Later this week, three members of the Washington Capitals organization will head to Toronto. Each of the three hopes to be leaving Canada’s hockey Mecca with more carry-on luggage than he brought upon arrival.
Twenty-four years ago, a group of Capitals headed up to Toronto in hope of returning with some hardware. That bunch was very successful.
The NHL held its annual Awards Dinner in Toronto on June 4, 1984, and the Caps came away with a hat trick of awards. With goaltenders Al Jensen and Pat Riggin having already won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against during the 1983-84 season, Washington added three more major awards to its trophy case.
Bryan Murray became the first Washington coach to win the Jack Adams Award for the league’s top coach. Washington blueliner Rod Langway earned a second consecutive Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and Caps center Doug Jarvis won the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward.
Five years earlier, Murray had given up coaching to become a businessman in his hometown of Shawville, Que. He won the Adams after the conclusion of his second full season as the Caps’ bench boss.
“This is a long way from Shawville and a long way from coaching junior hockey three or four years ago,” said Murray in the June 5, 1984 edition of The Washington Post. “When you see Doug Jarvis winning, and Rod Langway taking the Norris again, and our goaltenders rewarded for the lowest goals against, you can see the reasons why a coach has a chance to be recognized for his part as well.
“This is one of the highlights of my life and my career. With these three awards, maybe we’ll get people talking hockey a little more in the Washington area. This should help hockey there a lot.”
Murray was received 31 of 34 first-place votes in balloting by the NHL broadcasters.
Langway became the first repeat winner of the Norris since the Islanders’ Denis Potvin in 1979. Langway out-pointed Norris runner-up Paul Coffey of the Edmonton Oilers by a significant 227-126 margin. An offensive defenseman, Coffey had totaled 126 points for the Oilers in 1983-84. Coffey finished second in the league in scoring behind teammate Wayne Gretzky.
“It’s an honor to beat out a player of the caliber of Paul Coffey … who I regard in a caliber of Bobby Orr,” said Langway upon accepting his trophy in Toronto that night.
“Paul is the best offensive defenseman and there will always be a debate over whether the Norris should go to an offensive or defensive player,” Langway told The Post. “It’s up to the media. When a coach or organization tells a player to play a certain way, he’s going to do that.”
Perhaps an even more telling indicator of the caliber of Langway’s 1983-84 season was the fact that he was the runner-up for the Hart Trophy given to the league’s MVP. With 205 points that season, Gretzky won the Hart.
Jarvis was best known for compiling the longest streak of consecutive games played (964) in league history. He won his only Selke Trophy in 1984, outpointing the Islanders’ Bryan Trottier in the balloting.
“It’s certainly a surprise to be up here accepting this award,” Jarvis said after being presented with his trophy. “The biggest reason I’m standing here with it tonight is because of what our team did. We had the best defensive record, and the best penalty-killing record, and that’s my game.”
In those days before the existence of the NHL Network and the widespread coverage of cable and satellite television, a group of Caps employees and followers and a few media types gathered at Faunsworth Saloon in Upper Marlboro, where they watched the CBC telecast of the dinner.
When Alex Ovechkin
, Nicklas Backstrom
and Bruce Boudreau are in Toronto for this year’s NHL Awards Show on Thursday, Caps fans will be able to share the experience with their peers at Verizon Center, where the Caps are hosting a gathering of fans who will be able to watch live on the arena’s main scoreboard.
Ovechkin has already laid claim to the Art Ross Trophy awarded annually to the NHL’s leading scorer and he is also the winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy, given to the league’s top goal scorer. Ovechkin finished the season with 65 goals and 112 points.
On Thursday, we’ll learn whether he will add the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award to his trove of trophies. If he does, he will become the first NHL player ever to win the Ross, Richard, Hart and Pearson trophies all in the same year.
The 20-year-old Backstrom hopes to follow in Ovechkin’s footsteps and join the Russian left wing as just the second Capital ever to claim the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Backstrom completed the 2007-08 season with 14 goals and 55 assists for 69 points to finish second in the league in rookie scoring. He broke Ovechkin’s club record for assists by a rookie in the process.
Backstrom seeks to join Peter Forsberg (1995) and Daniel Alfredsson (1996) as previous natives of Sweden who have won the Calder.
When the 2007-08 hockey season began, Boudreau was coming off a second straight season of piloting the AHL Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup finals. Boudreau’s Bears won the Calder Cup in 2006. Summoned to Washington to replace Glen Hanlon behind the Capitals’ bench on Nov. 22, Boudreau guided the Caps to a 37-17-7 mark the rest of the way. Washington became the first team ever to come from 14th or 15th in its conference at midseason to claim a playoff berth. The Caps won the Southeast Division crown for the third time and the first time in seven years.
Now the Caps are hoping one of their own will come home with the Hart Trophy and Pearson Award for the first time in franchise history and that Backstrom and Boudreau can become the second members of the Caps’ organization to claim the Calder Trophy and Adams Award, respectively.