Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Kevin Hatcher All-Stars

Since I am now in love with lists these days (and really, who doesn’t love lists? They’re as lazy a crutch for a writer as posting other people’s shit as links. Whoops.) I’m going to put together another. I mentioned in a previous Caps recap about the “Kevin Hatcher All Stars,” or my least favorite Caps. Doing a list of my favorite Caps is easy. Hell, just now I could rattle off some of my favs that come to mind right off the jump:

Alex Ovechkin
Al Iafrate
Geoff Courtnall
Dino Ciccarelli
Peter Bondra
Scott Stevens
Alan May
Donald Brashear
Stephen Peat (who I used to record an astounding 700+ penalty minutes with in NHL ‘04)

And so on. Anyway, I’d mentioned my least favorite Caps and it got me thinking, who would I put on such a list? What would be the criteria? Well, for one, it would have to be guys who weren’t just bad to mediocre players. In other words, I couldn’t have a list full of Rob Zettler’s, Josef Boumedienne’s, John Tucker‘s, and Joel Kwiatkowski’s. After all, if you have a guy that could be considered least valuable, he had to at least be a regular and not just a regular but a guy that got significant ice time. Of course there are also personal reasons. Obviously, since this list is subjective and my opinion. So if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment or share a thought. I decided to select a standard line of 6 guys, one goalie, two defenceman and three forwards. Ok, enough talk, one with the list.

G-Don Beaupre- Beaupre wasn’t a bad goaltender. In fact, he was twice an All-Star (one with Minnesota, one with the Caps) and is #2 in franchise history in wins. No, the problem with Beaupre was that he was emblematic of the David Poile Era Caps. Good enough to win a lot of regular season games, not good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

The main reason I selected Beaupre though was because it will allow me to tell the following story. Then-Caps General Manager David Poile’s son used to play for Bowie in the old Capital Beltway Hockey League and when they came to Easton, the Caps had an off-day so Poile came to watch his son play. So Poile’s off standing by himself and just watching the game.
Me and my buddy Paul, our goaltender, both fancied ourselves general managers by the age of 13. We used to have fantasy-style drafts where we would pick guys from all over the league and compare rosters and fight over who had the best squad (He ALWAYS picked Ron Hextall, his favorite player, first. I ALWAYS picked Cam Neely, my favorite player, first). We also used to work out our own trade scenarios. They usually involved me either 1) giving up half the Caps roster for Neely or 2) doing some lopsided NHL ‘93 style trade for Neely. Like say, trading Mike Lalor and a 5th round pick to Boston for Neely. Hey, Boston could use some help on the backline. Suffice to say, girls had not yet entered the picture for us yet.
In any case, our team was following Poile’s kid’s team, so me and Paul worked up the guts to go up to David Poile and give him advice on trades. We go up to Poile, say hello and then right off the bat, Paul tells him he should trade Beaupre. Poile gives him a look that’s a mix of amusement and disdain and mumbles something like, “He’s doing pretty good now,” and walks off.

D - Kevin Hatcher - What? You didn’t think I’d have a team called the Kevin Hatcher All-Stars and not have the actual Kevin Hatcher.

Let me preface this rant by saying this: I know being a hater is all part of the blogger pose. I am sure Kevin Hatcher is a very nice man who was and is much better at the game of hockey than I’ll ever be. That being said…
I cannot think of a Cap I disliked more than Hatcher. He was a maddening player, a big man (6’3 220 lbs) who played a small man’s game. I don’t know where I started to not like Hatcher’s style of play. Early in his career, he was a force at both ends, a physical player who could score goals. But somewhere along the way, he stopped playing physical and played like a guy who had just seen a rattlesnake. My thought always was that the worst thing that happened to his career was scoring 34 goals in ‘92-’93. From that point on I think, in his mind, he thought he had to be a goal scorer at the expense of his physical game. Maybe it was the fact that by ’93-’94 he was putting pressure on himself to score goals because Poile would never acquire the sniping winger the club needed to take the next step. Maybe it was that after his 34-goal season, the club named him captain and he felt pressure that way. Or he developed bad habits along the way. Maybe he didn’t look as good because he didn’t have either Scott Stevens or Rod Langway back there to cover up for him.
Whatever the case, the fans quickly turned on him and started giving him the Larry Murphy “woop-woop-woop” treatment and that made him play even worse. By the end of his Caps tenure and mercifully, for us and for him, he was shipped to Dallas for Mark Tinordi.

