Today's announcement of the Czech Republic World Cup roster made official what we had already known: Jaromir Jagr would not be suiting up for the national squad. And hey, that's fair – the man is an icon and he needs some rest as he continues a marvelous NHL career. So let's turn to the players who will be playing in Toronto this summer.
The final additions on defense included Arizona's Zbynek Michalek and Calgary newcomer Jakub Nakladal, both defensive defensemen with decent size. Add them to a blueline corps that already boasted Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr and Roman Polak and you've got one burly back end. Gudas and Polak are particularly nasty to play against, so the Czechs won't be fun to face, but they won't be hard to dethrone, either.
It's hard to say there were any big snubs on the blueline – Marek Zidlicky was left off, but he's 39 years old and retirement is beckoning. Ladislav Smid would have been another option, but he could barely keep a job on Calgary's blueline. If anything, who will patrol the points on the Czech power play? There will definitely be at least one forward back there.
Up front, the benefactor of Jagr's pass appears to be Dmitrij Jaskin. The big Blues right winger saw limited action in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he's still finding his way as a pro and now he's a World Cup participant. Another new add is Dallas' Radek Faksa, who had himself a very nice post-season with the Stars, proving to be a versatile two-way threat. Faksa also has a great frame.
But how about Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata not making the cut? Both are veteran NHLers, yet neither have suited up for the Czechs in Olympic play. Perhaps the team builders felt they had enough scorers in players such as Jakub Voracek, Ondrej Palat, Tomas Hertl and David Krejci, among others.
The Czechs had already chosen their three goaltenders in the initial roster release and not much has changed, though Michal Neuvirth's heroic stance with Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs may throw another debate point out there. Neuvirth and Petr Mrazek have the best chance of stealing a game for the Czechs, but Ondrej Pavelec has the most experience – so the coaching staff have a minefield to navigate.
With great size and defensive awareness, the Czechs won't get physically pushed around at the World Cup, but goaltending and puckmoving ability from the blueline could both be death knells for the team. Here's a look at the final roster:
G Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
G Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers
G Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets
D Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers
D Michal Jordan, Carolina Hurricanes *
D Michal Kempny, Chicago Blackhawks
D Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes *
D Jakub Nakladal, Calgary Flames *
D Roman Polak, San Jose Sharks
D Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars *
F Michael Frolik, Calgary Flames
F Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes
F Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars *
F Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
F Dmitrij Jaskin, St. Louis Blues *
F David Krejci, Boston Bruins
F Milan Michalek, Toronto Maple Leafs *
F Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
F David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
F Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
F Vladimir Sobotka, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
F Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers