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Canucks Player Autopsy: Radim Vrbata

Last summer's big free agent signing not named Mr. DeWulf eventually became the team's MVP. But how long will he be around for us to enjoy all that sniping?

Czech yourself before you wreck yourself. I'll show myself out...
Czech yourself before you wreck yourself. I'll show myself out...
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Who is this guy?

Position: RW

Shoots: Right

Height: 6''1'

Weight: 194 lbs of Czech awesomeness

Born: June 13, 1981 in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, the same hometown as what used to be known as Martin Havlat.

What'd he do?

Vrbata arrived in Vancouver as a free agent, being courted by the Bruins, Canadiens, Devils and the Coyotes, his team for the past five seasons. Opting to leave the mess in Phoenix for the moneybags Sir Bennington threw at him, he arrived as quite the rarity for Canucks fans: a proven right-handed sniper who could roll alongside the Sedins. That injection of top line talent - coupled with the fact he had decent offensive and possession numbers with less than stellar linemates in Phoenix - was one of the more exciting aspects of the immediate post-Gillis era.

Vrbata didn't disappoint out of the gate, going 5-6-11 in his first ten games donning the Orca. His offensive contributions dwindled a bit between November and January but he roared back in the crucial February & March months, going 12-16-28 with 4 PP tallies and four game winners.

At the season's end, Vrbata was voted the team's MVP, in part because of his team-best 31 goals and team-leading 12 PPGs. As we've seen too many times before, Vancouver's offensive talent didn't show up in the post season and Vrbata - chained to a slumping Bonino instead of featured on the top line with the twins - ended up adding a respectable 2-2-4 in five games but wasn't a deciding factor at ES or the PP.

So was he any good?





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Very much so! Vrbata the team in goals (at ES and on the PP), game winners (7), shots (267), third in overall points (63) and second PDO next to Dorsett (102.5). He bounced back from his numbers in his last season with Phoenix and, with less TOI, managed more points, goals and higher possession numbers thanks to his time with the Sedins and when Bonino's play was strong.

What'd we like?

They paid for a top line RW'er and got one. Compare his shooting percentages with a guy like Stamkos just to get a good idea of his nose for the net.

Cool. So what did we hate?

We hate that we didn't have him as a winger when Kesler was around...wait, Kesler never passed, nevermind.

Consistency - always the bane of existence for snipers - was a concern in December and January, especially considering his OZ starts. There was the slight knock against him that he wasn't a strong forechecker, but I don't recall anyone suggesting he's here at $5 million per to do that either.

I guess I hate that he's not 23 years old, built of adamantium and doesn't ride unicorns shooting fireballs out of their eyes into Rogers every night. Yup, certainly hate that.

Honestly anything you're going to hate about Vrbata is totally off when you consider he generated 13% of the overall offense (the Sedins combined were 16%) and if you remove his seven game winners Vancouver was golfing two weeks earlier than they did.

So what now?

As the top scorer on a team with perennial scoring problems, you of course trade the man. This largely stems from the curious decision to not play him alongside the Sedins against Calgary. Either you buy the argument WD wanted balanced lines or, as he said in his own post mortem a stronger forechecker with the twins, or there's something else there and we get to scratch that itch all summer.

There are paltry few untouchables on Vancouver's roster. Trading Vrbs - who enters the final season of his two year deal - makes a lot of sense from a rebuilding perspective, but terrible from a retooling perspective. The Canucks have no one who can replace those offensive and special teams contributions and expecting an influx of youth to fill that void could end up being a painful learning curve in a Pacific Division that isn't about to get any less competitive. Then again Vrbata could have an injury-ravaged 2015-16 and then we lost the chance to deal him when he was most valuable.

A generous offer certainly could land on Bennington's desk by the draft; remember: the man loves picks, this upcoming draft is deep and the Canucks have no selections in the second or third rounds. Failing that Vrbata should be around next fall as a mainstay on special teams and help balance out the top two scoring lines. With all the talk about getting Horvat up to 2LC, imagine the nice 1-2 punch that gives WD with his top six.

Will be be around past next season? Tough to say based on the cap and the youth movement that's afoot coupled with the fact he'll be 35 years old and heading into those sunset seasons with a closing window on the chance for a Cup.