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From Leafs to Canucks, a Check-in on Vesey and Boyd

Brayden Fengler / May 14, 2021  

When Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd first joined this Canucks team inside the same week back in March, one of the main reasons to get excited about both players was their price. The two players each came in at a cap hit under $1 million, with Vesey taking up $900k and Boyd at $700k. 

The two forwards were seeing little action on the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, and though Toronto would’ve likely preferred to retain Vesey and Boyd as added depth for their taxi squad, that just wasn’t possible for them. Cap compliancy forced the hand of Toronto in both instances, and the Canucks just happened to be benefactors of Toronto’s overflowing talent pool via waiver wire pick-ups.

Naturally, the idea of Vesey and Boyd potentially being “found money” started to circulate in the minds of wishful Vancouver sports fans. We wrote a piece on both Boyd and Vesey back in March, highlighting this angle. At the time the Canucks had yet to re-sign Tanner Pearson, and there was a thought in the back of Canucks fan’s minds, about what Vesey and Boyd could mean for this team if they panned out.

If they could both be re-signed at a similar price to what they’re currently making, then maybe Pearson could be flipped for picks, and the future of this club may have all of the sudden gotten a little brighter seemingly overnight. However, we know now that not only did Pearson get re-signed, effectively shooting his trade value right between the eyes, but Vesey and Boyd may have been on the waiver wire for more than just cap reasons. 

Vesey’s Performance

At the time of Vesey getting acquired off of waivers, there was reason to be hopeful that Vesey could bring more value than what he was displaying in Toronto. In his three years with the New York Rangers, Vesey earned 27, 28, and 35 points during each of those seasons, and even in the shortened 2019-20 campaign when he was playing on the Buffalo Sabres, Vesey still managed to crack 20 points for his team. Perhaps, Vesey just wasn’t given enough chances on the densely talented Toronto Maple Leafs, and maybe on a team like Vancouver, he could bounce back into some degree of his former self?

Unfortunately, here we are 16 games into Vesey’s career in blue and green, and the former Leaf has earned a single point for the Canucks, in the form of an assist. Vesey went from a fourth-liner on the Leafs to a middle 6 player with the Canucks, with an average TOI of 15:14, an increase of approximately 4 minutes from his Toronto deployment. Yet despite his increased time on ice in Vancouver, Vesey has produced very little to show for it.

Jimmy Vesey sits near the bottom or middle of the pack in many stats when compared to his forward teammates in Vancouver. He doesn’t generate a whole lot of shot attempts for his team, being outpaced in shot attempt percentage by fourth-liners like Jay Beagle and Antione Roussel, who both sit in the 47.1% percentile. Whereas Vesey is down in the basement with this stat, at a percentage of 42.6%.

Additionally, of the six Canucks that sit below Vesey in the shot attempt percentage category, Vesey has played more games this season (as a Canuck) than any of the other players. This means that Vesey’s sample size for this stat is the most robust compared to his teammates around him, and thus this stat is deserving of some criticism.

Vesey has also been a hard sell in regards to the old eye test. You can be excused for not VeSEEing him on the ice because he has been so easy to miss. Yet when spotted, Vesey has often been seen in the light of giveaways or crucial miss handlings of the puck. The moans and groans on Twitter have grown louder against Vesey, as it’s becoming clear that he isn’t appearing to be more than meets the eye.

Now obviously presenting one bad stat and disheartened tweet does not mean that Vesey’s future with this club is written in the stars. It does suggest though that there hasn’t been enough of a wow factor with Vesey, for fans to be excited about him. Does this mean that management feels the same way? If you’re a Canucks fan, then you know that management is hardly ever in line with the hivemind here in Vancouver. So if Jim Benning does like what he’s seen in Vesey, enough to extend him, then the price and term will need to be nothing short of a team-first deal, in order to justify any new contract.

Oh Boyd

Boyd and Vesey don’t just have similar stories for how they got to Vancouver, they both have nearly identical stats, and rightly so as the two have played together on the third line with Zack MacEwen for most of their outings. So being that Boyd has been tied to the hip of Vesey, who hasn’t produced much for his new team, it should be no surprise that Boyd’s numbers aren’t much to observe either.

Like Vesey, Boyd sits with a single point in his time with the Canucks. That point coming in the form of a goal that was assisted by, guess who, Jimmy Vesey, which is of course where Vesey’s one and only point comes from as well.

On the stats sheet, the margin of difference between the two players is razor-thin, and it’s honestly up for debate as to if there has been any real difference between the two, or reason to justify keeping one over the other. To the eyes, Boyd has shown similar goofs and gaffs in puck handling as Vesey. But perhaps on a few occasions more than Vesey, Boyd has demonstrated restraint and caution when controlling the puck on his team’s third-line.

This is nothing to write home about, but when these players look so similar on paper and on the ice, it can be the little things like spatial awareness and fewer bobbles on Boyd’s part, that stick out when comparing the two. To say the very least, the fan reception to Boyd has not seemed to have soured too much in his time on the Canucks.

Boyd was also regarded a little higher than Vesey when his waiver pick-up was announced. Toronto fans didn’t seem to bat an eye when Vesey was picked up by the Canucks, but when Boyd was grabbed from waivers, many Leafs fans let out a muffled groan over Twitter. Going through the replies of the below tweet is a showcase of one of the many instances where Toronto fans have had nothing but good things to say about Travis Boyd.

Boyd’s initial reception may have been warm, but as mentioned up top, his production has been more or less ice cold. He’s been on the low end of CF% at 43.88, even a percentage point lower than his partner Jimmy Vesey.

Will Either Stay in Vancouver

When Boyd joined the team he skated for his first time as a Canuck on the same day that Adam Gaudette was pulled from the ice, and the COVID chronicles kicked off for Vancouver. needless to say, both Boyd and Vesey didn’t exactly have the welcome mat rolled out for them during their first few weeks here. 

It’s important that this last half of the Canucks season is examined through the lens of how COVID may have affected both the performance and morale of this team. It may feel like the Canucks outbreak was ages ago, making it fair game to evaluate the Canucks as per usual, but realistically, people with that mindset may be moving a little too fast. In evaluating the performance of Vesey and Boyd, it would be unfair to solely point to their short time with the Canucks and draw complete conclusions about their value to this team. 

We here at StadiumChinatown.ca have long been preaching patience and understanding when it comes to observing the latter half of this Canucks season. So of course both Vesey and Boyd deserve no difference in treatment, even if from a pure hockey standpoint, it may seem easy to write them off.

Re-signing Vesey and Boyd would, if nothing else, certainly add cheap depth, leaving room in the bank to effectively pay Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes what they will be demanding this off-season. Having a potentially sluggish bottom six for next season, with the trade-off being more cap space after signing the team’s two-star players, may not be a bad option. Especially considering the words of GM Jim Benning, who said that his vision for the team has them being competitive in two years, rather than having the team focused on bouncing back for next season.