Friday, February 1, 2019

Antoine Vermette Autographed Card

Just a few hours ago, Antoine Vermette announced his retirement from the NHL, having been unable to find a suitor, as he was looking for a job as a checking center on a contending team.

Having already had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup thanks to a short stint with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014-15 (19 regular-season games, 20 playoff games); his postseason run was memorable, as he tallied 4 goals, 3 assists and seven points, with three of his goals being game-winners, two of them coming in the Cup Final. His 58.9% playoff faceoff wins percentage was also dominant, although it may have ironically cemented his transition from the top-line center he was with the Arizona Coyotes to the defensive specialist he ended his career as.

I mention the Coyotes because he was often among the team leader in points in the parts of five seasons he spent in the desert, but statistically speaking, his best seasons came with the Columbus Blue Jackets (27 goals and 65 points in 2009-10) and Ottawa Senators (24 goals and 53 points in 2007-08), but those teams had better rosters than the Yotes.

At his best, he was one of the very good #2Cs in the NHL, but he didn't necessarily have the #1C prerequisite star power. He was instead better left in the shadows, accumulating Selke Trophy votes in four separate seasons and Lady Byng consideration in 2009-10. He was dependable on both sides of the puck and finished with the ninth-highest career faceoff percentage since the league started keeping tack of such things in 1997.

His worth can certainly be felt in the returns teams got for him in trades: the Sens got a #1 goalie (Pascal Leclaire) and second-round pick from the Jackets for his services in 2009; the Jackets got Curtis McElhinney, a second-rounder and a fourth-round pick from the Coyotes for him in 2012; and the Hawks gave away a defensive prospect and a first-rounder to secure his services for that Cup run in 2015.

I actually met him earlier this winter, and he signed a couple of cards for me, but today, I wanted to showcase an old card that reminds me of when it all started to come together for him, on card #83 from Upper Deck's 2000-01 Upper Deck Prospects set, which he signed in blue sharpie in 2013-14:
It shows him wearing the Victoriaville Tigres' white (home) uniform, sporting the alternate captain's "A" that he would also inherit in Columbus and Arizona. He'd scored 30 goals with 41 assists for 71 points in 71 games the previous season and had just been drafted 55th overall (second round) by the Sens, making the LHJMQ's Mike Bossy Trophy as best prospect.

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