From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up,.
#3 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Mar 22, 1977
$3,500,000 cap hit in 2009-10; UFA after 2010-11 season
Key Stats: Poti led the Caps in shifts-per-game in both the regular season (27.3) and playoffs (31.4), and was third on the team (behind Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green) in special teams time on ice per game.
Interesting Stat: Poti has never had ten goals and a plus-rating in the same season (though he's accomplished the former three times and the latter five times).
The Good: On a team that couldn't stay out of the penalty box, Poti somehow managed to, registering the fewest penalty minutes (both raw and per game) of any season in his career, despite the second-highest per game ice time of the team's blueliners and playing against the toughest competition of any Cap at five-aside. He led all Caps (who played at least 27 games) in blocked shots per game and was second to Shaone Morrisonn among Caps defenders (who played at least ten games) in takeaway-to-giveaway ratio. And he was honest about the quality of the ice at Verizon Center, which always endears a guy to us.
Poti raised his game in the post-season (despite a broken foot), scoring his first career playoff goal and playing to an 11-goal/29-assist/plus-46 82-game pace (but see below), though his spring may be best-remembered for Evgeni Malkin's Game 5 overtime goal that deflected off a sliding Poti's stick and past Simeon Varlamov.
The Bad: In 123 regular season games for the Caps, Poti now has just five goals, which is fewer than he's scored in half his individual NHL seasons, and his 0.19 assist-per-game rate in 2008-09 was the worst of any campaign in his career. Poti, who had 26 extra man helpers two seasons ago (10th in the NHL), was second among Caps rearguards in power-play ice time, but had fewer power-play assists than Sami Lepisto and just one more than Brian Pothier. He took fewer shots per game than John Erskine. He created fewer goals (both raw and per game) than in any of his previous nine NHL seasons, took more than 25% fewer shots on goal per game than in any prior season, and suffered through an absolutely hideous stretch of 30 games to end the regular season in which he didn't score a single goal, had just three assists and a meager twenty shots on goal, leading some (read: us) to speculate aloud about a possible injury when the reality is probably more painful - Tom Poti simply isn't a reliable offensive contributor any longer. (And don't be fooled by his playoff totals - outside of a brilliant Game 6 against his old buddies at Madison Square Garden, Poti had a goal and two assists in 13 games.)
Aside from his downright offensive offensive numbers, Poti had fewer hits per game than any Caps defensman (yes, including Jeff Schultz) and had the highest five-on-five GAON/60 of any Caps defenseman (but, again, this was against tougher competition than his teammates were facing).
The Vote: Rate Poti below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: In what role would you like to see Poti in 2009-10? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?