The Flyers have had a lot of players over the years that were super frustrating and super exciting at the same time. Eric Lindros was a beast when healthy, but got injured often. James van Riemsdyk was a hot young star, traded away, returned as a scoring savior, but hasn’t quite produced as we had hoped. One of these players was Jakub Voracek.
The right-winger rode shotgun with Claude Giroux for a decade and the two paired up to become one of the all-time highest scoring duos in Flyers history. Voracek currently sits at 10th all time in Flyers history with 604 points, just three points behind Rod Brind’Amour and 23 behind Mark Recchi. That’s pretty good company to be in. His 427 assists are fifth in team history and his 727 games played in good for 10th as well.
Voracek first came to the Flyers as part of a series of trades to help clear cap space so the team could land Ilya Bryzgalov. He came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets with a first round pick, that would become Sean Couturier, for Jeff Carter. He immediately connected with Giroux and Scott Hartnell and the three of them would become the greatest line in Flyers history since the Legion of Doom line in the 90s.
Voracek was a talented skater and a prolific scorer. He hit the 20 goal mark in six of his ten years in Philly. He also eclipsed the 50 point mark seven teams as he racked up a lot of assists feeding Giroux. He was an all star in 2014-15.
But in the playoffs, he’d seemingly disappear. In five postseason trips with the Flyers, he registered just 27 points, with nine of them in the bubble playoffs of 2019-20 where he scored four goals. He could also be really streaky, scoring in five or six straight games and then going weeks without a point.
And yet, at the same time, boy was he fun to watch. You always thought something special was going to happen when he was zooming down the ice with Giroux, Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, or someone else trailing behind. You could almost feel a goal coming, watching him skate down the rink with his hair and beard both flowing.
Voracek was dealt back to the Jackets last year for Cam Atkinson, another player with a reputation for being streaky. It was thought a change of scenery would do both well. He scored only six goals, but tallied 56 assists as he lead his new team with 62 points.
This year started off well. In 11 games, he scored one goal with five assists. During a game in Finland on November 4th, Voracek took an innocent high stick just under the nose. He drew a double minor on the play and did finish the game. He hasn’t been on the ice since; sidelined with concussion issues. We saw that with Chris Pronger, who took a hit that didn’t seem bad but ended his career.
"“As of now, I don’t see myself playing in the near future,” Voracek said about the chances of returning. “I’ll do everything in my power to try to get back on the ice. I had a lot of head injuries in the past, and that’s something I have to think about and be smart about.”"
Likewise, Jakub Voracek may be contemplating retiring from the game he loves at just 33. For a player still performing at a well enough level, you know this hurts. Voracek is a competitor who wants to go out and battle on the ice. He can’t. At this point, he is battling for his life, metaphorically speaking, but we also know the seriousness of concussions and what they can do long term to the body.
Voracek mentioned he can list at least seven or eight documented concussions over his NHL career. And that doesn’t include the small ones that were never diagnosed or simply just played through.
As fans, we would all rather see our heroes like Lindros, Pronger, and Voracek go out on their own terms rather than have to leave because their bodies have been ravaged by injury. Voracek prided himself on missing few games in his career. In fact, in five of his seasons in Philly, he played a full season and in his first three in Columbus, he missed only five total games.
I know all of Flyers nation hopes that he can recover without any lingering issues. It would be nice to seem him play again, flying down the ice. If not, we all hope that his health will be ok enough where he can live a happy life going forward. And soon, one day, we will see his name listed on the Flyers Hall of Fame in the rafters.