Capitals Learning About Adversity Trading Dino Ciccarelli To The Red Wings Was The Start. The Finish May Be Many More Long, Losing Evenings Away.

Posted: November 29, 1992

Their slide has been torturous because they expected sooooo much.

Last year at this time, the Washington Capitals were the class of the NHL. Led by Dino Ciccarelli and a crop of high-scoring forwards, the Caps led the league in goals and stood tall on top of the Patrick Division standings.

This year, the Caps anticipated more of the same.

Instead, the sky has fallen on coach Terry Murray and his frustrated team. The once-mighty Caps are struggling to overtake the Flyers for fourth place in the Patrick and are among the lowest scoring teams in the league.

What happened?

First came The Trade. To avoid paying the popular Ciccarelli a hefty salary increase, Washington owner Abe Pollin dealt the 29-year-old right winger to the Detroit Red Wings last June for Kevin Miller.

It was a disaster.

Miller failed to score even one goal in 10 games for the Capitals and was traded recently to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Paul Cavallini.

Through his first 23 games, on the other hand, Ciccarelli, who had 38 goals last season and 112 in his four seasons with the Caps, had 11 goals and 20 assists. He had scored more points than Red Wings teammates Sergei Fedorov and Jimmy Carson.

Partly because of that trade, the Caps rank 15th among 24 teams in goal scoring.

"At the time it seemed like the thing to do. But so far, this hasn't been one of our better trades," Pollin said.

Second came the injuries. Centers Michal Pivonka and Dimitri Khristich were expected to supply the offense that departed with Ciccarelli, but they haven't had the chance. Pivonka played in just four of the first 19 games because of a groin pull, and Khristich did not play at all because of a broken bone in his foot.

On defense, veteran Rod Langway is out with knee and shoulder injuries.

Then came the disappointments. Bobby Carpenter had one goal and four assists in his first 19 games, and Pat Elynuik, acquired from Winnipeg to spark the offense, had three goals and eight assists.

Goalie Don Beaupre, a 29-game winner last season, was 2-10-1 in his first 13 decisions.

Through it all, though, Pollin has remained confident.

"It will get straightened out," he said. "The injuries have hurt us. Basically, we have a good team, a good coach and a good general manager."

It's their record that stinks.

RIGHT COLORS, WRONG BENCH. Ciccarelli had a little trouble keeping his bearings Nov. 20 when the Red Wings visited the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., for the first time since he was traded to the Wings from the Capitals.

Since Detroit's uniforms are red and white, and the Capitals' uniforms are red, white and blue, Ciccarelli nearly committed the ultimate gaffe.

"I had to make sure I was going to the right bench a couple of times," said Ciccarelli, who had two assists in Detroit's 7-5 victory.

LEBEAU ON THE RISE. Center Stephan Lebeau and former Montreal Canadiens coach Pat Burns never had any real personal problems. They just couldn't agree on Lebeau's role on the team.

So Lebeau was excited when Jacques Demers took over as coach of the Canadiens this season, and his excitement has shown on the ice. Lebeau, who spent three seasons playing irregular shifts under Burns, now plays regularly and has accounted for 12 goals and 18 assists in his first 24 games this season.

Through Friday, only Brian Bellows had more goals, and only Kirk Muller had more points.

THEY SAID IT. Gino Odjick won't threaten Mario Lemieux for the Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion this season, but the Vancouver tough guy had a game last week against the Chicago Blackhawks that could only be described for him as "Mario-like."

Odjick scored two goals Monday, his second and third of the season, to propel the Canucks to a 5-2 victory.

After the game, Odjick, the leader in penalty minutes for the Canucks, said, "It's nice to score once in a while."

Put the emphasis on once in a while.

He was mad, and he wanted everyone to know it.

Hartford captain Pat Verbeek, who received a 10-minute misconduct penalty and a game misconduct in the final period of Friday's loss to Boston, said poor officiating cost the Whalers the game.

"Al Pedersen's call was just a terrible call. That was a joke," Verbeek said. "It's frustrating to lose when you don't deserve to lose a game like that. The crowd intimidates referees. That's what happened today."

Verbeek didn't say what accounted for the Whalers' previous 14 defeats.

Mike Ricci was a favorite in Philadelphia when he was a Flyer, and he's developing a similar reputation in Quebec.

"He's a better player than I thought," Nordiques coach Pierre Page said of Ricci after the center had four assists in Quebec's 5-4 overtime victory over Toronto on Thursday night. "You can go around the world three times and you won't find another one like him."

DIFFERENT VIEWS. NHL president Gil Stein suspended Doug Gilmour of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday for eight days without pay for swinging his stick and breaking the arm of Los Angeles winger Tomas Sandstrom in a game on Nov. 21.

Stein said he made the ruling because, while Gilmour did not intend to hurt Sandstrom, he "must be held accountable for the injury that results from his act."

Maple Leafs coach Pat Burns did not agree at all.

A few days after the game but before Stein made his ruling, Burns expressed his disagreement with that kind of thinking.

"I looked at the tape. I didn't see anything," Burns said. "That's part of the game. Guys get whacked all the time. Guys get broken arms."

Burns said Gilmour wasn't guilty of doing anything the Kings' Luc Robitaille hadn't done earlier in the game, when he slashed Sylvain Lefebvre across the wrists.

"The Kings are always crying about something," Burns said. "We were getting run from behind left and right. They ran into our goalie twice. This is hockey. But every time someone gets hurt, there has to be a suspension.

"Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. You can't touch them without getting suspended."

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