The second post in this series of 'all-time all-stars' may be a bit of a stretch for some Sens fans... his last year here wasn't exactly one to be remembered. But regardless, Antoine Vermette will always have a place in my heart. Not only was he was a penalty killing machine and a short-handed sniper, but every so often, when you least expected it, he showed signs of sheer offensive brilliance. His problem was that he could never produce on a consistent basis, and as they so often do here in Ottawa, the fans grew impatient with the young center.
Vermette was selected by Ottawa in the second round of the 2000 entry draft (55th overall). Early-on in his carreer, between Binghamton and Ottawa (he spent his would-be sophomore season playing in Binghamton during the lockout, finishing second in scoring behind only Jason Spezza), he showed a ton of promise with his incredible skill and speed. He became a staple at the Sentaors Skills Competitions, year in and year out.
But as he grew out of his rookie years, his lack of consistency began to be an issue. As is customary around the league, Vermette's potential combined with his inability to ever quite 'break through' made him a constant target for trade rumors. And finally, after a dreadful start to the 2008-2009 season and weeks of neverending speculation, the Senators pulled the trigger at the trade deadline, sending Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Pascal LeClaire and a second round draft pick.
It was a day of mixed emotions. I loved Vermette, and as much as he could be frustrating at times, he definitely had some spectacular moments. It always felt as though he was just about to explode offensively. And even when he was struggling, he gave his all every night. By all accounts he was a popular guy in the dressing room as well (reminds me of a certain current ex-Shark on the team...). But all that being said, I was (and am) also an enormous fan of Pascal LeClaire.
Bryan Murray traded a struggling center who could never quite live up to his potential for a bona fide #1 goalie, and somehow managed to get a draft pick thrown in as well. I was terribly sad to see Vermette go, and I will always root for the kid. He deserves the respect of Ottawa fans... he loved it here and gave this city everything he had. When the news broke that he had been traded, he was clearly devastated while speaking to reporters. But I think the change did him a lot of good (he's enormously popular in Columbus), and it brought Ottawa one of the missing pieces to being a legitimate contender again. It was an opportunity for the Senators that they simply could not pass up. With the struggles Steve Mason has had all year, you've gotta wonder if Columbus regrets trading away their star goalie.
Here's one last look at a really good young player, who showed flashes of greatness (You may want to turn off the sound... yikes!).