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The Washington Capitals joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team for the 1974-75 season. The team was owned by Abe Pollin, who was also owner of the NBAs Washington Bullets.
One of the organizations first moves was hiring hall of famer Milt Schmidt as general manager.
The Capitals first season in the league was nothing short of a disaster. The team finished with a record of 8-67-5, setting records for worst ever winning percentage (.131), most road losses (39 out of 40), most consecutive road losses (37) and most consecutive losses (17). All but the most consecutive losses record which was tied by San Jose Sharks in 1992/93 still stand today!
1974/75: Washington Capitals got shell-shocked setting the single season record for most goals allowed with 446.
After nearly a decade of embarrassing seasons, things started to change for the Capitals in 1982. Newly hired GM David Poile pulled off one of the biggest trades in franchise history when he dealt longtime Caps Ryan Walter and Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens for Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis, and Craig Laughlin. That season they went on to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Another significant factor in the marked improvement of the capitals was drafting defenseman Scott Stevens during the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. His impact was felt almost immediately as the Caps goals against dropped significantly season over season.
Though the Capitals managed to make it to the playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons through the eighties and early 90s, they always ended up with a dissapointing showing getting bumped in the first or second round. It wasnt until 1998 that Washington made it to the Stanley cup finals where they lost out to the Detroit Red Wings.
One high point of the 1998 campaign was Adam Oates, Phil Housley, and Dale Hunter all reaching the 1,000 career point plateau, marking the only time in NHL history that 3 players from the same team reached that same milestone in a single season.
In 2001, the Capitals signed five-time Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr to the largest contract ever in NHL history - $77 million over 7 years (over $134,000 per game), with an option for an eighth year. However, the team struggled and failed to make the playoffs that season.
In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals won the Draft Lottery and selected Alexander Ovechkin first overall. After playing in Russia for the 2004-05 lockout season, Ovechkin had a stellar rookie season leading all rookies in goals, points, power-play goals and shots on goal. He also won the Calder Memorial Trophy, beating out Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby and Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
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