With, hopefully, only twelve days left until the Phoenix Coyotes preseason begins we continue our series of how the number of days left played a role in Coyotes history. With 12 days left we are going to take a look at the man who scored 12 game winning goals last season, Radim Vrbata. Vrby was a major part of the Coyotes offense last season, and though he didn't have the most points, he scored the most goals.
Part of the success Vrbata had last season could be based on his linemates of Martin Hanzal and Ray Whitney, the so-called "Prime Line." Whitney unfortunately signed a 2-year deal with division rival the Dallas Stars in the off-season, so the prime line won't be returning, but that just means that somebody else has the opportunity to rise to the occasion and be on the first line. It will most likely be Steve Sullivan though setting up shots for Vrby next season, hopefully they have good chemistry.
Based on the way he plays now you may be surprised to know that Radim Vrbata was drafted 212th overall by the Colorado in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. He got his start with the Avalanche in 2001-02 playing 52 games with 8 goals and 30 points overall. The next season he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and in 2005-06 he was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Vrbata had 2 not great seasons in Chicago before they decided to trade him to Phoenix on August 11, 2007 for Kevyn Adams. The next season Vrbata set then-career highs for goals and assists and lead the team in scoring. Adams ended up playing 27 more games with Chicago and had 2 assists, before he ultimately retired from playing professional hockey.
After his stellar year in Phoenix Vrby decided to test the free agency market and signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Things were not the same in Tampa Bay though, and with his wife having a difficult pregnancy he decided to spend the season in his native Czech Republic.
The next season he gave notice that he would be returning to the NHL, but the Lightning had filled his spot and so he was traded back to Phoenix in exchange for David Hale and Todd Fedoruk. In true Vrbata fashion he continues to exceed expectations in Phoenix while the players that were traded for him did not. Last season Vrbata set a new career high for goals and points.
In addition to his NHL accomplishments Vrbata was on the World Junior Championships gold medal winning Czech Republic team as well as the 2005 World Championships gold medal winning Czech Republic team.