As a whipping boy and lightning rod for over-the-top criticism and misplaced frustration by fans for whom crash and bang is the measure of a player’s worth, Tom Poti got kicked around by the faithful of the Edmonton Oilers long before anybody had even heard of Tom Gilbert, Jeff Petry or Justin Schultz.
Poti was so maligned for using brains instead of brawn, Oiler GM Glen Sather was once quoted by columnist Terry Jones as saying: “We’ve got to trade this guy before everybody in the league finds out that he’s chicken shit.” The same Sather acquired Poti and Rem Murray for Mike York in 2002 as GM of the New York Rangers. When that trade was made, Jones added an exclamation mark by calling Poti “a wuss.”
Tom Poti #5
|NUMBER:||3||BIRTHDATE:||March 22, 1977|
|HEIGHT:||6′ 3″||BIRTHPLACE:||Worcester, MA, United States|
|WEIGHT:||190||DRAFTED:||EDM / 1996 NHL Entry Draft|
|SHOOTS:||Left||ROUND:||3rd (59th overall)|
BY THE NUMBERS
CAREER REGULAR SEASON STATISTICS
CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS
At six-foot-three and 200 pounds, it’s more than fair when looking at Poti’s 824-game career to point out that he didn’t use his size to his advantage in terms of imposing his physical will on opposing forwards. Poti didn’t throw devastating open ice hits. He wasn’t a banger in the corners or a punisher in front of the net. He didn’t fight – he had three scraps in 14 seasons.
Poti preferred playing the angles, positioning and frustrating opposing forwards by poke-checking the puck away with a stick that seemed about eight feet long and then turning the play back the other way in transition, skating or passing it out of trouble. Poti wasn’t a glass-rattling crowd-pleaser. He was more efficient than enthusiastic.
Poti, no question, didn’t play the robust game I prefer, but those making the leap from that to suggesting he was a chicken shit or a wuss always rubbed me wrong. Knowing Poti as I did while covering and travelling with the Oilers during his time in Edmonton, I thought they had their heads up their asses. Poti was one of the most courageous people I knew. He had to be to overcome a sickly childhood and potentially lethal food allergies – to peanuts, chocolate and MSG – to get to and stay in the NHL. The way he chose to play had nothing to do with lack of courage.
Outside his rookie season with the Oilers, 1998-99, Poti was a top-four blueliner in Edmonton. He averaged 22:39 per game in 285 games over parts of four seasons here. His 35 points in 1999-2000 were second on the blue line to Roman Hamrlik. His 32 points in 2000-01 left him second to Janne Niinimaa. He worked the power play. He killed penalties.
Of course, Poti had his warts. He coughed up the puck too much, a problem amplified because he seldom banged a body to get it back like Bo Mironov, Niinimaa or Hamrlik would – there goes Poti again, fishing with that big silver stick. He never punched anybody in the mouth the way Jason Smith did. When things went bad, he’d get rattled and mistakes would mount.
All that said, despite the braying of his critics, there were far more good games than bad with the Oilers for Poti, who was still just 24 when he left Edmonton for the Rangers. Poti’s best season in terms of offensive numbers came in 2002-03 in New York, when he had 48 points.
This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.
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