Czech Roster Highlights Nations Fall
If Bobby Ryan’s omission from the Team USA roster for the impending winter Olympics was shocking, what is the Czech’s decision to leave numerous stars at home?
Despite being on course for his best season since breaking in to the NHL, Jiri Hudler misses out – as does Radim Vrbata.
It’s mind boggling to consider some of the names who have missed out; even more so when you look at who got in!
It’s a sad indication of how far Czech hockey seems to have fallen.
For those that haven’t seen the roster yet, the Czech team for Sochi 2014 reads as follows:
Goaltenders: Ondřej Pavelec (Winnipeg Jets), Jakub Kovář (Jekatěrinburg), and Alexander Salák (Petrohrad)
Defensemen: Marek Židlický (New Jersey Devils), Ladislav Šmíd (Calgary Flames), Radko Gudas (Tampa Bay), Michal Barinka (HC Vítkovice), Lukáš Krajíček (Dinamo Minsk), Michal Rozsíval (Chicago Blackhawks), Zbyněk Michálek (Phoenix Coyotes), and Tomáš Kaberle (Rytíři Kladno)
Forwards: Jaromír Jágr (New Jersey Devils), Patrik Eliáš (New Jersey Devils), Tomáš Plekanec (Montreal Canadiens), Aleš Hemský (Edmonton Oilers), Jakub Voráček (Philadelphia Flyers), Michael Frolík (Winnipeg Jets), Martin Hanzal (Phoenix Coyotes), Vladimír Sobotka (St. Louis Blues), Ondřej Palát (Tampa Bay), Milan Michálek (Ottawa Senators), David Krejčí (Boston Bruins), Roman Červenka (Petrohrad), Petr Nedvěd (Bílí Tygři Liberec), and Jiří Novotný (HC Lev Praha)
Whilst there are some talented forwards in there, and a couple of solid D men, it’s hardly the stuff of legends. If anything, it’s the kind of roster that is likely to get stuffed on the Olympic ice pads of Russia.
Other top names to join Hudler and Vrbata include Martin Erat, Tomas Fleischmann, Jan Hejda, Filip Kuba, Pavel Kubina, Roman Polak and Jakub Kindl – all of whom have differing degrees of NHL experience.
Martin Havlat, Thomas Hertl and Tomas Vokoun are also absent due to injury.
Throw in Miroslav Blatak, Peter Cajanek, Tomas Rolinek, Jakub Stepanek and Josef Vasicek, all of whom played in 2010, and you’ve got a roster almost as good as the one the Czech’s are actually taking!
It is baffling that Petr Nedved (whose last international appearance was almost a decade ago) and Tomas Kaberle can make the team ahead of Hudler, Fleischmann or Hejda.
Forget the idea of the European based players being better able to perform on Olympic size ice – Vrbata et al are better than some of those who made it. Plain and simple.
But that seems to be Czech hockey down to a T now. They aren’t the force they once were, but they seem to be trying to cling to past glory.
It didn’t hurt them to take arguably the best player and best goaltender to Nagano in 1998, but they also had a group of pretty damned decent players behind them – Robert Lang, Milan Hejduk, Roman Hamrlik and Jiri Slegr were also on that roster.
The Czech’s would probably kill for a sniper like Hejduk right now…
Economic and ‘other’ external factors will have contributed to the slide; but it is a sad state of affairs to see a nation, who were regularly considered contenders at international tournaments at all levels, fall like this.
Whether the Czech’s rise again remains to be seen, but there seems little chance of them challenging for any sort of medal this year. They might even be lucky to make it out of the group with this roster!