Olaf Kolzig’s Vezina season part of Caps’ best turnaround


Fans of the Washington Capitals are used to seeing their team in the postseason. Since 2007-08, the team has failed to make it to the playoffs just once. And in those years is the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship. 

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the Capitals. The team struggled to find success in the NHL when it first joined in the mid-’70s, having a handful of losing seasons. But, like most teams, the Capitals found their footing and now are regarded as perennial Cup contenders. 

What was the worst season in Capitals history?

Like most expansion teams, it was a struggle for the Capitals in their first few seasons in the league. Washington was founded in 1974, joining the NHL as one of two expansion teams at the time. In 80 games, the Capitals put together a rather unsightly record of 8-67-5, ending with a winning percentage of .131. 

Not only are the eight wins by Washington the least amount among any NHL team that played at least 70 games in a season, it is the worst winning percentage in NHL history. There just was not a lot of talent for the Capitals to obtain during the expansion draft, and it really showed on the ice. 

It wouldn’t get better for awhile. The Capitals finished under .500 for eight consecutive years in the NHL, before getting over the threshold in 1982-83. Since then, the Caps have ended with a record under .500 just six times. 


What was the Capitals’ best one-year turnaround in history?

One of those six seasons under .500 happened in 1998-99. Washington had just reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time the year prior, losing to the Detroit Red Wings, but had a struggling offense the next season, getting shut out a league-leading 11 times. 

The next year, goaltender Olaf Kolzig had a Vezina-winning season, powering the Capitals to a record of 44-24-12. Their winning percentage jumped from .415 to .622 in just one season. It was the first time the Capitals reached 100 points in a season. 

Despite finishing second in the conference, the Caps were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the No. 7 seed Pittsburgh Penguins in five games.