The Czech Republic is the fifth of an eight-part series previewing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Other team previews can be found here: Russia | Canada | USA | Sweden | Slovakia | Finland | Mexico (Satire)
The Czechs have long had a respectable hockey program. Since the Olympics allowed professional players to compete, the Czechs are tied for the most medals earned. Since their gold medal victory in 1998 at Nagano, the nation has fallen off a little.
The days of Dominik Hasek dominating between the pipes for the Czechs is over, and their playmakers from the gold medal team are severely aged.
As long as there is a will, the Czechs will always remain competitive. They aren't considered a front runner for the gold in 2010, but they are always a threat to medal.
C Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
LW Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
RW Jaromir Jagr, Avangard Omsk HC
C David Krejci, Boston Bruins
LW Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
RW Martin Havlat, Chicago Blackhawks
C Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
LW Milan Michalek, San Jose Sharks
RW Jiri Hudler, Detroit Red Wings
C Michael Frolik, Florida Panthers
LW Jakob Voracek, Columbus Blue Jackets
RW Martin Erat, Nashville Predators
Two wild cards in this picture are veterans Robert Lang and Vaclav Prospal. Neither are sure about returning to the national team. But without them, this is not a poor unit. Lead by Jaromir Jagr, a guy who has consistently proved that he is one of the best in the game even at 36. He will be on a line with fellow veterans Patrik Elias and Milan Hejduk.
The second line may be a preview of coming attractions for the Czechs. Young star David Krejci leads a line of terrific wingers Havlat and Hemsky. Both are underrated players on the international stage and need to come up big in order to win.
Line three is composed of some playmakers in Michalek and Hudler. Tomas Plekanec is also an above-average center.
The Czechs are looking to their young talent to fill the fourth line. Jakob Voracek and Michael Frolik have had great seasons with their NHL clubs and look to continue their success on the Olympic stage.
Robert Lang, Montreal Canadiens; Vaclav Prospal, Tampa Bay Lightning; Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes
LD Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs
RD Pavel Kubina, Toronto Maple Leafs
LD Jaroslav Spacek, Buffalo Sabres
RD Marek Zidlicky, Minnesota Wild
LD Michal Rozsival, New York Rangers
RD Roman Hamrlik, Montreal Canadiens
They aren't big name defensemen, but they are effective. Lead by a duo of Maple Leafs, the Czech blue line boasts a number of guys that can score.
None more so than the second line, who may be the most productive defensive line in the Olympics. Marek Zidlicky and Jaroslav Spacek will look to jump in and create offense at any moment possible. They will also need to take shots whenever possible.
The third line is similar. Roman Hamrlik will put up numbers, but Rozsival as a veteran will be more comfortable on the defensive end.
Rostislav Klesla, Columbus Blue Jackets; Filip Kuba, Ottawa Senators; Zbynek Michalek, Phoenix Coyotes
G Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers
G Ondrej Pavelec, Atlanta Thrashers
The under-appreciated Vokoun deserves to be the starter. He has had a solid 2009 campaign so far, and will most likely continue into 2010. Pavelec has a chance to overtake him by the Vancouver games, but he will have to play fantastic hockey and earn a full-time role in Atlanta.
Marek Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
No medal. Defeated by Sweden in the bronze medal game, 4-0.