In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a guy toiling away in Phoenix who has been scoring a lot of goals. In fact, you probably haven’t but that’s okay, not many people have. If you head over and sort the NHL’s goal scoring leaders from the top down you’ll notice a strange name slotted in a tie for fourth. That’s Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Vrbata has already set a career high in goals this season with 30, surpassing his previous career high of 27. He has 52 points in 60 games. Most impressive of all? TEN OF HIS GOALS HAVE BEEN GAME WINNERS.
This is where we see the media gap in the hockey world take shape. Among the league’s top goal scorers are Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, James Neal, Radim Vrbata, Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry and Scott Hartnell. We’ve talked about career years all season long for Neal and Hartnell – rightfully so, they’ve had exceptional seasons – but where is the love for Vrbata? He has put up identical if not better numbers on a much more defensively minded team than his cohorts. His main fault is that he doesn’t play in a hockey market. Let’s not forget that he also has a league high 10 game winning goals.
One in every three goals Vrbata has scored this season has won the Coyotes a game. That is insane.
Let’s also not forget the bang for your buck element here as Vrbata only makes a crisp $3 million a year. Players with identical cap hits include Rostislav Olesz, Ales Kotalik and Tomas Kopecky. There aren’t many guys with better value than Vrbata in the league, though in the interest of fairness, Neal and Kris Versteeg have similar hits.
The fact is there’s no dancing around what Vrbata has done this season. He has produced points, he has been a bargain basement deal in the grand scheme of things and he has been there when it counts. He has been the epitome of a Coyotes team that has been flying squarely under the radar and could end up with home ice advantage during the playoffs.
So, just a thought for the next time you fill out your weekly pick’em roster – take a look in the desert, you might like what you find.