D - Phil Housley - This was a hard spot to fill. Other than Hatcher, I couldn’t think of another d-man I actively disliked.

Larry Murphy was an option, but he did provide one of (if not the) most famous assists in team history. Sure, he was mercifully heckled because, physicality-wise, he made Hatcher look like Ray Lewis, but that was never his game anyway.

I was actually never a huge fan of Langway (too young to remember his Norris Trophy days). But without him there wouldn’t be a Washington Capitals.

For those with really long memories, I was tempted to put Chris Felix on here. For anyone that remembers him, Felix was part of Poile’s fabled “farm system.” He also had an awesome porn star mustache. My memory of Felix was being about 13 years old and going to a Baltimore Skipjacks game (they were the Caps minor league affiliate at the time) and hearing some guy yell “You suck Felix!” for about two and a half hours.

Jason Doig was tempting for his brain fart against Tampa Bay in the 2003 playoffs.

But no, I’m going with Housley, a guy with Hall-of-Fame numbers who came here towards the end of his career. Besides wearing one of those really hideous JOFA helmets, Housley was a complete liability defensively. He was so bad back there, in Game 2 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, in an overtime game no less, Coach Ron Wilson glued his ass to the bench and went with 4 defensemen. While his memories with the Caps weren’t anything to write home about, I should say that, in his prime, Housley was Mike Green before Mike Green.

F-Kevin Miller - Kelly and Kip’s brother is on here for one reason: he was the guy who came over here in return for one of my favorite Caps, Dino Ciccarelli. Trading Dino for Miller is, to me, the worst trade Poile ever made.

There were circumstances behind it for sure. After the 1990 playoffs, four Caps - Dino, Scott Stevens, Geoff Courtnall and Neil Sheehy - were accused of sexual misconduct with a girl in a limo. All four were quickly jettisoned in one way or another - Sheehy was let go, Stevens was allowed to walk to St. Louis for five 1st round picks, Courtnall was traded to St. Louis for Mike Lalor and Peter Zezel and Dino was moved to Detroit for Miller.
As a teenage punk who didn’t know shit about anything, I hated the Dino trade. Kevin Miller? Dino was a 40-goal scorer with a mean streak who the fans absolutely loved, something that does not come along often. And all we get for him is Kevin Freaking Miller?

F - Jaromir Jagr - The would-be savior. The man who was going to put fannies in the seats and make fans care about the Caps. The man who was going to lead the Caps to glory. Um, nah.

Instead Yammy became known for his massive contract (7 years $77 million), feuds with then-Coach Bruce Cassidy, a host of off-ice problems and the fact that he couldn’t get the Caps out of the first round of the playoffs.
Funny thing is, since the rise of Ovechkin, do most people even remember that he even played in D.C.? He seemed out of place when he played for the Caps anyway. Seeing Jagr in a Caps uniform was like seeing James Hetfield fronting U2, sure it was the same guy, but the chemistry was all off. He was always going to be known as a Pittsburgh Penguin and for his fun-tabulous mullet.

F- Michal Pivonka - Finally we have Pivonka, who was a productive enough player during his long career with the Caps. But much like Beaupre, he was emblematic of the playoff failures of the David Poile Era. Pivo was a decent player, but when he was your leading scorer, you weren’t going very far. Actually, now that I think of it, Pivonka was a Michael Nylander-type: he could pass and pile up points over 82 regular season games but once the shootin’ started, so to speak, you knew Pivonka wasn’t going scare anybody.

So there you have it, the Kevin Hatcher All-Stars. I hope you are as thoroughly depressed as I am thinking about these guys. Anyone with suggestions, have at it.

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