Really. Tom Poti is important part of the Caps Defense.

Nearly 3 months after being temporarily blinded in the right eye by a Mike Cammalleri shot, Tom Poti declared today that “Everything is going good” and he’s made a complete recovery.

Tom Poti reacts after taking a Mike Cammalleri shot to the face (Photo by John Mcdonnell/WaPo)

Tom Poti reacts after taking a Mike Cammalleri shot to the face. (Photo by John Mcdonnell/WaPo)

This should be great news for Caps fans expecially with the team’s lack of activity in the free agent market this year.

If you watched the Montreal series it’s easy to see why not pursing a “shut down” defenseman in the free agent market has suddenly become a controversial move especially when Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Tampa Bay have all gotten better.

While I have been critical of the lack of activity there are some bright spots on the Caps blueline, specifically Tom Poti, who is entering the last year of his 4 year, $14 million contract.

If a defenseman is doing his job correctly, then the amount of shots against while he is on the ice will be reduced. Less shots equals less pucks the goalie has to defend against. Therefore fewer goals will be scored when said player is on the ice.

Shooting pucks towards the net however is more about how good a team is and is a much better predictor of future performance than goals scored. A team cannot “shoot efficiently.” Instead they need to get pucks directed to the net. Or can’t.

Here’s an analogy that might help. Let’s say a hockey game is a tug of war. Corsi is the how far right or left of center the rope is. On an individual level, it’s an expression of which players are really pulling the rope.

Poti is a blueliner that pulls the rope for the Capitals, especially at even strength. And he pulls it hard. (That’s what she said).

Poti’s CORSI rate in 2009-10, was the 9th best on the Caps among those that played 20 or more games. That puts him behind fellow blueliners Joe Corvo, Mike Green, John Carlson and Jeff Schultz. What we need to be careful of with CORSI is that not all numbers are created equal. Playing against easier opponents and/or starting in your own zone, all contribute to the toughness of minutes played. With that in mind, Poti played against the best competition the Caps’ opponents had to offer. And not just for the Caps’ defensemen – for ALL their skaters. And he did it while starting in his own end only 47% of the time.

While the relationship between outshooting and outscoring may not be apparent over brief periods, the teams that succeed at even strength over the long run are those who spend more time in the opposition’s end than their own.

Clearly, Poti is a leader at keeping the puck moving in the right direction. And he was in some elite company last season if you consider blueliners who:

Which gives us:

  • Tom Poti
  • Duncan Keith
  • Paul Martin
  • Dan Hamhuis
  • Kristopher LeTang
  • Ian White
  • Dan Boyle
  • Drew Doughty
  • Andy Greene

Poti’s pourous PK play (say that three times fast) is probably the only facet of his game that keeps him from being considered in the elite class of defensemen. As Japer’s Rink points out:

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.

Sadly I don’t see Poti’s PK play improving either. His Goals Against when playing a man down has been pretty consistent over the years:

  • 2009-10: 8.19 GAON/60
  • 2008-9: 8.42
  • 2007-8: 7.61

All in all, even at 33 years old, Tom Poti can still be a stifling blueliner at even strength despite playing some tough minutes. This is why I hope to see him paired with John Carlson this upcoming season instead of “The Future Is Now” duo of Carlson/Alzner.