This morning one of the most trusted names in hockey journalism finally gave us what we’ve been waiting for – an end. Bob McKenzie of TSN chimed in on the Jimmy Vesey situation for the first time, to tell us that it is coming to and end today, probably. While McKenzie says it may stretch until Saturday, it will go no further than that. Andrew Gross of The Record also hears that it’ll end today, as does Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.
Arthur Staple of Newsday gives us the latest update on the finalists; he’s heard that it’s down to the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks, noting that the Islanders made a strong push but fell short.
An amazing amount of proverbial and literal ink has been spilled over the free agency of Vesey, more than most prospects get in their entire amateur careers. Now, with it coming to an end, Vesey will have to start performing immediately or risk the ire of an entire fanbase.
If the Harvard grad struggles, like many prospects before him, he’ll be met with songs of “all that for this guy?” at his home arena and “over-hyped” will be firmly entrenched beside his name in the program. But for all the hype that the media (including PHR) has created, Vesey is none to blame. He’s done nothing but exercise his rights under the current CBA, just as other players have done in the last few days.
Three things have made it into a media whirlwind though: the lack of other hockey news in August, the uncertainty of the level of college hockey in the USA when compared to other amateur leagues, and the relatively poor free agent market after its biggest name re-signed before July 1.
Obviously, as any other year, August is one of the slowest months for hockey news. Teams have built their core, and are waiting for training camp to open. While many fringe free agents remain unsigned, the meat has been almost completely stripped from the bone.
The NCAA still proves to be a hard league to create equivalents from. Because the league has such a spread of talent, and has only started to become respected as a strong development option in the last couple of decades, fans and media alike aren’t sure exactly how to examine base statistics.
In the CHL, it’s common to see top prospects crack 100 points and dominate in their draft year. But the college ranks play less games, and require more of their athletes outside of hockey – indeed, Vesey will graduate with a degree from Harvard University, and to put it in his own words: “College is an ultrastressful environment — we’re balancing school, hockey, internships, our social lives and so many other things.” The fact is that the Frozen Four isn’t as well covered as the Memorial Cup (the CHL championship) is in Canada, and that many fans have never even seen a college hockey game, and they’re just not sure what Vesey really is.
What he isn’t, though, is Steven Stamkos. When Steve Yzerman pulled the unthinkable and re-signed his superstar centerman just prior to him becoming a free agent, the summer lost its biggest story. All of a sudden the best free agent in history was off the market, and we were left with an unspectacular group (despite the amount of money that was spent on it). Vesey represents the unknown, and for at least a handful of teams (a group similar to the ones reportedly “in” on Stamkos) another chance to land the summer’s biggest fish.