Who Really is Tom Poti?

By Lain Babcock

Saturday night, in his own zone, Tom Poti had the puck, dangerously close to the Oilers net with guys in the wrong uniform all about. Poti pushed the puck up, as if offering it to the opposition, saying “you know, if you try one more time, I bet you can beat Salo”. I came to this site, to post some well worded attack on him, but decided all it would do is cause pro-Poti reactions or “I hear ya” responses.

So, I’ve spent the last two days or so going through NHL history, looking for a clue as to how this story is going to turn out. I asked myself this question:

Who, in the last 30 years, most resembles Tom Poti in both potential and in frustration? How did his career turn out? Did they move him to forward? Did they trade him? Did they hang him? Did they run over him with a large tank? Did they yell at him? Did they protect him? Was he a fan favourite?

I looked long and hard, and came up with three nominees, all of whom played 20 years ago. This works well because we can see how their careers turned out. I’ll mention them in reverse order:

3. Ron Greschner: From Goodsoil, SK, he played in the WHL with New Westminster, and once drafted spent 7 games in the AHL before coming up to the New York Rangers. There’s a long standing rumour that NYR GM Emile Francis spread a rumour that Greschner had a bad injury, which dropped his stock. Have no idea if it’s true. Anyway, Greschner scored 8-37-45 as a rookie, with almost 100 minutes in penalties. This was 74-75, so I’d guess a few of those PIM were of the five minute variety; when posted next to Poti’s rookie year (5-16-21 42PIM) we’d have to give Greschner the edge, but if you remember Greschner, I think you’d agree there are similarities.

WHAT HAPPENED: He scored 20 twice as a dman in the next few years, but in 1980-81, he was moved to forward by then coach Craig Patrick. He scored 27 goals, but after that injuries entered into the picture, and he finished before reaching 1000 games. His offensive totals (179-431-610) are certainly impressive, but his lack of ability defensively caused the move up front, and was always a question.

2. Carol Vadnais: Awful without the puck, I mean terrible, and as a result, he got passed by many Montreal defenders (among them Serge Savard and Terry Harper) and finally getting dealt. With California Golden Seals, he showed he was quite spectacular with the puck, and scored 20 goals twice. Career Totals: 169-418-587, but with monster PIM totals. Vadnais was not as I recall afraid to mix it up.

1. Ian Turnbull: He’s the best comp, imo. Turnbull was a high draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1973, and was one of many Leafs kids trying to make it around that time (I remember a Hockey News with five young Leafs dmen on the cover with the title LEAFS FIVE ACES. I don’t remember all of them, but Bob Neely was one) due to the WHA raiding their roster of guys like Rick Ley. The Leafs basically lost a generation of defenseme who they replaced with Borje Salming, Jim McKenny and a prospect of the week.

Turnbull was the best of these, although he frustrated fans and management with his inconsistency. Turnbull’s greatest night came on February 2, 1977 when he scored 5 goals, but it seemed he was always trying to be consistent, never succeeding. Here’s a quote from coach Mike Nykoluk:

“He throws in enough great games to encourage me, and the od streak of terrific games. But consistency is vital and there’s going to be a lot of competition for defense jobs from now on in Toronto.”

Of course there was no competition, but those words could be used for Poti, I think. Turnbull’s nickname was “THE BULL” so I don’t think they are a perfect match, but he’s the best I coudl find. Career stats: 123-317-440.


Greschner played his whole career for the Rangers. Turnbull was traded for winger Billy Harris and extras. Vadnais was traded for Reggie Leach, Rick Smith and Bob Stewart (Bruins had lots so could trade away alot, they ended up winning the Cup that year). Vadnais was also traded with Phil Esposito for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi.


If you take my premise, we can learn a few things about Poti’s future. His defense will haunt him for his career, and he may end up moving to forward, if only for a time. He will be less than what we hoped for.