When Jakub Voracek recalls his days in Columbus, he doesn’t think about Scott Arniels’s comments in the spring of 2011 about him being an “out of shape” player.
He’s moved on.
Indeed, Voracek recalls the good times he had with Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard - his buddies.
“We had a great group of guys in Columbus,” Voracek said. “But I think they made the playoffs just once in 10 years and they needed a scorer to play with Nash and traded me for Jeff Carter. It was for me, personally, a good decision.”
Voracek was shipped to the Flyers the afternoon before the 2011 NHL draft in Minnesota along with two draft picks who became Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins.
On Saturday, Voracek and goalie Steve Mason return to Columbus for the first time as Flyers. Mason was traded here straight-up for Michael Leighton last April. It’s a homecoming in Ohio.
“I’m not going to lie,” Voracek said. “As soon as the schedule came out, I wanted to see when we went to Columbus. I got traded 2½ years ago and haven’t played there since. It’s going to be exciting for me and Mase. Ask me tomorrow after the morning skate how I feel. Maybe it’s just deja vu. I had three great years there. We had a good group of guys there. When I got traded, I moved on. I’m the kind of guy that everything happens for a reason. I’m here with a bunch of great guys and really enjoying it now.”
Mason beat his former teammates in that wild 5-4 Flyers’ comeback Thursday night in Philly. He will likely not be in goal tomorrow in Columbus as it appears Ray Emery will get the nod.
“I was definitely aware of where they were [on the schedule],” Mason said. “As the season has gone on, it’s not something that I’ve really looked ahead to. But now that it’s come out, it’s an exciting time.”
Neither player said they feel a need to prove themselves to Columbus.
“No, I have nothing to prove to that organization,” Mason said. “They gave me this chance to come here and start from scratch ... have that fresh opportunity. There’s no hard feelings whatsoever.”
Carter would eventually end up in Los Angeles and win a Stanley Cup with Mike Richards and the Kings, putting that much more of an exclamation point on the Voracek deal.
“I don’t look at it that way at all,” Voracek said. “I look at it as I got traded for a very good players and there were expectations for me. I think I am filling out those expectations so far. It’s my third year here. It’s very hard to win the Stanley Cup in this league. The NHL is the best league in the world. You got 30 teams try to win the Cup every year. You have to work hard every day. Go game by game. I’m sure this room has quality players and character to win the Cup.”
Mason’s lone regret was not being able to say goodbye to teammates in Columbus. Even his roommate.
“I was traded after practice one day and the same day we were supposed to be taking off to St. Louis or Nashville,” Mason recalled. “I was back at my place, living in the same building as a couple of the other guys. The other guys in the building were traded also. They were the only ones I got a chance to say goodbye to. I roomed with R.J. Umberger for five years, never got a chance to say goodbye.”
Mason saw Umberger this week in Philly, had dinner with him, and caught up on things he was unable to say last spring.
Both Mason, who won a Calder Trophy in Columbus and thought things would come easily thereafter, and Voracek have advanced themselves as Flyers, professionally and personally.
Mason has found his game again and seems very relaxed despite some recent hiccups in net. Voracek has made great strides in changing his “pass the puck” mentality, focusing on a a shooting mentality that now makes him the elite threat the Flyers projected.
“When I was there, I was still a kid, 19 or 20,” Voracek said. “I wouldn’t say I was a bad boy off the ice, but I was a young kid playing in the NHL and I think I had some successful years there. Put it this way – it didn’t hurt me to get traded. It’s so different now. They changed the organization from the GM to the defensemen to the goalies to the forwards that it’s like four or five players that I played with are part of the team.
“I don’t feel any [animosity] towards the people there or management or team right now. It’s an NHL game, just try to help the team win.”
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