Getting the Most out of Wojtek Wolski

April 13, 2011; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) makes a save as New York Rangers left wing Wojtek Wolski (86) and defenseman Mike Green (52) battle for the puck in overtime in game one of the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

When the Capitals acquired Mike Ribeiro at the Draft a couple of weeks ago, we took a look at how they might best utilize their new pivot. With the team going out and signing winger Wojtek Wolski (at a bargain basement price of just $600,000 for the season), we'll do a similar analysis to shed some light on how the Caps can maximize Wolski's effectiveness... besides making sure he's a participant in every shootout.

We'll start with a look at how he's been used over the past five seasons, what's worked and what hasn't. Here are some relevant five-on-five numbers (all via BtN):

Season Pts/60 Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QoC OZ% S%ON
2011-12 1.77 0.1 0.428 58.8 7.14
2010-11 2.04 7.4 0.335 58.0 8.43
2009-10 2.78 12.3 0.352 48.8 11.1
2008-09 1.52 -3.7 0.431 47.5 7.7
2007-08 2.54 5.1 0.380 54.5 10.3

Like Ribeiro, Wolski is coming off a down 2011-12 campaign, in Wolski's case owing to injury and perhaps playing for two different teams (his second and third since the calendar turned to 2011). But his numbers were still respectable. To put them in perspective, Alex Ovechkin had an identical Pts/60 and a lower relative Corsi while facing easier competition. Going back in time, that 2.04 Pts/60 in his last full season? That's just a hair less than what Nicklas Backstrom produced this past season, and the 2.78 from 2009-10 is barely less than Ovechkin's rate in 2008-09 when he had 110 points.

With the exception of that 2008-09 season, Wolski has had solid possession numbers when facing somewhat tough competition, somewhat regardless of his zone starts (going back to last season, you'd like to see a more impressive relative Corsi, given the very favorable zone starts, but again, it was an injury-shortened, tumultuous season for Wolski, and he crushed similar minutes the year before). He's had tremendous success lining up with Derek Stepan, Matthew Lombardi, Mats Zuccarello and Lee Stempniak - all strong set-up men - and struggled with less-skilled players (no clue how he didn't gel with Joe Sakic, though), but there's a lot of noise in the numbers and not a lot of context.

Wolski himself said that the Caps envision him in a top-six role, and it's not hard to see why - he absolutely has the talent for it, and doesn't necessarily need to play sheltered minutes to show it. Of course, talent alone doesn't score points, and he'll need both good health and to give an honest effort to produce (sounds familiar?). Ultimately, Wolski is a low-risk/high-reward reclamation project with plenty of upside and should help a somewhat skill-starved Caps offense.

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