Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Which Cap Is Next To Have His Number Retired?

The obvious question to ask when a team announces that it will be retiring a jersey number is, "Does he deserve it?" Once every side of that argument is beaten to death, however, thoughts naturally turn to, "Who's next?"

If we look at the honor the team is going to bestow upon Mike Gartner as recognition for all that he did for the Washington Capitals franchise, you'd think that Peter Bondra and/or Olie Kolzig would be in line for similar ceremonies. If we look at Gartner's Hall of Fame enshrinement as the key to his soon-to-be-memorialized Caps immortality, perhaps Scott Stevens and/or Larry Murphy (sorry, Alex, pick again!) deserve a look. Of course, in Gartner's case, it's a combination of the above - his years and stats in D.C. constituted a significant portion of his Hall of Fame career - that has ensured that no one will ever again wear the number 11 for the Washington Capitals (sidenote: kudos to the rest of the Caps blogosphere for steering clear of the obvious and lame "It No Longer Goes To Eleven" post title).

But perhaps it's more than just those factors. Perhaps... it's the 'stache.

Here's a look at the three players who have previously had their numbers retired by the Caps and Gartner (from left to right, Yvon Labre, Rod Langway, Dale Hunter, Gartner):

How Hunter ever got his number retired is beyond me, given the push brooms mounted on the other honorees' upper lips. But if we take the team's apparent facial hair fetish to its utterly illogical conclusion, perhaps we can make a more educated guess as to who's number is next to be set aside for good. Here are the best bets:

Olie Kolzig

Kolzig hasn't had this Dirty Sanchez Clark Gable-esque 'stache since very early in his career, but combine it with his lifetime numbers with the team and I'd say he's a lock to have his number 37 hanging from the Verizon Center rafters before too long.

Dennis Maruk

Before there was Gartner or Bondra or Ovechkin, there was Maruk. From 1978 through 1983, Maruk potted 182 goals and 249 helpers, including a 60-goal/76-assist/128-PIM 1981-82 that still stands as the single-season team high in points (the goal total stood for more than a quarter of a century until A.O. came along). Throw in a non-ironic, heterosexual horseshoe moustache and you've got to consider 21 a contender for retirement. At least Maruk can rest easy knowing that the number is currently being honored by the ├╝ber-manly Brooks Laich on a nightly basis.

Ron Low

Low started 145 games for the Caps from their inaugural season of 1974-75 through the end of the 1976-77 campaign, racking up a 30-94-9 record and a 4.86 goals against average, as well as the Caps record for losses in a season (36). No, Brent Johnson won't have to give up the number one anytime soon, but man... that 'stache/hair combo is something special.

Bill Clement

Clement only played 46 games for the Caps back in 1975-76 and scored but 10 goals. And his cookie duster wasn't/isn't even that great. But there's something to be said for longevity (and having a damn goofy hockey card), and given that he's had it for 30-plus years, that's an honorable display of commitment... but not enough to send number ten skyward.

Honorable mentions go out to Brendan Witt (whose Spring, 2006 lip scarf I've never been able to find a picture of) and the following half-dozen hirsute hockey heroes:

So there you have it - a couple of former Caps who could be next in line for the ultimate honor a team can give one of its players, a handful of other manly men and Bill Clement.

As for possibilities from the current Caps squad, pickin's are indeed slim (assuming, that is, that the team doesn't invite any of these guys to training camp)... though perhaps Karl Alzner is somehow even more savvy than we all thought.


Unknown said...


As someone who grew up in the D.C. area and now runs the bravest organization in the history of mankind behind only the U.S. Military and the post-Jim Henson Muppets - the American Mustache Institute - I applaud this fine piece of work and hope that you submit one of these great Caps as a candidate for the "Robert Goulet Mustached American of the Year" award which you can do here:

Jeremy Pinches said...

Allow me to present Brendan Witt's 2006 'lip scarf' (courtesy of Getty Images):

There are also some more good shots toward the middle of this page:


JP said...

Big thanks to a fellow JP - great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Why does it look like Clement's wearing velvet pants in that picture?

Anonymous said...

It is beyond me how Calle Johannson isn't getting a mention on any blog/site. He's played more games/seasons in a Caps uniform than any other player -- and IMO deserves to be recognized as much as Bondra. Granted Bondra and Olie were the faces of the franchise, but Calle was the anchor of that defense.

Anonymous said...

Curious. The link to the players that have worn #8 for the Caps lists these two gentlemen:
Dimitri Kristich (1991-95)
Dmitri Khristich (2000-02)

I've only been a STH since 97. Anyone know if that's a typo, or are those really two different people?

JP said...

Same guy, different tours of duty. They could've just written Dmitri Khristich (1991-95, 2000-02). No idea why they spell his name differently in the two spots, though. Just a typo, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

Numbers that merit retirement consideration:

3 - Sylvain Cote, one of the longest term Caps. Not much else can be said for him, though. Scott Stevens doesn't seem likely because he became a respected player, really, only after he was gone from Washington.

4 - Kevin Hatcher, one of the Caps' all-time highest scoring D who scored an impressive 34 goals one year for a team record.

6 - Calle Johansson, old reliable. He deserves to have his number retired. Only Jamie Heward has worn it in since his departure. It is not being used in this year's camp.

10 - Kelly Miller, 13 years and third most games as a Cap.

12 - Peter Bondra, an obvious choice.

16 - Bengt Gustafsson, whole NHL career played with the Caps, one less point than Dale Hunter in 243 fewer games. I think this is bound to happen with his son being drafted by the Caps.

17 - Mike Ridley, one of the Caps' all-time great scorers with 218 goals (3rd for the Caps) in 588 games. His points per game average is better than all but Mike Gartner and some shorter term Caps.

18 - Craig Laughlin. I really hope not, but again this isn't being worn at camp for whatever reason.

20 - Michal Pivonka, another long-term Cap who never played with another NHL team.

21 - Dennis Maruk, short term, but so was Yvon Labre. Labre was one of the first "great" Caps players. Maruk was the first great scorer.

37 - Olaf Kolzig, more wins than anyone else in franchise history by 173. Overall, he has the best stats of all Caps goalies, that is, Caps goalies who started and were in DC for longer than a couple of months.

I doubt the Caps will go nuts and retire even half of these numbers or others for which a case could be made (15 for Guy Charron, 10 alternately for Bobby Carpenter, etc.), but some of these players definitely deserve the honor. But of course, the Caps are still a young franchise that has had many mediocre years. 4 retired numbers is a lot considering they've only been around about 30 years.