April 5, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek (93) shoots against Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold (3) and goalie Ryan Miller (30) during the third period at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Flyers defeated the Sabres, 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Lessons From A Voracek

April 7, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek (93) skates up ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Originally this post was going to be about Jakub Voracek and his highly visible play in the playoffs with the Flyers this postseason. The theory was going to be that the Flyers did not need Voracek to be a success and could afford to allow him to be a failure. Whereas the Jackets needed Voracek, and other high level prospects, to be successful. Voracek needed the Flyers more than they needed him; conversely the Jackets need their prospects far more than the prospects need them.

Unfortunately I remembered a statistic that I knew at the end of last year. Voracek was perceived to have had a good rookie year, with the promise of much more. The next two years were a let down, young Jake was not progressing. The problem was that the stats did not bear out the perception. Voracek had 38 points in his rookie year, following up with 50 and 46 point years. Despite the perception, Voracek had improved and matured. This year with the Flyers, whom I think we can agree had a decent enough year, Voracek had 49 points. He is a 22 year-old winger scoring 50 points a season. Based on one season’s play, Voracek’s play was as good in Columbus as it was in Philly.

Yet looking at the team stats for both the Jackets and the Flyers shows that my original theory may still have some merit. Voracek is tied for fourth in points on the Flyers roster with two other players, Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds. On the Jackets roster, this would have placed Voracek in third place. But the distribution of points elsewhere is instructive. The Flyers points totals range from 93 to 1 for skaters appearing in at least 30 games this year. The Jackets top out at 59 points. The Flyers have 14 different players with 20 or more points, the Jackets can boast of only 10. That is a difference of at least 80 points, assuming those 20 point scorers had only scored the minimum.

Do the Flyers want to lose a 50 point scorer with no replacement? No. But they have the production from others to make any one player less of a necessity. To be sure, losing Claude Giroux’s 93 points would have probably been a season killer. Yet the stability that a deep roster gives the Flyers the opportunity to develop prospects in the lower leagues or trade a couple of high production players during the offseason gambling on their replacement.

Meanwhile the Jackets do not have the depth of prospects or roster or the organizational history that allow them to view a player as expendable. The Jackets need those prospects; they need them to be a success. This not to say that Jackets can’t be successful now, they can but the success will be the result of individual performances that exceed team averages.

Should the Voracek trade be considered a failure based on his continued firm performance? In hindsight the easy answer is yes. But a year ago everybody who was asked would have said one of the biggest needs for the Jackets was to find a number one center for Rick Nash. That the center that was acquired turned out to be a wordclass sourpuss and unprofessional player was something that could not be helped.

The upside is that if the Jackets decide that adding roster depth and breadth is most important they have two of the biggest cards of the offseason, Rick Nash and the second pick in the draft. I am not convinced that they trade one or both, but either would go a long way to changing the face of the franchise. Until the playoffs finish it will all be speculation.

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