It’s been on everyone’s mind since Jimmy Vesey decided to return for his senior season at Harvard. Will he sign with the Predators or opt for free agency? The #VeseyWatch debacle will finally come to a close as early as this weekend if his team is unable to defeat the favored Boston College. The Hobey Baker finalist will have a big decision to make, and let’s be clear that he has every right to do whatever is best for him and his future.
Vesey is an exceptional hockey player. There’s no debate with 46 points in 32 games this season. The top prospect in college hockey right now. All of which have fueled the angst and anticipation by everyone involved with the Predators organization. On paper, he improves the team now and in the future if he inks an ECL contract in the coming weeks.
However, an “on paper” advantage doesn’t win every game.
The Predators have compiled points in 17 of the last 19 games. I’m no expert, but that seems pretty good heading down the stretch of the regular season. In a lot of scenarios, changing the chemistry of a team on a roll like that seems detrimental.
It’s fair to ask how Vesey coming into the fold affects the locker room. Talent should almost always trump being “a good fit in the locker room”, but the guaranteed roster spot for Vesey that has been stated by David Poile may rub some players the wrong way.
Everyone knows that “spot” sits on the top line besides Ryan Johansen and James Neal.That means a player is transitioning from college hockey right to the top line on one of the hottest team in the NHL a few weeks or days before the playoffs.
Yes, they’re professional hockey players and winning overrides any personal pride, but isn’t it reasonable for some in the locker room to feel Vesey hasn’t earned that spot like they have all season long?
There’s little time to build chemistry and maneuver pieces around before the season is on the line. How long is the leash for a guy the organization has been gushing over if he doesn’t mesh in the lineup? It could become a sticky situation.
The team’s weakest position, left wing, happens to be the same side Vesey plays on. He boosts the team’s talent level the second he walks through the door. Nashville absolutely should be striving to add this potential offensive weapon to their organization. But the notion of the Vesey situation only ending in playoff success or massive disappointment if he doesn’t sign is not realistic.
Nashville is not adding a proven NHL scorer with a rich pedigree. Vesey is a gifted but completely unproven forward at the this level. The change in dynamics of the locker room and chemistry if Vesey becomes a Predator have an unknown impact on the eventual success of the team.
Vesey should be looked at as a prospect with the possibility to help the current squad, and not as a sure thing with no risk involved. At this stage of the season and the way Nashville is playing, any tweak in personnel must come with caution. Let’s remember that before losing our minds one way or another when the talented young man makes his decision.