Jakub Voracek on Monday met with the media to announce that his return to the ice this season was “unlikely.” This is really unfortunate news for Voracek and the Blue Jackets, another long-term injury to a team whose depth is already being severely tested.
Through 11 games this season, Voracek started off somewhat slow, but ultimately looked to be on a similar pace to the season he had last year. He scored once and added five assists for six points; while playing in a lighter role after the team signed Johnny Gaudreau in the off-season.
Voracek was the team’s leading scorer last year, with 6 goals and 62 points. His 56 assists were the second most in a single season in franchise history, and he was a valuable leader on and off the ice for the young Jackets.
Originally selected by the Jackets 7th overall at the 2007 NHL Draft, Voracek was dealt by the team prior to the 2011 Draft, in what may be the most lopsided trade in franchise history. We all know the story by now: Voracek thrived with a powerful Flyers team for the bulk of his career, along with the first round pick we gave them (Sean Couturier). In exchange, we got Jeff Carter, who almost immediately alienated himself from the team and fanbase, and cry-babied his way out of town for pennies on the dollar.
Re-acquired from the Flyers last summer for veteran speedster Cam Atkinson, Voracek was the perfect fit to play alongside Patrik Laine last year. The two showed chemistry on the power-play, with Jakub being a truly elite playmaker to set up Laine’s elite shot. It felt like he would be perfect to help Yegor Chinakhov along this year as well, but injuries can really complicate things.
Unfortunately, a concussion history has caught up to Voracek, and he will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. While he may have been showing signs of aging, he still has the skill and plays the game with the pace required to be a difference maker in the NHL. Ultimately, the hope is that Jakub can return to the lineup and continue his NHL career once healthy.
Coincidentally, the Blue Jackets on Monday recalled top prospect Kirill Marchenko from the Cleveland Monsters (AHL). Through 16 AHL games, Marchenko has 8 goals and 19 points, good for second in the league amongst rookies – with 4 fewer games played than the player ahead of him. Look for Marchenko to get some of the offensive opportunities left open with Voracek’s absence.
Voracek has one year remaining on his current deal (at $8.25m AAV). For the time being, we’ll have to wait and see if he will get a chance to play it out and perhaps sign another contract in the league when it’s finished. But, his health is far and away the most important thing here. He needs to get to a place where he can live a happy, comfortable post-NHL life – before he even tries to return to the ice.