Vermette - A Sword Yet Sheathed
posted Mar 16, 2006 at 03:14AM
Most of the arguements/examples that applied to Kelly work in reverse for Vermette, a natural center man who is forced to playing wing. Like Schubert he will do it, because bad ice time is still better than no ice time at all. But it should be obvious to all, that this is not his natural habitat. He gets by because of his innate talent, and his speed.. But when you watch him play you can literally see him chafing out there patrolling his wing. If he was a high school boy in a class-room, they would be stuffing him full of Ritalin.
For whatever reason, if there has been a player that has been underestimated, underappreciated and quite simply held to a different standard it is Vermette. Everyone goes ga-ga over Kelly and Eaves, the two rookies. And that is fine but people tend to forget that this is only Vermette's second season with the team. Last season he missed 25 games doing the Binghampton gig.
Much has been made of Fisher's play this year and justifiably so. He is a great player who has improved in each season he has played since he was drafted in 1999. He has had a career year, and everyone noted him breaking the 20 goal/season plateau for the first time in this his sixth season.
What has gone mostly unnoticed, and you can imagine media analysts blinking their eyes a bit, is the fact that Vermette has scored fifteen goals. He is the sixth top goal scorer on the team. He certainly has not had top six ice time.
Indeed what really makes his goal scoring most remarkable is that the quality of the ice time given to Vermette by Murray has been the worst on the team by far. (And "quality" is something that is not captured by the Efficiency Factor numbers)
Nearly all of his ice time has been off his natural position of center. 20% of his ice time has actually been killing penalties. 50% to 60% of his even strength time was with McGrattan and a defenceman turned forward, who, unlike Vermette, had the lowest scoring efficiency factors on the team. There were whole stretches of time where his shifts were of the 20 second variety. As soon as the whistle was blown, off they would come. Face off in their zone, and off they would come. They get on the ice, McGrattan picks a fight, shift is over.
Even when McGrattan was getting benched, it didn't really help. They would double shift some one in from the top line, but this would result in only a half-shift's worth of ice time because of course they needed the guy fresh for when the rest of the Big Line came back on the ice.
Vermette has had only two full shifts on a power-play. That is it! Two shifts! (oh yes and he got a goal and an assist over those two shifts)
To really understand the impact of this, one should try imagining doing to Heatley, what was done to Vermette.
As we speak, Heatley is one of the league leaders in scoring with 37. His talent and ability are questioned by no one. Ok, so first take away all of his power play time. That is 16 goals he wouldn't have scored. Just this knocks him down to 21 goals. Ok then put him on his wrong wing. This basically takes away his one-timer. How many even strength goals has Heatley scored on his one-timer?. True Heatley could adjust his play, but in the end one of his best weapons would be greatly compromised. Even a reduction of few goals scored puts him down under 20. Ok now take him away from Spezza and Alfredson, and put him with McGrattan and Schubert.
All of a sudden Heatley, one of the star players of the NHL, arguably the strongest forward on the Canadian Olympic team, has been reduced to a "role/utility" player.
So Vermette has gotten most of his goals because he has taken good advantage of those short periods of time when he has been free of the obstacles thrown in his path. The PK everyone knows about. In playing the "box", Vermette the winger can actually play as if he was a center. He is the amongst the league leaders in this area with four short-handed goals.
He immediately started potting some goals the instant McGrattan was taken off the line-up. For once, he was with two players (Kelly and Schubert) who could actually skate. As well, because there was now no need to double shift someone from the top line, he was getting longer, higher quality shifts. He scored five goals in a quarter of the time it took him to score just two when with McGrattan. It is not coincidence that Ottawa started playing out of their slump at this same time
It almost seems like ancient history, but there was a time this season when Vermette was used as centre. For 13 games, as far as I can figure, Vermette was centre between Schaeffer and Havlatt. Vermette scored 5 goals and 4 assists. Extrapolating that over an entire season would give him 31 goals and 25 assists.
Have no doubts about this. Vermette will be a 30 plus goal scorer in this league. He could have, potentially, been a 30+ goal scorer this season.
Stranding Vermette with McGrattan was perhaps the biggest strategic blunder of the Senator's season. (competing with overplaying Hasek and underplaying Emery)
Vermette is not a role player. He is not a utility player. He is a lethal weapon that no one has taken the time or trouble to sharpen, and has been left rusting in a scabbard. And in this salary cap era, which has lots of people thinking that this may be our last good chance for the Cup, it made absolutely no sense not to develop this talent in time for this year's playoffs.
It is not too late. Put him at center, give him two decent wingers like Kelly and Eaves and then let them do their thing. If this line of young players was an oil stock I would tell you to mortgage your lungs and buy with both hands.