20-20 Hindsight

In the process of writing a piece on Caps winger Matt Pettinger, I started wondering about drafting 20-goal scorers. It just seemed like the Caps had not drafted a 20-goal guy in quite some time before Pettinger and Alex Ovechkin reached that plateau in 2005-06. Here’s the list:

20-Goal Scorers Drafted by Caps who scored 20 with Caps
1974 – Tony White (10th round)
1975 – none
1976 – Tom Rowe (third round)
1977 – Robert Picard (first round)
1978 – Ryan Walter (first round) , Bengt Gustafsson (fourth round)
1979 – Mike Gartner (first round)
1980 – none
1981 – Bob Carpenter (first round), Chris Valentine (10th round)
1982 – Scott Stevens (first round)
1983 – none
1984 – Kevin Hatcher (first round), Michal Pivonka (third round)
1985 – John Druce (second round)
1986 – none
1987 – none
1988 – Dmitri Khristich (sixth round)
1989 – none
1990 – Peter Bondra (eighth round)
1991 – Steve Konowalchuk (third round)
1992 – Sergei Gonchar (first round)
1993 – none
1994 – none
1995 – none
1996 – none
1997 – none
1998 – none
1999 – none
2000 – Matt Pettinger (second round)
2001 – none
2002 – none
2003 – none
2004 –Alex Ovechkin (first round)
2005 – none
2006 – none

As you can see, the Caps never went more than two years without plucking a 20-goal guy until the eight-year gap between Gonchar and Pettinger. And that gap was actually a self-imposed gap; the Caps traded Jason Allison (1993), Richard Zednik (1994) and Jan Bulis (1995), all of whom went on to have 20-goal seasons elsewhere. Washington also allowed Andrew Brunette (1993) to leave via the expansion draft, and he has also gone on to 20-goal success elsewhere in the NHL.

On an impressive note, the Caps plucked two 20-goal guys in the 10th round. If Zednik gets healthy enough to return and score 15 more for Washington this season, he would be the third 10th-rounder to do so.

Alexander Semin should obliterate the “none” that currently resides in the 2002 spot on the ledger. Eric Fehr might one day be able to occupy the 20-goal scorer slot for the 2003 draft. Since the Caps have already traded the only forward they drafted in 2005 (Tim Kennedy), the onus is likely to fall on defenseman Patrick McNeill if Washington is to claim a 20-goal guy from that draft class.

You’ve got to have them. And when you don’t draft them, you’ve got to go elsewhere and get them. Sign them (Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Jeff Halpern, Ulf Dahlen) or trade for them (Chris Clark, Dainius Zubrus, Chris Simon, Adam Oates).

The 2003-04 Capitals had none and finished with 59 points. The 1978-79 Capitals had seven of them and finished with 63 points. The 1997-98 Stanley Cup finalist Capitals had but one, Peter Bondra (52). No other player on that team had more than 18. Bondra got hurt in the opening round of the 1998 playoffs, and he missed four games. Everyone was writing off the Caps at that point, but they managed to muddle through with what they had until Bondra healed.

The 1988-89 Capitals went into the playoffs with three 40-goal scorers: Mike Ridley, Geoff Courtnall and Dino Ciccarelli. All three were acquired in trades. That was a 92-point team that got bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

The 1992-93 Caps had a franchise record nine 20-goal scorers including four (Bondra, Hatcher, Khristich and Pivonka) who were Washington draft picks. That Washington team had 93 points. And got bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Hell, I don’t know. Maybe you don’t need them. You do need a goalie, though. And some defensemen.

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4 Comments on “20-20 Hindsight”

  1. Jeroen Says:

    Just like any team sport, ultimately it’s just a case of scoring more goals than you let in 🙂 I’m curious to see how the goals-for and goals-against totals for these seasons compare.

  2. Absaraka Says:

    Forgive the obvious cliche, but…hockey is a whole different game once the playoffs start.

    Hypothetically, I’d much rather have someone who might get you fifteen goals in the regular season, but who can dial in 30 in the playoffs. There have probably been a few players in NHL history who’ve gone the exact opposite way, I’m guessing. Not that I have an all-time stats directory in front of me, but it seems to happen in a lot of team sports: guys who just tear it up in the regular season, but who choke in the playoffs. Somewhere in the NHL’s history, there’s GOT to be a Peyton Manning on skates…yes, no?

    Which is why regular season numbers, I submit, don’t by themselves equate to certain playoff success. Just ask the squad from 92-93. All it takes is an opposing squad who’s simply got your number–heck, remember the Panthers last year?–and that’s it, playoffs over.

    Not that high-scoring players aren’t needed: they are. But if the blueliners are giving the poor overworked goalie a sunburn, I don’t care WHO’s up front, you’re not going to get very far in the second season.

    Or am I way off base here?

  3. fatdaddy Says:

    No, I think you’re on target. With regard to Caps teams past that had good regular seasons, those teams were playing at capacity through the reg season, and then could not turn it up a notch in playoff time. So I guess I’m saying, it depends on how you got your numbers in the regular season. If you outworked the other team on a regular basis, well, that’s going to be difficult to do in the playoffs.

    With regard to teh current Caps, I’m pretty pleased with the way they’re scoring. Against Pitt, they had plenty of chances to put up 8 or 9 goals, but missed some chances, had some bad bounces, and got robbed by the G a couple times. The Caps are pretty good in the O zone at the moment.

    Their D is a problem. They do not defend well in the neutral zone, they have trouble exiting the zone, and they turn the puck over at/between the blue lines way, way, way too much. When the get the puck into the offensive zone consistently, they apply pressure, score, and hold the other guys down. When they don’t, they give up a ton of goals.

    Final thought: good teams tend to be balanced ones with good depth on O and D, with good goaltending.

  4. pepper Says:

    For a notorious example of a former Cap who scored few and far-between in the regular season but exploded in the playoffs, see Druce, John, c. 1990.

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