Why He Was Snubbed: Sergei Gonchar is 39 years old, and even in his prime, he wasn't known for being particularly physical or tight defensively.
That's not to say that Gonchar is weak in his own zone. He's not sheltered, and until just this season, he always took his turn killing penalties.
While he may still be able to do the job in the NHL, the concern was that he would have had some difficulty keeping up on the big ice, especially with players going wide. This might even aggravate his tendency to take a few too many penalties.
Why It Was a Mistake: How can you turn down the services of a legend?
Gonchar has competed in four previous Olympic tournaments, winning silver in 1998 and bronze in 2002. He also helped Russia take home bronze in the 2007 World Championships and silver in the 2010 tournament. He won the Stanley Cup in 2009, followed up with a season when he scored 50 points in 69 games. He has played in five NHL All-Star Games, was the first Russian defenceman to score 20 goals in a season and has led NHL defencemen in goals, assists and points twice apiece.
Mike Green is the only active defenceman to surpass his single-season career high of 26 goals, and of the six other active blueliners to score 20 goals in a season, Sheldon Souray is the only other defenceman to do it twice. Of course, his sub-4.0 shooting percentage for the third straight season suggests Gonchar's twine-finding days are behind him.
Russia's high-octane offence has had some trouble getting started. The Russians have scored only seven goals, well back of the other big four hockey nations, which are averaging about 13. Having a skilled puck-moving defenceman who can make both breakout and set-up passes, especially on the power play, is something the team sorely lacks.
Whom He Should Replace: Gonchar is not a top-pairing defenceman by any stretch. He's down to under 19 minutes per game in the NHL, with just 18 points in 52 games. Still, that's fourth among Russian defencemen.
Rather than Anton Belov or 31-year-old KHLer Ilya Nikulin, the Russians may have been better served to include a veteran power-play specialist who can still play top-four minutes when required.