March 02, 2017

Rick Green

The mid 1970s Washington Capitals were quite arguably the worst team in modern NHL history.

In 1974-75 they record eight wins. Just eight wins! Sixty seven losses and five ties. Just twenty one points in the standings. 181 goals scored, and an embarrassing 446 scored against.

In 1975-76 they improved but barely. Eleven wins, ten ties. Fifty nine losses. thirty two points. Almost 400 more goals surrendered

The only reward for such ineptitude is the first overall draft pick they secured for the 1976 NHL draft. History has shown this to be one of the weakest drafts ever, but the Caps passed over one of the high scoring Saskatoon Blades teammates Blair Chapman and Bernie Federko.

They took a big, stay-at-home defenseman named Rick Green. They immediately signed him and rushed him into the NHL on the worst team in the league.

The results were predictable.

Rick Green would prove to be a very good defender. He had imposing size. Decent mobility. He could make a strong first pass or effectively clear the zone. He was going to be a NHL player for a long time and be a nice complimentary defenseman.

But he was never going to be an elite defender. He was not going to be a true number one blue liner. He had little offensive upside. He was not going to be a huge difference maker on his own. And especially not as a 20 year old rookie on the worst team in hockey.

The early results should have been predictable. A broken wrist in his rookie season did not help, but his lack of help hindered probably even more. When the turnaround never happened, fans turned on him quick. They booed him off the ice regularly, even though the target of their unhappiness was actually the team management and coaching staff.

Things started to get better by Green's fourth year in the league. The team was finally gaining some respectability in the league, and the play of Green and defense partner Robert Picard was a big part of it. And the fans changed their tune on Green, voting him as the Capitals' Unsung Hero in 1980.

Green ultimately did lead to the Capitals ultimate turn into a NHL power in the 1980s, but it was indirectly. On September 10, 1982 the Capitals traded Green and Ryan Walter to Montreal in exchange fore Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Craig Laughlin and Doug Jarvis. While the latter three all proved to be solid contributors, it was Langway who finally gave the Capitals a game changer an elite defenseman.

Green quietly went on to be a long time presence on the Montreal Canadiens blueline, and he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1986.

Green left the NHL in 1989 and played in Italy for a season. He returned to the NHL in 1990-91 with the Detroit Red Wings. In 1991-92 he eventually joined the New York Islanders after sitting out the first half of the season. Four games after finally joining the team he broke his foot.

In 845 NHL games Rick Green scored 43 goals, 220 assists and 263 points.

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