D.C.
Gaetan Duchesne (1981-87) - You know the story on Gator (pictured), who tragically passed away just a couple of weeks ago at the age of 44.
Mike Richard (1987-88) - Richard, like Rausse, tried to escape the curse of #14, but it was too late - he played a total of seven NHL games and never did score a goal.
Geoff Courtnall (1988-90) - Courts only played two seasons in Washington, but scored 77 goals (including a 42-goal campaign in 1988-89). He went on to score more than 200 goals after leaving D.C., but his curse lies is in the reason why he was shipped out.
Dave Tippett (1990-92) - In the past four seasons, the Tippett-coached Dallas Stars have been one of the best teams in the NHL in the regular season, but have won only one playoff series. It seems as if the Marty Turco excuse is gone after this year, so that leaves the curse as the best reason I can come up with.
Kevin Miller (1992) - The trade that sent Dino Ciccarelli to Detroit for arguably the least-talented K. Miller was one of the worst in team history, as the Caps got 10 games and no goals out of Kevbo (I guess the curse was on the team, not the player on this one, as Miller actually went on to have three 20-goal campaigns after leaving D.C.).
Paul Cavallini (1992-93) - Oddly enough, Cavallini was acquired for a second tour of duty with the Caps from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the forementioned Miller. One season wearing the ol' X-I-V, five goals and off to Dallas.
Pat Peake (1993-98) - With 58 goals and 136 points in just 46 games, Peake (pictured) was the Canadian Hockey League's 1993 Player of the Year and seemed to be headed for a long and productive NHL career until, as Mirtle describes it, he "was chasing down a puck, trying to beat an icing call during the 1996 playoffs when he tripped and collided feet first with the end boards, shattering his right heel. Doctors claimed they had seen an injury of similar severity only in construction workers who had fallen from high rises." Patty would only play eight NHL games thereafter, retiring at 25-years-old after shredding the tendons in that same right ankle.
Patrik Augusta, Patrice Lefebvre (1998-99) - The fact that both of these guys wore the same jersey number in the same year (they should have just stitched "Pat" on the back and saved some time) tells you most of what you need to know, a combined seven career NHL games and no NHL points tells you the rest.
Joe Sacco (1999-02) - Known to Caps fans (at least to this one) as Joe Sucko, the speedy winger scored 14 goals in 213 games for the Caps, but none in 65 games in his last season in D.C. In fact, he only scored one more NHL goal after leaving town, meaning he was goal-less in at least his last 99 career NHL games.
Kip Miller (2002-04) - Miller was brought in as part of the "Washington Penguins" movement of the early 00's, but was unable to keep you-know-who happy. Miller hasn't played an NHL game since leaving town, but did lead the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins (of Bruce Cassidy fame) in scoring this year. Impressed? Me neither.
Which brings us to Fehr. The Caps have understandably high hopes for the young winger, but are undoubtedly concerned about his current injury, an injury that might have been avoided... had he just chosen another number.