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“Can’t get much worse than this”: Jimmy Vesey on his tenure with the Leafs

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Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
2 months ago
It’s not a stretch to say that Jimmy Vesey’s brief time in Toronto was one to forget.
Once a highly sought-after college free agent who ultimately ended up in Manhattan, the American forward was unable to carry over the success he had at Harvard University which culminated in a Hobey Baker Award. While he wasn’t a bad player by any means, Vesey struggled to match the lofty expectations placed him after arriving in the NHL in 2016 with only one season during his first four years in the league where he surpassed the 30-point mark.
During the midst of his struggles, he joined the Leafs during the 2021 COVID-shortened campaign on a one-year deal in an attempt to revitalize his career that was stagnating. He was given plenty of opportunities to succeed as he got slotted alongside William Nylander and John Tavares to begin the season and even had a stint on the top line beside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But things never seemed to click for the winger who struggled all season long to get into a rhythm and fell further down the lineup.
Vesey opened up about his nightmare season with Mollie Walker of the New York Post, saying that the lacklustre year had him contemplating signing overseas in Europe due to no opportunities coming his way that offseason. Had it not been for the Devils signing him to a PTO in September 2021, his NHL career might have come to a disappointing end.
“My mindset was it can’t get much worse than this,” Vesey said, referencing Toronto. “So I might as well go into camp and f—k everything else, just go out and play.”
“What I learned is that it happens, you just pick yourself up and keep going.”
The hardships were on full display during the All or Nothing documentary that covered the entire 2021 season from behind the scenes. Included in the second episode was an exchange between Vesey and Sheldon Keefe, where the Leafs coach expressed his frustrations about the winger not being a difference maker like the team envisioned him being and said about his game: “I just want to be sure that you know that it’s been very vanilla.” Vesey responded by saying he felt the bench boss didn’t like his game and that he would be gone soon. The episode ended with him getting placed on waivers in March before he got claimed by the Canucks.
On the infamous exchange with Keefe that went on to define his stint with the Leafs, Vesey felt that it should not have been shown at all.
“I haven’t watched it, but I don’t think I should have been featured as prominently as I was, from what I’ve heard. In a documentary about a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs and I wasn’t there for it. I think they had final say on what went in it and sometimes you have to point the arrow somewhere else other than at yourself.”
When it was all said and done, Vesey’s disappointing Leafs tenure ended with him recording a measly seven points (five goals and two assists) in 30 games played. Combined with his stint in Vancouver, the Boston native finished the season with 10 points in 50 games.
To Vesey’s credit, he was able to find a role in New Jersey that would allow him to continue his career by becoming more of a shutdown forward and playing a two-way game that many coaches value greatly. It allowed him to ink a two-year deal with the team he wanted to play with from the start in the Rangers and has thrived in his second stint on Broadway.
Vesey did get some revenge on his former bench boss in a game last season where he scored twice, including the game-winner, in a 3-1 victory at Madison Square Garden. The disconnect between the coach and the player was further amplified when after being asked about his performance, Keefe abruptly ended the scrum saying “Are we done?”
With another wrinkle added to this sizzling hot beef, the two combatants will square off once again tonight when the Leafs host the Rangers in Toronto.
Stats from Hockey-Reference.com. 
 
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