Vermette Plots His Future Elsewhere, Senators 5, Penguins 2
posted Mar 22, 2006 at 12:36AM
"Hey Murray! How do you like them fucking apples???!!"
That was most likely the line going through Vermette's head after he stole the puck off uber-rookie Sidney Crosby, streaked down the ice, and disrobed Caron, while burying his fifth short-handed goal of the season.
This in a game, where despite missing our top two centres, Vermette was effectively benched.
I have said it before, Vermette will be a 30 plus goal scorer in this league. Unfortunately he will not be performing these feats in a Senators uniform. I saw it in his eyes today. He has had enough of this bullshit. He saw Martin doing it to Spezza last season, and now he is experiencing it first hand from Murray. He is gone.
When I was in the military, the infantry to be precise, the field officers could immediately "smell" when a management-type was in control of things. You could tell just by the the way rifle companies and battalions were just ripped apart and laid out piece-meal on the ground ... inevitably meeting the requirements of being: weak everywhere and strong nowhere.
This is a philosophy that Murray adheres to with almost pathological conviction. He abandons it only when forced to by dire circumstance, or to save himself from acute embarrassment.
For the record, the starting line combinations were as follows:
Heatley - Kelly - Eaves
Alfredson - Arnason - Varada
Schaeffer - Smolinski - Neil
McGrattan - Vermette - Schubert
Kelly a number 1 center? Eaves a top line winger? Varada a top 6 forward? Understand this, Vermette is better than Eaves. He is twice the player that Kelly is, and on his worst day, he is orders of magnitude better than Varada will ever be.
It is almost as if Murray wants to see how much he can water his lines down and still win a game.
Yes we did win the game, but no one wants to notice that we failed to get a single even strength goal - this against the weakest team in the league who had their back-up goalie in net. If we go into Buffalo and Philadelphia with these line combinations, we are going to get our asses wiped.
It was kind of ironic, that in the first intermission it was Antoine Vermette that was getting interviewed.
Fascinating in the context of the "advice" I said I would give if I was his agent, as detailed in the post Bruins blog entry (See Bleaaagh! Bruins 3, Senators 2 (SOL).
The interviewer notes that Vermette has been scoring a bit since the Olympic break and asks if there is any particular cause. Vermette answers (I paraphrase), "Well I don't worry any more about whether I will be playing center or not. I don't worry about wondering who I will be playing with in the next shift. I just go out there and work hard every time I get a chance to get on the ice."
That is Vermette, just being a good soldier. He might as well have been clicking his heels, saluting Murray and saying "Yes sir! Five bags full, sir!"
With Volchenkov hurt, Schubert was pressed into service on defence, and Vermette was abandoned to a side of the bench where he could watch lesser players get ice time and opportunities that he has yet to see all year.
You had to wonder what was going through his head. Watching Neil flounder out there. Neil has not scored an even strength goal since the Jurrasic era, but everyone is saying what a great forward he is because he can stand on two legs in front of the net. Ditto for Eaves. How many passes did Kelly shank?: The top line got better the second he got yanked and they put Arnason out there. And then Vermette had to sit there and watch Varada turn an uncontested two on one into a perfect break-out pass for the Penguins. Indeed events with Varada were taking on almost comic proportions. Everytime he had the puck he would pass it right onto the stick of a Penguin. Hey, he even got an "assist."
Finally, mid-way through the third period, whether out of mercy for Vermette, or embarrassment over his elevation of Varada to top six status, he deigned to give Vermette one real shift. He actually let him play centre, between Heatley and Kelly. How many times in the last four months can you remember Vermette actually playing centre with two real forwards?
Well in the next minute and half Vermette put on his own personal super-skills demonstration.
During those 90 seconds he had at one time or another:
a) held possession of the puck in all four corners of the Penguins zone
b) speared a bouncing puck out of mid-air and turned it into a no-look bounce pass off the boards to himself
c) played paddy-cake behind the net a la Gretzky
d) while flat on his face fired off a laser pass to Heatley in the slot, and
e) to finish things off, he gloves down a point shot going wide, and with his stick behind his back and between his legs lays a perfect pass onto the tape of Kelly's stick.
It was hilarious to hear the commentators. They were just blubbering. After all they had just spent the whole game yakking about how wonderful Kelly was, how great Eaves was, how good Neil was -- and here in 90 seconds they saw Vermette do things on the ice that these players have never done, and will never be able to do. You cannot coach players to do what Vermette can do. With a player like Vermette all a coach has to do, is give him the opportunity. In this Murray has failed miserably.
After that shift, Vermette just went to the bench and you could see the anger in his face. He ignored the acknowledgment of his team-mates for his efforts ... he just stared away, eyes forward. You could almost hear something go click inside of his head ... what people would call a "significant, emotional event."
Any doubts were erased on almost the very next series. Vermette is streaking down the ice on a short-handed two on one with Kelly. How many times have we seen Vermette's tendency to defer to other players? How many times have I wished he would just put his head down and let it rip?
Kelly was in the open. Passing was the right play here. Vermette did not even look at him. He might as well have yelled, "go get your own puck from now on". He puts his head down and just lets loose a howitzer that goes way wide, and ends up back in his own zone. He turns around, goes and fetches it, and starts yet another rush.
He was in his own universe out there. He was a man who had said "Fuck It" ... and as the cliche says, "Fuck it, gives you freedom.' Every time he was on the ice, you could see he wanted that puck, he lusted for it. He wanted to have it, and keep it for himself and go down and shove it down someone's throat before firing it into the net
And then there was that goal. It starts with him skating towards the net trying to get the puck, which is behind him up front. How many times have we seen him bobble that puck before in those exact circumstances?. This time there is no bobble. He scoops that puck as smooth as can be, accelerates down the ice, and basically makes the goaltender look like he wasn't even there.
It was a great goal. Even someone who had never watched hockey before, would realize it was a great goal. It was the kind of goal that you see a Havlat score, a Crosby, a Modano. A Vermette.
Vermette knew it, the crowd knew it, and Murray better fucking wake up and know it too.