As the Capitals play host to the Canadiens Friday night, I can not help but think of Rod Langway, and the big trade that took him from Montreal to Washington.
After four years as a burgeoning defensive stalwart with Montreal, Langway was part of a blockbuster deal prior to the 1982-83 season. The defenceman along with Craig Laughlin, Doug Jarvis and Brian Engblom to the Caps for Ryan Walter and Rick Green. The deal is often considered to be one of the worst trades in Montreal history, mainly because of the level of greatness Langway would achieve in a Washington uniform. Laughlin, Jarvis and Engblom all went to lengthy careers as well. Walter and Green proved to be valuable players and helped the Habs win the 1986 Stanley Cup, but neither could match the career that Langway had.
Rod made a huge impact on hockey in the US Capital. He won the Norris trophy in each of his first two seasons there, and played with heart and desire that few others could ever match. When Langway arrived in Washington, the Capitals had never made the playoffs. In his 11 seasons with the organization, the club never missed them.Rod was a great leader and a greater teacher. He learned from some of the best while in Montreal - Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe - and he taught some of the best - Scott Stevens, Kevin Hatcher and Larry Murphy.
There was little doubt that Rod Langway was not only the leader of the Capitals, but many believed he was the most valuable player to his team. In 1984, Langway finished second to Wayne Gretzky in Hart trophy balloting. The Hart trophy goes to the league's MVP. Imagine that - in an era dominated by mindboggling offense and The Great One, a defensive d-man was considered by many to be the league's most valuable player.
For Rod it was his single greatest personal achievement.
"People don't remember the guy who came in second but to be considered one plateau below Gretzky that year was a great honor for me, more than the Norris Trophy."
But Langway wasn't worried about personal honors, rather he wanted team success. While Langway was part of a Stanley Cup team in his rookie season in Montreal, Langway never again got his name on the Cup. That would be is his only real regret in hockey.
"I was probably more disappointed every year I didn't win the Cup." he said. "I have my ring and myname on the Stanley Cup. To this day I feel we should have won a couple more in Montreal and truly believe we should have won a couple in Washington."
When Langway left the NHL in 1993, he had career totals of 51 goals, 278 assists and 329 points in 994 regular season games.