by Todd Anderson
After a 21-goal season in 2005-06, Antoine Vermette wants to provide even more offence for the Ottawa Senators next season. The speedy forward wants to absorb some of the opportunities made available after the trade of veteran forwards Bryan Smolinski and Martin Havlat to the Chicago Blackhawks on July 10.
"I would like a bigger share of the responsibility on the offensive side of the ice," says Vermette. "With the new (collective bargaining agreement) you're going to lose good players, you're going to lose good friends. We're a young team and we have guys who can share the responsibility. We have good players coming up too. The thing is, it seems like I am repeating myself, but I've scored goals all my career and I think with the opportunities I had last year, I showed that I can do it here, too."
While he wants to help out more offensively, Vermette isn't going to forget the importance of the defensive aspect of the game. He turned out to be one of the best defenders in the NHL while killing penalties last season, as his six short-handed goals - second best in the league - would indicate.
"I'm not going to put away the defensive part of my game. It's a big boost when you can score on the PK but the main thing is to be effective in killing the penalty off."
Several of Vermette's goals last season were the result of breakaway opportunities. The centre was asked what he thinks about when racing in alone against goaltenders.
"Actually I don't really think. That's the thing, you just try and surprise the goalie."
This summer, Vermette has been busy overseeing renovations to his new home on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. The native of St-Agapit, Que., has also been training hard, as he does every off-season.
"I started playing hockey a couple of weeks ago and I'm working on making myself a better player. I work on power and strength on my legs to help make me quick and fast."
A crackdown on obstruction by the NHL also helps Vermette shine.
"(The rules) are great for the game in general. In my point of view, it's a benefit for guys who can skate."