Just when you thought the injury situation couldn’t get worse for the Columbus Blue Jackets, they suffer another gut punch. One of their leading scorers from last season likely won’t be seen again this season.
The Blue Jackets recently announced that winger Jake Voracek would be out indefinitely with a concussion. Then they said a media availability would take place with Voracek on Monday morning. Upon hearing that news, one could perceive something ominous was coming. While retirement didn’t come up, there is still significant question as to when we’ll see Voracek again on the ice.
“I feel ok,” Voracek said to the media on Monday. “Obviously I sustained a concussion in Finland. After talking to many people and many doctors, we came to the conclusion as of right now I’m not capable of coming back or I won’t be coming back anytime soon. Obviously I’m going to make my best efforts to try to do that but it might be a long process. As of now I don’t see myself playing in the near future but I will try to do everything in my power to get back on the ice.”
Voracek went on to say that he is able to live a normal life off the ice but is still experiencing symptoms. He wants to be smart about it.
This week, we start there and tell you why both Voracek and the Blue Jackets made the correct decision in this awful situation.
Sitting Voracek the Right Choice
This situation is above hockey. Throw out anything related to the game, the contract, the lineup impact. At the end of the day the number-one goal is to ensure the long-term health of Voracek so that he can enjoy a life after hockey. His focus needs to be away from the ice and on his well being.
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If Voracek is about to return eventually then great. But we are not even close to thinking about that possibility. The Blue Jackets deserve credit for the way they have handled this.
Voracek took a high stick in Finland at the Global Series. It resulted in a concussion. Given his lengthy history of head injuries (7-8 of them plus others that may have been), there was no other choice. He needs the time to heal while not risking further damage.
The Blue Jackets realized the severity of the situation and acted swiftly. Voracek has all the time he needs up to and including the possibility that he’s played his last game in the NHL. If that’s what happens, then absolutely no problem. This is above hockey.
Voracek has not retired. He does have one season left on his current contract. As he stated, he will try to return if the situation gets better. In the meantime, we wish him nothing but the best in his recovery. His happiness and health comes above all else now and forever.
A Pair of NHL Debuts
For Marchenko, he has taken his time in the AHL to become one of their best players in the early going. He has adjusted to the game in North America and is ready for the next step. You couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
As for Berni, Jake Christiansen comes out of the lineup. Coach Brad Larsen said “one guy was sick.” It’s unsure if he meant Christiansen or someone else. But regardless, Berni’s opportunity comes Tuesday night. He said he got the news on Monday and waited until Tuesday morning to text his parents the great news. He will have a contingent watching from home.
Berni played several games with Marchenko in Cleveland this season. When asked what about Marchenko stands out. Here’s what Berni said. “Skilled!”. Then he went on to say how great a human being Marchenko is. “He’s always saying hi when he enters a room. He always lights up the room.”
For a young player like Marchenko to have that down so early is very encouraging. He could have been discouraged about not making the Blue Jackets out of camp. Instead, he went to Cleveland and took full advantage of his ice time. This call up is earned and he’s ready to take on the NHL. Expect him to play on a line with Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger.
- The Blue Jackets’ mother’s trip is on. They will take in the game in Pittsburgh and then also take in Wednesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. There were lots of smiles in the room.
- Erik Gudbranson played over 26 minutes Sunday night against the Detroit Red Wings. That by far was the most TOI on the Blue Jackets. This is somewhat out of necessity. He does tower over the other defensemen in overall experience. Larsen said many players struggled Sunday but there is opportunity as well.
- Larsen: “I don’t think it was a great game for a lot of guys. It wasn’t just the D. Our whole team was sloppy. We weren’t plugged in mentally in that game. Yeah I think (Gudbranson) had to take more ice. You’ve seen how many starters we have out and a lot of young guys in. I think he’s done a real good job with that. He’s been around. He’s seen a lot. I’m sure he take it upon himself to do that (be a mentor).”
- Gudbranson is expected to play with Berni on Tuesday night. Berni said he expects a lot of talking between he and Gudbranson. But he is excited for the opportunity to play the best in the world.
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- Speaking of among the best in the world, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are gametime decisions for Tuesday. They each missed practice Monday. The expectation is that each will play. Malkin skated in the morning but Crosby did not but there’s nothing to indicate he will not play. Goaltender Casey DeSmith also skated on Tuesday and is expected to backup Tristan Jarry.
- Reminder that Wednesday’s game against the Sabres is a 7:30 start due to the game being on TNT. Brendan Burke, Darren Pang and Jackie Redmond are on the call. It also marks the first NHL meeting between Kent Johnson and Owen Power, teammates at the University of Michigan.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.