In our continuing look at the top contenders participating in February’s Olympic hockey tournament, today we take a look at team Czech Republic.
The Czechs finished 7th in Vancouver and were eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals. The last gold medal for the Czech Republic was in 1998 in Nagano.
Round Robin Opponents
The Czech Republic will be competing in group C along with Sweden, Switzerland, and Latvia.
The Sochi games will likely be the last for many longtime Czech stars. Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, and Ales Hemsky are likely all donning a Czech sweater for the last time. Though balanced, the Czech forward group lacks the top end skill of teams like Canada, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Players like Elias and Jagr can’t be counted on to produce as they once could, and none of the new age of Czech regulars (David Krejci, Jakub Voracek, Radim Vrbata) possess elite offensive skill.
Patrik Elias – David Krejci – Radim Vrbata
Ales Hemsky – Tomas Plekanec – Jakub Voracek
Jiri Hudler - Martin Hanzal - Jaromir Jagr
Tomas Fleischmann - Vladimir Sobotka - Martin Erat
Defence is a definite area of concern for the Czech team. While they will ice a group of well established NHLers, there is no “star” defenseman, nor are they very deep. Led by 36 year old Marek Zidlicky, the Czech’s will likely employ a strict defensive strategy so as to not put too much pressure on a D core that will be asking a lot from players like Ladislav Smid and Jakub Kindl.
Marek Zidlicky – Ladislav Smid
Jakub Kindl – Zybnek Michalek
Jan Hejda – Rostislav Klesla
Winnipeg Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec is the likely starter for the Czechs, but he hasn’t been very consistent and will be competing with Caps backup Michal Neuvirth and KHL star Jakub Stepanek. Tomas Vokoun probably would be named to the team, but he’s injured.
Most likely to get snubbed
Because of my admitted lack of knowledge of hockey across the pond, my most likely to be snubbed will be players playing overseas. The only non-NHL player on my Team Czech Republic is Jakub Stepanek. Long time national team member Petr Cajanek looks to be a notable omission, but at 38 years old, and with the Czechs icing better, younger players in the NHL, I have him being left at home. Another notable omission is often injured Sharks forward Martin Havlat. Havlat would surely be on the team if he could remain healthy, but constant injuries have made it difficult for him to find his game, and will ultimately keep him from a trip to Sochi.
Team Czech Republic’s path to the Quarterfinals will likely see them needing to play a Qualification game. They will battle with up and coming Switzerland for second place in group C. Ultimately, the Czechs’ thin defence and instability in net should see them eliminated in the Quarterfinals for a second straight Olympics.
Other Roster Previews:
November 11: Russia
November 12: USA
November 13: Sweden
November 14: Czech Republic
November 18: Slovakia
November 19: Switzerland
November 20: Finland
November 21: Canada