Friday, August 20, 2010

Time to step up: Antoine Vermette

  • Center
  • Alternate captain
  • 28 years old, 7th year in National Hockey League
  • $3,750,000 cap hit 
  • 6.3% of Columbus Blue Jackets salary cap
  • Contract expires at end of 2014-2015
  • 2009-2010 CBJ numbers: 82 games played, 27 goals, 38 assists, 65 points, +2, 32 penalty minutes, 20:08 avg. time on ice
Don't look now, but we might have that Mythical First Line Center
right under our noses!
If I had to pick an offensive player for last season's DBJ Most Valuable Player, it would have been Antoine Vermette.  (Of course, I didn't choose to go offense and instead picked Fedor Tyutin, but that's another topic for another profile.)

In addition to playing in every single game last season, and trailing only Rick Nash in goals and total points (and trailing only Kristian Huselius on assists...wait a minute, Juice led the team in assists?), Vermette also led the team in a couple "Blue Jackets by the numbers" categories, that being pace-setting goals and last-minute goals.  Work on your clutch scoring, Antoine, and you'll have hit the trifecta.  

And - holy cow - he can pull rabbits like this out of his hat:

(Side note: Where did I come up with this gem of a video, you ask?  Strangely, I found it on the Hockey For The Ladies blog, which offers a great bio on Vermette in addition to beefcake shots that will make any Puck Bunny swoon.  The perils of Googling a guy's name for more info...)

Talk about a talent.  I'm still amazed that Scott Howson was able to grab him, straight up, in a trade with Ottawa for Pascal "Murphy's Law" LeClaire.  I'm having a hard time thinking of a shrewder personnel move than this one.  (Hmmm....Maybe the Tyutin/Backman for Zherdev/Fritsche trade?)

Vermette wears the Alternate captain "A" (along with half of the team), which means he is one of the leaders in our motley crew.  I won't go much further on that as I have no read on his leadership skills.

What I do find interesting about Vermette is the inevitable comparison to who he isn't: The Mythical First-Line Center.  For, as we have been pounded with by hockey pundits big and small, the major thing holding Rick Nash back is the lack of a First-Line Center.  Keeping in mind that Vermette had the best year of his NHL career last season, I thought it would be worth comparing how he performed against the other individuals who are pegged to be first-line centers in 2010-11 by The Hockey News:

OK, so let's consider these stats.  After normalizing all of the NHL top line centers for a full 82 games like our resident ironman Vermette, Antoine comes out as follows:
  • 10th in goals
  • 22nd in assists
  • 20th in points
I suppose that tells the tale - if Vermette gets his assists up to an 82-game level of 49-50 (11-12 more than this past season, not an impossible task), I can't see how we avoid placing him in the First Line Center category.  So that's the mission this year: Keep shooting the puck like last year, but also look for the assist as well.  Somehow, I think that a dose of the Boughner/Arniel offensive approach will make that a lot more likely than one would think.  A faster-moving, puck possession game should be like manna from Heaven to a guy with Vermette's skills.  

A little more playmaking, and you've got a bona fide NHL superstar on your hands, folks.  He's THAT close.

[UPDATE: Matt Wagner at The Cannon tackles this very same topic in a bit more depth than me.  Good stuff...definitely worth a read.]

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I think many people are counting A.V. out, but he could definitely make the step to a true #1 center. And I thought the adjusted goals was a clever way to look at talent. But in terms of production, know, the kind that actually goes in the net, Vermette is a very strong 8th in goals, 17th in assists,and 16th in points, suprisingly close to a dude named Datsyuk. So you have to ask yourself. Would you be happy with a guy that produces like Datsyuk to limp through as your #1 center? If I'm Howsan, I definetly give that a shot.


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