Suddenly an ex-IceCap, he prepares for a new start
Happier times for Spencer Machacek (right), shown celebrating with defenceman Zach Redmond after a St. John’s IceCaps goal during AHL action at Mile One Centre last season. Machacek is set to leave St. John’s today after being traded by the Winnipeg Jets to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization. — File photo/Jeff Parsons/St. John’s IceCaps
Spencer Machacek was contemplating getting hold of his brother Monday in order to get a better handle on this business of being traded.
You see, while Machacek played with four different teams in a four-year pro hockey career — the latest being the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps — but that movement never resulted from a trade ... or at least until Sunday, when he was dealt by the Winnipeg Jets to the Columbus Blue Jackets for fellow right-winger Tomas Kubalik.
“I’ve got no experience with this. Nothing (on which) to base how I’m feeling,” said the 24-year-old Machacek, who also spent his entire three-year major junior career with one team — the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants.
“I guess I maybe should give my little brother a call.”
That would be Cason Machacek, a 22-year-old defenceman with the University of Lethbridge, who was traded during his time in the WHL.
But without the benefit of familial counsel, Machacek was still trying to absorb everything the trade will mean as he prepared to leave St. John’s this morning for Springfield, Mass., where he will join the Falcons, the Blue Jackets’ AHL farm team.
“I can’t say it was out of the blue. I’ve struggled this season, along a couple of other guys, and the team has struggled. Obviously, things weren’t working out for me and I change might be what I need,” he said.
“But, no, you’re never really prepared for this sort of thing.”
Machacek learned about the trade Sunday afternoon during the IceCaps’ FanFest event at Mile One Centre after St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge asked him to come to his office.
“I knew then something was up, that Keith didn’t want to talk about the games on the weekend. That could wait until (Monday’s practice). It had to be something else.”
Machecek leaves St. John’s as the all-time leading scorer in the short history of the IceCaps’ franchise, with 77 points (28 goals, 49 assists) in 117 games. But while he lead the IceCaps with 50 points and was plus-11 in 61 games last season, he had just 11 goals and 25 points in 57 AHL games in 2012-13. What’s more, he was a team-worst minus-23.
That reality doesn’t match up with the expectations that were held for Machacek this time last season, when he was so impressive during a call-up to the parent Jets, with two goals, nine points and a plus-eight rating in just 13 games.
The feeling was that the Lethbridge, Ata., native was the primary candidate to fill a vacancy on the Winnipeg forward lines this season. But then came the NHL lockout. When it ended in January, Machacek — despite a less than-stellar season in St. John’s — was recalled to Winnipeg for the Jets’ mini-camp, but was soon sent back to the farm club. In the meantime, Winnipeg added two forwards — James Wright and Anthony Peluso — on the waiver wire, and another — Erik Tangradi, by trade.
Machacek acknowledges those turns of events created some self- doubt about his future in the organization, but refused to criticize the Jets for their roster moves.
“It’s a business and that’s all a part of the business,” he said. “Like I said, it’s unfortunate I couldn’t have done more. Maybe things would have been different.
“Mostly I wish I could have done more for teammates and my coaches and the fans in St. John’s. Last year, was the funnest I’ve ever had in hockey, and not just because we went all the way to a conference final. And I made a lot of friends here, and not just in hockey, but outside the game, too.
“I’ll miss that and I’ll never forget Newfoundland and how good the people have been to us and to me.”
The Kontinental Hockey League team HC Sibir Novosibirsk has reported on its website that Arturs Kulda, who played nine games with the Jets and 63 with the IceCaps last season, is coming back to play in North America.
The 24-year-old Latvian had nine goals and six assists in 50 games with Sibir Novosibirsk this season. The KHL club announced his contract, which was to expire on April 30th, had been mutually terminated so he could join the Jets organization,
Kulda had been given a qualifying offer by the Jets over the summer, but chose to sign with the KHL team instead.
When asked if there was a chance that Kulda — who would have to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL, if the reports are indeed true — would end up in St. John’s, IceCaps’ coach McCambridge chose “no comment” as an answer.