For years now, Ottawa Senators fans have been waiting for the potential in Antoine Vermette to show itself.
The speed, the hands, the vision with the puck, it has all been seen at various times, but never all at once and certainly never for very long.
Vermette has had the label of "rising star" attached to him for several years, fans and hockey observers alike were just waiting for the time when Vermette would become the next great francophone star in the NHL.
Two things are now clear about the potential of Antoine Vermette:
- It has yet to show itself
- It never will in Ottawa
During contract negotiations in the summer, it was made clear by the Vermette camp that he wanted a long term deal to stay in Ottawa and recognize his potential.
Sens general manager Brian Murray balked at both the dollars and the term being put forward by Vermette and his agent—it was rumoured Vermette was seeking a four or five year deal in the $3.5 million range—and eventually the two sides settled on a two-year, $5.525 million deal.
Vermette made no secret of the fact that he was disappointed in the lack of faith the Sens had shown him by not agreeing to a longer term deal and vowed to prove Murray wrong with his play.
Suffice it to say Murray's uncertainty about Vermette's long term potential is proving to have been a wise stance.
Vermette is currently seventh in team scoring with a measly two goals and two assists, looking up at such offensive powerhouses as Jarko Ruutu and Shean Donovan.
But perhaps most importantly, the guy has absolutely no finish whatsoever.
In the past two games Vermette has missed no less than a half dozen absolute glorious scoring chances, some of which would go in the "yawning cage" category, and has flubbed two shootout opportunities where he not only didn't even get a shot on goal, but appeared to deke himself out in a fit of leg kicks and stick fakes.
For a player who is supposed to be the key to Ottawa's secondary scoring, Vermette is a huge disappointment and at -6 is not even keeping up his previously strong defensive play.
All this to say, time has run out on the Antione Vermette experiment in Ottawa.
He seems like a nice guy, the fans really like him, he is an important Francophone voice for a team that is trying to engage the large French population of Ottawa-Gatineau, but time has run out.
Any effort Vermette vowed to put into proving Murray was wrong in not trusting him with a long term deal is going nowhere.
I still think Vermette may have the potential to break out and become a steady secondary scoring threat in the NHL, but unfortunately Ottawa no longer has the time to wait to see it happen.
Along with Christoph Schubert, the German swingman who has found himself on the outside looking in both on defence and at forward, and the first round pick the Sens acquired in the Meszaros trade with Tampa (the pick is actually San Jose's), Antoine Vermette currently find himself as part of a package deal Murray is shopping around the league to help shake up the slumping Sens and address a few of their weaknesses.
While I have always held out hope Vermette would turn into a strong contributer for the Ottawa Senators, the end appears near for his time in Ottawa and the future, whatever it holds for Vermette, will not be played out as a Senator.