From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Tom Poti.
#3 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Mar 22, 1977
NHL Seasons: 11
Key Stat: Poti's +9 is still tied for second-highest in the playoffs among defensemen, one behind League-leader Brent Seabrook.
Interesting Stat: Poti played a total of 253 minutes shorthanded during the regular season, the highest on the team - and over a full game more than the next defenseman, Jeff Schultz (192:55).
The Good: Poti took more shifts per game than any other player on the team - and often against some pretty tough competition - and still managed to achieve a career best +26 on the season. Two of his four goals came on the power play, the first time he's struck with the extra man during his tenure in Washington. He was second on the team in blocked shots, had more takeaways than any defenseman not named Mike Green and finished the season with 20 assists - twice as many as last year. And a good chunk of that came during a particularly hot stretch that kicked off 2010, as Poti fired off a five-game point streak in which he picked up a goal and six assists.
But for the second straight year it was in the playoffs that Poti really rose to the occasion. Along with his steady play and veteran leadership, his most memorable playoff contribution was his fight with Scott Gomez during Game 2. It was a fight that served to energize his trailing team as well as the hometown crowd, while also having the added benefit of removing one of Montreal's better playmakers from the ice for five minutes.
It wasn't his only contribution, though; his even strength GAON/60 was among the lowest on the team, and he was on the ice for just three goals during the Montreal series - only one of which was even strength. His four playoff assists were just one shy of his career best (in less than half as many games) and he even picked up two shorthanded points, part of a three-game point streak that coincided with the Caps' three wins.
The Bad: For all the good he did at even strength over the course of the season, Poti often proved to be a liability when the Caps were down a man. When it wasn't his stick in the wrong position that cost the Caps, it was a failure to clear the zone when given the chance. The result? Poti was on the ice for more than twice as many power play goals against than any other defenseman on the team and actually brought the PK percentage down when in the lineup.
The lack of the "little things" also factors in to Poti's performance this season. For a third straight year he put up points but not goals, failing to alleviate much of the offensive burden from someone like Mike Green (although it was his highest goal total as a Cap). He blocked shots but didn't really hit, his 19 credited hits besting only Karl Alzner and Joe Corvo (each of whom played fewer than 22 games for the Caps this year). And while he could strip the puck away from an attacker with the best of 'em, he could also give it right back.
The worst, however, was actually the loss of Poti during Game 6 to a severe eye injury too gruesome to discuss in much detail. Not only was it a terrifying injury to watch, it also took someone out of the lineup who had been one of the best players for Washington throughout the first round.
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: With John Carlson and Karl Alzner almost assured of roster spots next season, what will Poti's role be and who does he skate with? Does Poti become expendable when he becomes a UFA, or for the right price does he stay on as a veteran presence beyond 2010-11? Do Poti's shorthanded shortcomings outweigh his even-strength prowess, or is the opposite true? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?