A quick recap for those just joining our countdown.
10. Quintin Laing
9. Sergei Fedorov
8. Brent Johnson
7. George McPhee
6. Brooks Laich
And now the conclusion.
#5: Mike Green
It was inevitable, but Sergei Gonchar had to be a part of the Capitals fire-sale. The seasons following Gonchar's trade saw a Capitals team that lacked a true blue-line scoring threat. In 2008, Mike Green was unleashed upon the NHL as he led defensemen in goals (18) and assisted on 38 other goals. Greenie's ability to rush coast-to-coast and generate offense from the blue line will be a staple in the Capitals offense for the next five years.
#4: Alexander Semin
"2 minutes, hooking" was a call Caps fans could associate Alexander Semin with in 2008, that was until Sergei Fedorov arrived. Fedorov transformed the "immature" Semin into the scoring threat the Capitals hoped he would become. Semin netted three goals in three straight playoff games. Semin again rose to the occasion in October, when Alex Ovechkin entered a month-long slump, earning player of the month honors from the NHL. Despite battling injuries throughout 2008, without Semin the Capitals' playoff run might have only lasted five games and their 08-09 season could have started with a whimper.
#3: Nicklas Backstrom
When Nicklas Backstrom was drafted by the Capitals in 2007, it was Alexander Ovechkin who announced the decision. He then presented Backstrom with his jersey and the two posed for photographs. The Capitals hoped Backstrom and Ovechkin would mesh to create one of the most feared tandems in the NHL. They were right. Backstrom played a large role in Ovechkin's 65-goal season and the Capitals offense with 55 assists. The 08-09 season looks to be more of the same as Backstrom has 31 assists in 38 games. Backstrom has rightfully earned his place as one of the NHL's elite centers, and Alexander Ovechkin is grateful for that.
#2: Alexander Ovechkin
Ovechkin is the Washington Capitals some nights, and on the nights he isn't scoring he's enough of a threat to open the ice for other players. Ovechkin's 65 goals and 112 points led the Caps to their first playoff apperance since 2003, invigorating the Washington fan base and turning D.C. into "hockey-town" for nearly a month. Every goal Ovechkin scores is highlight quality, every time he rushes down the ice fans cheer and every time an opposing team sees the Capitals on their schedule they think "Ovechkin." Despite not leading the scoring race in the 08-09 season, Ovechkin is making a case for another Hart trophy, but he's also making a case for the Capitals to be considered Stanley Cup contenders.
Did I mention we get to enjoy his play for 12 more seasons?
#1: Bruce Boudreau
If you were attending the Capitals/Thrashers game on Nov. 21, 2007, then you know what the atmosphere was like. Ten thousand fans booing, chanting "fire Hanlon," as the Capitals endured another disappointing loss. The next day, Hanlon was relieved of his duties, and Hershey Bears coach Bruce Boudreau was named "interim" head coach of the Capitals.
Boudreau brought "real change" to Washington in 2008.
Boudreau is the fastest coach in Capitals history to achieve 20 and 30 wins. He is also the first coach in NHL history to lead a team from 14th place in their conference to a playoff birth. Boudreau implemented an exciting new offense that catered to his players' skills, resulting in the emergence of stars in Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich. The Capitals went from zeroes to heroes under Boudreau, and his leadership was echoed through his players.
Alex Ovechkin may be the reason the stands at Verizon Center are full of red, but Bruce Boudreau is the reason the Capitals have become one of the best young teams in the NHL.