As the Predators get set for the biggest game in franchise history Monday night, I can't help but ask one question. Where is Jimmy Vesey?
The simple answer is the 23-year-old rookie just completed his first season with the New York Rangers, scoring 16 goals and assisting on 11 more while helping the Rangers reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It's more difficult to understand why Vesey isn't in Nashville with the team that drafted him 66th overall in 2012 and spent four years developing him in their system while he starred as a college player at Harvard.
It was that investment that made Predators General Manager David Poile willing to guarantee Vesey a roster spot last year at the conclusion of his senior season. He basically could've gotten off a plane in Nashville and suited up for his first NHL action in the playoffs, that's how highly the Preds thought of him.
But instead the Hobey Baker Award winner as the nation's best collegiate hockey player informed the Predators he would not sign with them, wanting instead to pick his destination.
Now Vesey was well within his rights to do so as set forth in the NHL collective bargaining agreement. But, as we sit here today, has there been a more ill-advised decision?
While Vesey's decision was his right, it also opened him up to significant criticism as he forced the Predators into trading his rights away to the Sabres. The scrutiny heightened when he then refused to sign in Buffalo, becoming a free agent before eventually signing with the Rangers in August.
Reportedly, a big part of the Vesey camp's decision to not sign in Nashville was a desire to win big and to be a star off the ice as well as on it. They wondered if those two things would happen for Jimmy in a non-traditional southern hockey market.
How's that decision looking now?
The Predators play the Ducks Monday night in game six of the Western Conference Final at Bridgestone Arena, a chance to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final in front of the loudest, most raucous fans in all of professional sports today.
Since Vesey's decision to leave them at the altar, the Preds have won more than ever before, reaching a then franchise record seventh game of the second round a year ago, and now the conference final.
Had Vesey elected to sign with the team that drafted and developed him, he'd be a part of this run. He could be suiting up for his 30th career playoff appearance in game six in just over a calendar year as a pro.
Vesey chose to go another direction, loyalty be damned.
But now instead of wondering what could have been with the talented winger out of Harvard, Preds fans can sit back and simply enjoy the hockey.
Because right now Vesey is far away from the bright lights of New York City that he chose, probably on a golf course or laying on a beach somewhere. He can do that because summer vacation came about two weeks ago for he and his Rangers' teammates.
Meanwhile, the team he spurned is still playing, and winning.
The Predators are the story of the NHL, even without Jimmy Vesey.