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Jim Vandermeer, He Is Who We Thought He Was

Following Derek's look at Vandermeer's scoring chances yesterday today I take a quick look at the season that was and what the future holds for Jim Vandermeer. Bruce also has an advanced stats look at Vandermeer at the Cult of Hockey.

This season was Vandermeer's first in Edmonton. Last year on the day before the annual free agent frenzy got underway Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers got to work earlier than most teams and made a big splash by acquiring defenseman Jim Vandermeer from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Patrick O'Sullivan. Alright maybe it wasn't a big splash, maybe it was just a minor blip on the radar of most NHL fans, but it was a move to at least attempt to address the holes on the Oilers blue line, something I had hoped would be a priority for the Oilers during the summer of 2010.

Both players were on waivers at the time so this was really just a shuffling of potential buyouts. The Coyotes got the player with the higher cap hit but thanks to how the deal was structured the buyout of O'Sullivan would save them $200,000 over two years as compared to buying out Vandermeer; not a large sum but for a team owned by the other 29 teams every little bit counts. In exchange the Oilers got a serviceable defenseman with seven years of NHL experience with a one year contract and a true cap hit of $2.3M but a real cap hit of $1.365M if you factor in the O'Sullivan buyout that would have been on the Oilers bottom line without this trade.


For a third pairing defenseman the trade wasn't really much of a gamble for Steve Tambellini. Vandermeer was a reasonably well know commodity, he isn't going to score much but he brings a physical element with his game and is generally reliable in his own end of the rink. Vandermeer's addition filled a hole in the Oilers line-up quite nicely without actually giving up anything of value. It's hard to lose a trade like that. Not being able to lose a trade doesn't mean you'll necessarily win the trade either though. For the year he had I can't say that Vandermeer exceed expectations or that he really fell short of them either. For the most part he was just there, doing what he always does.  

Twice sidelined by ankle injuries despite playing on the best ice in the NHL (the first time for eight games and then after returning for only two games another injury would cost him seven more games) Vandermeer played a total of 62 games this season scoring 2-12-14 and adding 74 minutes worth of penalties, numbers consistent with his career numbers and about what would have been expected. His total of 122 hits ranks him behind only Theo Peckham among the Oiler defence corps in hits per game. Again about what would have been expected from Vandermeer going into the season.   

Where some might argue that things didn't go quite as expected would be in the Oilers end of the rink. When compared to the other Oiler blue liners Vandermeer didn't play extremely tough minutes and had better than average teammates on the ice with him for the most part and yet he still managed to be -15 for the season. That number bettered only Sam Gagner, Jason Strudwick, and Linus Omark who were -18, -17, and -16 respectively. On the surface this is probably not what the Oilers were looking for from a veteran like Vandermeer.

Going beyond his plus/minus and looking at his Corsi numbers the picture does get a little rosier for Vandermeer. Here he ranks third when compared to the other defensemen on the team with a raw number of -4.63 and a relative number of 4.9 which is good for second behind Tom Gilbert. Are those great numbers, certainly not, but the Oilers are a 30th place team so there aren't going to be a lot of really great numbers for anyone on this team.

All in all Vandermeer essentially did what I expected him to do this season. Nothing fancy. Nothing special. Nothing worth getting too excited about.

So what lies ahead for Jim Vandermeer? He is set to become a free agent on July 1 and he will almost certainly get a job somewhere in the NHL next season. But should that place be Edmonton? Personally I would hope that the Oilers look to make an upgrade on Vandermeer during the offseason. At best he was okay this year which in itself isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. And as Derek showed yesterday he didn't really carry anyone this year and was, more often than not, carried a little bit himself. The numbers he put up this year are what you can expect next season and maybe for another year or two after that.There is still value in his game but that value is diminishing every year.

If Tambellini did decide to bring Vandermeer back it would need to be at a greatly reduced salary and in the role Strudwick currently occupies, the 6/7 spot on the depth chart. A one year contract worth something a little bit south of half of the $2.3M that he made this season, say $1M plus or minus a couple dollars, would probably be reasonable considering the season that he had and that he is a bottom pairing defenseman at best. Whether he would be willing to take that remains to be seen of course; if he did it wouldn't be until late July after he's had a chance to shop his services around the rest league. I can't see Vandermeer not testing free agency and if someone else is willing to give him comparable money to his last contract then I wish him all the best elsewhere.