On the penultimate day before the deadline, the Czech Republic has revealed its men’s hockey roster for next month’s Olympics. In total, 27 players were named; 18 play in the National Hockey League, while seven of the other nine have NHL experience. Two of these players will be on the Czech taxi squad, as the Olympic roster limit is 25.
The Czech roster is listed below, and there are certainly some head-scratchers.
- Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets
- Jakub Kovar, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (KHL)
- Alexander Salak, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
- Michal Barinka, Vitkovice Ostrava (Czech Extraliga)
- Radko Gudas, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Tomas Kaberle, Kladno (Czech Extraliga)
- Jakub Kindl, Detroit Red Wings
- Lukas Krajicek, Dynamo Minsk (KHL)
- Zbynek Michalek, Phoenix Coyotes
- Michal Roszival, Chicago Blackhawks
- Ladislav Smid, Calgary Flames
- Marek Zidlicky, New Jersey Devils
- Roman Cervenka, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
- Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
- Michael Frolik, Winnipeg Jets
- Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes
- Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
- Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils
- David Krejci, Boston Bruins
- Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators
- Petr Nedved, Bili Tygri Liberec (Czech Extraliga)
- Jiri Novotny, Lev Prague (KHL)
- Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Jakub Petruzalek, Amur Khabarovsk (KHL)
- Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens [C]
- Vladimir Sobotka, St. Louis Blues
- Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Again, some questionable choices here. I’m not sure how the Czech Republic thinks this roster will give them their gold medal since Dominik Hasek stood on his head in Nagano in 1998, and their first medal since capturing bronze in 2006 in Italy. Of course, adding Hasek is one of the only ways this Czech team could get any older, as their average age clocks in at 29.5, including six players who are 35 and older.
While some Czech roster omissions were easy to project, like San Jose’s Tomas Hertl due to injury, others are questionable at best.
Calgary’s Jiri Hudler may be the most surprising snub, as he’s usually a pretty reliable forward. I understand the need for a balanced squad, and while the Czech team has plenty of skill up front, I can’t justify passing over a consistent point-producer like Hudler instead of a player like Cervenka, who wasn’t productive in the NHL. Maybe the group responsible for selecting the team see Cervenka as having a game better suited to the bigger ice, but it’s an answer we’ll probably never get. Even Hudler over Petr Nedved would make a bit more sense; despite being productive on home ice since leaving North America in 2007, there’s no telling how Nedved will fare against faster competition at 42 years old.
Meanwhile, Radim Vrbata is another skilled player who didn’t get the call to represent his country. The above argument about the Czechs having skill still applies, but in Vrbata’s case, he’s a great skater who could have feasted on Olympic ice. While some people knock him for inconsistency, putting him alongside Coyotes linemate Hanzal would have made it more likely for Vrbata to be consistently productive. Furthermore, Vrbata has represented the Czech Republic five times internationally (2001 World Juniors, four World Championships), though he’s never been an Olympian.
Finally, Tomas Fleischmann should feel like he’s been snubbed. He put together a decent body of work over the last few seasons, eclipsing 50 points twice, while likely being in position to do it again if not for the lockout last season. Fleischmann still has gas in the tank, as he doesn’t turn 30 until May. He was also a member of the Czech team in 2010 in Vancouver, where he put up a goal and two assists in five games, so having another player with Olympic experience wouldn’t have hurt.
What do you think? Do you like the Czech roster as it is? What changes would you make? Will the roster hold up? Or will its unpredictability mean another early Czech-mate? Let us know by commenting here, Facebook, or Twitter!