Czech Republic

It’s finally here. With the Olympics getting under way and the hockey starting soon, it’s time to roll out our preview of each team between now and puck drop. May the best team win.

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The basics

The men’s team from the Czech Republic is currently ranked fourth overall by the IIHF, one spot ahead of Canada because…I dunno, Marek Zidlicky or something. They’re sporting 17 NHLers on their roster, are coached by Alois Hadamczik, and finished 7th at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.Czech_Republic-2

Member Since November 15, 1908 (founding member)
Total Players 107,722
Male Players 82,003
Junior Players 23,209
Female Players 2,510
Total Referees 206
Indoor Rinks 158
Outdoor Rinks 23
Nation Population 10,162,921
President Tomas Kral
Men’s World Ranking 4
Women’s World Ranking 9

Group

C, with Switzerland, Sweden and Latvia.

Roster

GOALTENDERS NHL Team
Ondrej Pavelec Winnipeg Jets
Jakub Kovar
Alexander Salak
DEFENSEMEN  
Marek Zidlicky New Jersey Devils
Ladislav Smid Calgary Flames
Radko Gudas Tampa Bay Lightning
Michal Barinka
Lukas Krajicek
Michal Rozsival Chicago Blackhawks
Zbynek Michalek Phoenix Coyotes
Tomas Kaberle
FORWARDS  
Jaromir Jagr New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias New Jersey Devils
Tomas Plekanec Montreal Canadiens
Ales Hemsky Edmonton Oilers
Jakub Voracek Philadelphia Flyers
Michael Frolik Winnipeg Jets
Martin Hanzal Phoenix Coyotes
Vladimir Sobotka St. Louis Blues
Martin Erat * Washington Capitals
Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning
Milan Michalek Ottawa Senators
David Krejci Boston Bruins
Roman Cervenka
Petr Nedved
Jiri Novotny

Biggest names

Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Patrick Elias, Tomas Kaberle…Peter Nedved?

Depth

While the majority of the players play, or have played in the NHL, they’re largely replacement-level guys. So while the roster doesn’t have the bottom fall out of it after the NHLers like some of the other teams (I see you, Austria), they’re not exactly all-stars down there either.

Strengths

The Czechs biggest strength is probably what I laid out in “depth” – they never get too far removed from NHL talent, so they should be able to stay in games, which at least keeps them around to hope for some bounces and an upset or two. It also helps that some of their best players are on the older side, meaning hopefully they’ve got the experience to keep from getting overwhelmed when they’re overmatched.

And hey, they have a few guys who can still put the puck in the net – from Hemsky to Jagr to Plekanec, Voracek and others.

Weaknesses

This team lacks game-breaking talent on their top lines and has a generally weaker d-corps. As much as the names I mentioned “can still put the puck in the net,” they’re nowhere near the level of Russia’s elite firepower, or Canada’s, or Sweden’s and so on. They’re going to need to keep games close to have a chance, and with middling NHL defenders (Michalek, Zidlicky, Roszival etc.) likely to see a lot of big minutes, that could be awfully hard to do. Especially since they’re likely going to be going with Ondrej Pavelec in net when it matters, he of the career .906 NHL save percentage, of course. (Note: Pavelec, the only NHL goalie on the roster, isn’t dressing for game one but will start game two. Probably not a great sign about their confidence in their goaltending.)

Route to the Olympics

Fourth overall rank by the IIHF equals an auto-bid.

Prediction

I have the Czech’s at sixth, which might be a bit generous, but they’ll almost certainly be somewhere in that 5th-to-8th range. They’re clearly better than the bottom teams, clearly worse than the top ones.

Schedule

Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)

Wednesday, February 12th: CZECzech Republic 21:00 SwedenSWE
Friday, February 14th: CZECzech Republic 12:00 LatviaLAT
Saturday, February 15th: SUISwitzerland 21:00 Czech RepublicCZE

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Other Previews

Canada

Sweden

USA

Russia

Finland

Slovakia

Switzerland

Norway

Latvia

Austria

Slovenia