The Czechs again overlooked Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata in addressing the injury to Vladimir Sobotka. Ice cold Martin Erat was chosen ahead of proven producers. Here's one theory why.
The first goal Martin Erat scores this season might come in the Olympic Games.
Erat was named to the Czech Republic Olympic team today replacing Vladimir Sobotka. Erat hasn’t scored since April 16 of last year, a span of 57 regular season and playoff games. He does have 21 assists in 48 games for the Washington Capitals and has been in and out of coach Adam Oates’ doghouse.
So why are the Czechs turning to an ice cold player for the Sochi Olympics when hotter hands such as Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata were overlooked first time around?
I asked Denik Sport hockey writer Pavel Barta for his thoughts.
“I think Jiri Hudler didn´t make the team because he would not fit in the top two lines which might be combined as follows: Jagr-Plekanec-Cervenka and Voracek-Krejci-Elias,” Barta said.
“Hudler is very skilled and smart player, he became a more team-oriented, more responsible guy compared to how he was before. But he is not suited for the third- or fourth-line role.”
Cervenka over Hudler or Vrbata? Seriously? That's ridiculous. Roman Cervenka couldn’t cut it in the NHL with Calgary last season. He has 13 goals and 36 points in 49 games in the KHL this season.
Barta went on to say Czech Republic coach Alois Hadamczik pointed the finger at players such as Hudler and Vrbata after 2013 World Championship disaster. Hadamczik did tour NHL arenas this season scouting players for the Olympic team. He apparently talked to Hudler after a Calgary game.
“His decision not to include Barta was a shock,” Barta said.
Hudler has been Calgary most consistent forward this season and easily leads the team with 14 goals and 42 points in 55 games. That’s 14 points more than the next high-scoring Flame.
Vrbata is third on the Phoenix Coyotes in scoring with 13 goals and 37 points in 53 games. He’s just two seasons removed from a 35-goal, 62-point season.
THN’s Matt Larkin wrote an interesting blog in January wondering if Czech’s hypothetical B squad could beat the A team. With Sobotka getting injured and Erat now moving from the B team to the A team, who knows.
The Capitals surrendered 2012 11th overall draft pick Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline last season in an attempt to beef up the scoring on the right wing. Erat did have three 20-goal seasons in Nashville and five others with at least 16 goals.
Maybe he's saving it all for Sochi.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN