Former Washington Capitals forward Jakub Vrana has already returned to his home in the Czech Republic. Instead of heading to the NHL playoffs, Vrana is now setting his sights on the 2021 IIHF World Championships, which will take place in Riga, Latvia from May 21 to June 6.
Vrana joined the Czech Republic’s national team for practice for the first time on Friday. Following his first practice with the national team, Vrana met with the media for an extended interview. The following is a translation of segments of the interview.
Vrana was asked about participating in this year’s World Championships without a contract in place back in the NHL. He’s a restricted free agent this summer.
“I was really looking forward to it! It is an honor for me to wear a national jersey whenever possible. After the trade, it was more or less clear that we were not advancing to the playoffs. I was waiting for what would happen next, and I’m very happy to be here and to help the team. I don’t have a contract, you can talk about the fact that it can go a little wrong. But it’s my decision and I’m glad I can represent.”
Vrana was the last Czech on the Detroit Red Wings, who will play in the Worlds, to report to the Czech training camp. But he had good reason, as he needed to return to Washington before reporting to the Czech training camp.
“Yes. The trade happened very fast, I didn’t expect it at all. I took only the essentials to Detroit for those few weeks. I still needed to fly home (Washington), had to settle important things, for example my the apartment and the car. Only then did I fly here.”
Vrana said he didn’t see the trade coming and didn’t expect it at all, but he has accepted his new situation.
“It was a shock. I didn’t expect that at all. But that’s hockey, sometimes you can’t affect it. It is important to look ahead. It was not easy to adapt to a new team like this, to get used to another city, everything was new. But in Detroit, everyone welcomed me, I formed a relationship with the team and the rest of the season went well.”
Vrana seems to be embracing his new team, and looks forward to possibly providing more of a leadership role in Detroit, something he feels he didn’t have in Washington.
“I like the role of a leader. And I know I didn’t have it in Washington. I was one of them. It had advantages and disadvantages. They drafted me for the team that won the Stanley Cup. They already had a position in the NHL and I tried to make the team, which I did. I think in the minutes I got, I made the most of it. And in the end we won.”
Vrana said he feels the Capitals had a solid identify already in place, which is a bit different than the current situation in Detroit.
“There were players who played for twelve or more years, they have a name. But most of all it was a winning team, there was a sense of anticipation. That’s a bit of a difference from Detroit, which is going through a process of rebuilding and is just trying to get there. But I came and played completely different minutes. I tried to use it as much as possible.”
Vrana was asked about what happened between he and Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette, and if there was a problem.
“There had been no problem since the beginning of the season. I played the first power play instead of Yevgeny Kuznetsov, while for the first three years I didn’t go to it at all. I had icetime, he was also productive,” said Vrana.
”During the season, something happened there, the system changed and a lot of other things, a lot of players started to play with others. That’s what the coach wanted. We had some meetings, my time on the ice fell out of nowhere. I didn’t say much, I kept playing. I tried to make the most of it. Sometimes the communication is not quite that. The coach felt good if he sat me down for two matches, and I watched. It’s part of hockey. But it’s behind me.”
Vrana was asked if his defense was a problem in Washington.
“It is not possible. It is the duty to defend. Over the years, I’ve improved in defense. It was more about details. There wasn’t much reason to sit me in the stands. We both knew it well, but sometimes it’s just like that and the player can’t do anything about it. There were details like (man-on-man) battles. The coach sometimes finds some mistakes, I improved in those battles when I played again. A lot. Well, and then came the trade. ”
In the end, Vrana seemed very grateful for his time in Washington.
“I don’t think about anything else when I play. Things around, even in personal life, go aside. However, it was not easy to leave the club, where I spent five years, met a lot of people, experienced a lot of great moments that I will not forget. Sometimes I had a morning (in Detroit) when I woke up and thought I was still in Washington.”
Full interview here.
By Jon Sorensen