With the 2014 Winter Olympics a mere month away in terms of days, the rosters have now been released by the respective nations taking part in the Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament, with the United States being among the first to release their roster, and with the remaining nations releasing their rosters over the past few days. Among those nations that release their rosters was the Czech Republic, a nation who has put together some strong teams in the past, whether it be as the Czech Republic or during the Cold War and prior to the Velvet Divorce as Czechoslovakia, but that was in the in past and now it is time to turn our attention to the current roster that has been released. So without further introduction, let’s “Czech out,” the 2014 Czech Men’s Hockey Team roster that has been put together by head coach Alois Hadamczik and General Manager Slavomir Lerner for these upcoming Olympics and break down what was put together.
Ondrej Pavelec (Winnipeg-NHL)
Jakub Kovar (Ekaterinburg-KHL)
Alexander Salak (St. Petersburg-KHL)
Radko Gudas (Tampa Bay-NHL)
Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix-NHL)
Michal Rozsival (Chicago-NHL)
Ladislav Smid (Calgary-NHL)
Marek Zidlicky (New Jersey-NHL)
Michal Barinka (Vitkovice-Extraliga)
Tomas Kaberle (Kladno-Extraliga)
Lucas Krajicek (Minsk-KHL)
Patrick Elias (New Jersey-NHL)- A
Michael Frolik (Winnipeg-NHL)
Martin Hanzal (Phoenix-NHL)
Ales Hemsky (Edmonton-NHL)
Jaromir Jagr (New Jersey-NHL)-A
David Krejci (Boston-NHL)
Milan Michaklek (Ottawa-NHL)
Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay-NHL)
Tomas Plekanec (Montreal-NHL)- C
Vladimir Sobotka (St. Louis-NHL)
Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia-NHL)
Roman Cervenka (St. Petersburg-KHL)
Petr Nedved (Liberec-Extraliga)
Jiri Novotny (Lev Prague-Extraliga)
Looking over this roster, the two first and fore most things that stick are Petr Nedved at the age of forty-two will be going to his second Olympic games as player. The last time he played in the Olympics was 1994 in Lillehammer, when he was a member of the Canadian team that took home the silver medal. In 1996, he did play for the Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey. The last time he played in the NHL was with the Edmonton Oilers during the 2006-2007 season, his main years in the NHL were in the 1990’s to early-mid 2000’s with the Canucks, Penguins, and Rangers. The initial reaction to his inclusion, was “he’s still playing?” But Nedved, won’t be the only forty+ year old for the Czechs at these Olympics, let alone the only 40+ year competing at the Olympics in general, especially in hockey.
Jaromir Jagr, will be once again competing in the Olympics, wearing his trademark number sixty-eight jersey just minus a flowing mullet, but even at the age of forty-one, he is still a consistent player that brings experience and talent to these Olympics, considering that he was been playing well for the New Jersey Devils so far this season as well. He will be one of two Assistant Captains for the Czech team in Sochi.
Overlooking the rest of the roster, there are a number of fine points that the Czech and will be crucial in these games coming up. Ales Hemsky of the Oilers, which to some was a surprise addition to the team, is a tournament player especially on the big ice. At the 2012 IIHF World Championship, Hemsky scored five and assisted on three, on a Czech team that took home bronze. Of course he isn’t the only player that can score for the Czechs, with the likes of Elias, Plekanec, and Krejci to name a few. In particular David Krejci who given his prowess with the Bruins, will also be a important asset for the Czech as well. Guys like Sobotka, Palat, Hanzal and Frolik will be carry a heavy workload for the teams as they play in the deep six role, something that isn’t foreign to the likes of Frolik or Sobotka.
In goal, there will be Pavelec, Salak, and Kovar. At the present time, there hasn’t been an absolute decision as to who will be the starter in goal for the Olympics, that will mostly likely come either later in the month or just before the start of Olympic play. If I had to make a guess, it will either be Salak or Kovar in goal for the Czechs as they are among the best goaltenders in the KHL for their respective clubs, where as Pavelec is currently serving as backup to Al Montoya in Winnipeg after losing his starting job for the Jets during this season. He was however the main goaltender for the Czech at the 2013 IIHF World Championships. In the last Olympics in Vancouver, Tomas Vokoun, served as goaltender. If it wasn’t for blood clots, Vokoun would most likely have been chosen to this, but instead will be out of action. Still though it is anyone’s job at the present time.
Even with this roster, there are some notable snubs from this team. The most notable of which is the absences of Jiri Hudler, Tomas Fleischmann, Radim Vrbata, and Jakub Kindl. The reason for Kindl’s absence from the roster, is most likely due to the fact that he has had a rather poor season so far and has been more or less underwhelming for the Red Wings. The same could be said for Jiri Tlustly of the Hurricanes, who has been poor this season as well. However, the absence of Hudler, Fleischmann, and Vrbata is particularly interesting considering the fact that the players chosen in their place, among which was the forty-year old Petr Nedved, whose place on the team could have been filled by one of three mentioned, but also the place of Milan Michaklek on the team as well . With Hudler, his absence from the team has been chalked up to that he is in the doghouse after an argument with the previous Czech coach. Another interesting move, was the addition of Michal Barinka, who is the son in law to the Czech coach, instead of Jan Hedja, but then again maybe Barinka will show some flash of brilliance during the games that will warrant his place, instead of nepotism. One final note, is of course the injured who will miss out, most notably Tomas Vokoun, Tomas Hertl, and Martin Havlat, all three could have been a boost to the team, especially Hertl, who would have been especially thrilling to watch on the open ice. His Olympic hopes will have to come another time, but also speaking of injuries, with the Olympics more or less a month away, there is still a lot of NHL, KHL, and Extraliga play, so in that span their will probably some shifts in the roster in case someone cannot make it to Sochi.
Where will this team finish? That’s a good question. Given the fact that this will be a tough competition, the Czech have a shot at a medal as any other nation in this tournament, it whether or not they will get their medal. At this point, they are at best a dark horse, much like their neighbors the Slovaks for the gold, but more realistically could see them taking home a silver or bronze, that is if they reach the medal rounds. They have the pieces to be a talented team, they just have to make sure that all the pieces work together over the span of these games. In the mean time it will be have to be a wait and see what will happen with the Czechs, but they will be an interesting team to watch in these Olympics.