GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 12: Antoine Vermette #50 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates after scoring a second period goal past goaltender Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 12, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With NHL preseason action only 50 days away, our countdown continues with the current wearer of the #50 sweater for the Phoenix Coyotes. Antoine Vermette figures to play an integral role for the Desert Dogs going into the 2012-13 season. Let's go back and look at Vermette's first season in Sedona Red before looking ahead to next year.
The Columbus Blue Jackets began the 2011-12 season with raised expectations thanks to the signing of free agents like Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. Injuries and suspensions caused the Jackets to struggle mightily out of the gate, and underwhelming play added to the misery. Antoine Vermette was one of the players having a disappointing year for the Blue Jackets. He had been a 20 goal scorer three times in his career (twice with Ottawa, once with Columbus), and had put up 45+ points in both full seasons with the Blue Jackets. At the trade deadline in 2012 Vermette had a disappointing 27 points (8G, 19A), making him a prime target for yet another of GMDM's deadline day steals. Maloney picked him up for a couple of draft picks (one of which was acquired from Vermette's former team, the Ottawa Senators, in the Kyle Turris trade) and Curtis McElhinney (who was already injured for the rest of the season anyways).
A change of scenery initially didn't seem to have the dramatic impact some Coyotes fans were hoping for, going pointless in his first 6 games with his new club and logging 10 points (3G, 7A) in the final 22 games of the season overall. But Vermette came alive in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks, Vermette had 4 goals, three of which came on the Coyotes much maligned power play, and an assist. He would add a goal and 4 assists in the remainder of the playoffs to finish the postseason with 10 points (5G, 5A).
The next season brings pretty high expectations for Antoine Vermette. Currently second on the Coyotes depth chart at center behind Martin Hanzal, Vermette has proven two-way skill and is excellent in the faceoff circle. His offensive production will have to improve from last season to help offset the loss of Ray Whitney. The good news for Phoenix is that in Vermette's first full seasons with both Ottawa and Columbus, he was a 20+ goal scorer who managed to play all 82 games. If history repeats itself in the desert, Antoine Vermette will play a major role in the Coyotes quest to defend their Pacific Division title in 2012-13.