Thursday, September 09, 2004


Slovakia Shameful in Defeat

Now that I've returned home and watched Canada have their way with the Slovaks last night at the Air Canada Centre, I can finally get a few things off of my tanned chest.

5-0! What a way to go...

In the 4 games the Slovaks played, they lost all 4 and were outscored 4 to 18.

Before the tournament, I said there were 7 powerful teams and then Germany. Perhaps we should switch Germany with Slovakia in that equation?

The Slovaks were outmuscled, outscored, outplayed, outskilled, outworked, outeverything. There really isn't anything that the Slovak team can be proud of.

The Slovak players were made about being compared to a 'B' team like Belarus:

"Everybody compares us with Belarus," forward Richard Zednik said.

"Who? Belarus? Look at this group. I think we can beat any team on any night. I look at the players in this room and see so much talent."

The Slovaks didn't pick up a win in exhibition, preliminary, or playoff round competition. With the lopsided games we've been subjected to, Slovakia sure as hell looked like a 'B' team to me.

It's easy to criticize after the fact, but it's time to look at some of the reasons why Slovakia was just plain awful.

Coaching: Jan Filc

Jan Filc... the man has lead Slovakia to World Championships Gold, but was also a big part of the Salt Lake City debacle.

Filc has done a good job in the past getting results from a less-than-stacked roster playing on the International-sized ice surface. When the Slovaks are without many of their high-flying stars, it makes sense to play a tight defensive system.

Unfortunately, Filc couldn't handle a star-studded roster with the tournament being played on the smaller ice surface. Filc has no experience handling either of these situations, which helps explain why the Slovaks faired so poorly.

"We have to try to keep the game tied 0-0 as long as we can and then try to get some goals," said goalie Rastislav Stana

The various Canadian sports channels (CBC, The Score, TSN, Sportsnet) all gave detailed breakdowns of how the Slovaks were keeping 5 men back and not forechecking at all. There was no pressure from any of the Slovak forwards when the puck was deep, and it caved in on them when Canada burst out with 2 quick goals in the 2nd period.

Part of a good coaching strategy is to mould a system out of the players you have. Filc had a roster stacked with speedy, finesse offensive-minded forwards (Gaborik, Hossa, Satan) and forwards who excel at cycling the puck (Zednik, Demitra, Orszagh).

So what does Filc do? He has his forwards playing an extremely passive system that is pretty much the absolute worst way to use the type of talent he was given.

The Slovak players looked quite uncomfortable and slow playing a system that they are generally not used to playing. It's like having Britney Spears sing just wouldn't work. Filc should have had his forwards forechecking and cycling the puck. The speedy Slovak forwards could pressure the weakened Canadian defense into making mistakes, and the cycling forwards could keep the puck away from Jan Lasak as much as possible.

Although the blame should ultimately go to the players, it's a large part of a coach's job to inspire his troops and get them fired up. The Slovak players lacked passion and intensity and Filc failed to motivate them in any way shape or form.

Jan Lasak showed us the Jekyll side of his personality.

Before the tournament, I highlighted how Lasak could either be ice cold or white hot.
It's too bad I missed the Canada/Slovakia exhbition on Canadian TV yesterday; a 2-2 tie. Rasto Stana stood out, and some speculate that he may have stolen the #1 job from Lasak. I surely hope not, since Lasak is the type of goalie that can continually steal games, while Stana is not.

The Slovaks decided to put their fate in the hands of Jan Lasak for their game against Canada, and he failed to steal the game for them.

Throughout the tournament, Lasak was just plain awful!. As much as he's stolen some victories for them in the past, Lasak is a very emotional goalie that will get rattled and just fall apart like Humpty Dumpty if he lets in a soft goal or two.

Pundits galore were harping about the Slovak's weakness in goal. This time, they were right. Until one of the fine young goalies like Michal Valent or Jaroslav Halak develops into a star, the Slovaks will have to pin their hopes on the roll-the-dice Lasak or the B-grade Stana/Budaj duo.


Richard Lintner - In the NHL and smaller ice surface, Lintner has been an abject failure. In Europe and bigger ice surface, Lintner has been a star.
Thus, Filc saw it fit to put Lintner on the roster and give him a prominent role.

Fortunately, Lintner's -5 and 0 points performance in the 3 preliminary games got him a seat in the press box for the playoff game against Canada. It's too bad his replacement, Suchy, did such a poor job in return.

Chara/Visnovsky - These two were the only defensemen that seemed to play with a level of competancy expected at this tournament. Visnovsky was playing solid hockey and doing his best to create offense in a system that isn't condusive for doing so.

Chara, on the other hand, looked like a turnstile at times despite giving a good effort. Chara was simply overwhelmed by having to do almost everything for the weak Slovak team. It doesn't help when Lasak or Stana are letting in beach balls.

Martin Strbak wasn't horrible, and he's generally decent for Slovakia whenever he plays.'s no wonder he's going back to Europe.
Suchy...translates to 'dry', which describes his skill level perfectly.
Mezei...has been a big dissappointment given where he was drafted. He wasn't a pick I liked much in the first place.


The short list of forwards who get, at least, a passing grade:

Lubos Bartecko - Worked hard at both ends of the ice and didn't have much to show for it in the points column. How could there not be at least ONE NHL team that would want his services next year.

Pavol Demitra - 2 assists in 4 games doesn't really beef up the sandwich, but Demitra was one of the few Slovak forwards playing at a higher-than-zombielike tempo and one of the few Slovaks who created offense.

Martin Cibak - As much as I derided the fact that Cibak was the one replacing Michal Handzus, Cibak didn't do too badly for himself defensively. I don't know why Filc gave him so much ice-time offensively (Since he didn't produce more than squat), but Cibak deserves credit for not doing a bad job.

that is all...

Miro Satan - When Miro was with the Oilers, I used to call him Zero in Zero effort, Zero heart, Zero defense, etc...

This changed when he became a real leader for Slovakia at the International stage, and a good 2-way forward with the Sabres.

Perhaps maybe it's time to change his name back to 'Zero'?

This past year, Satan whined, bitched, and moaned about his role with the Sabres. He slumped badly and scored about as much as Rob Ray used to.

Satan was once again given captaincy of the Slovaks, and he finished with 0 points and a -7 rating in 4 games. This isn't exactly the kind of leadership we were looking for...

Proving, once again, that they are evil sadistic bastards.
Palffy, Handzus, Bondra, and Zednik all injured in one way or another.

The Hockey Gods will allow a team from freakin' TAMPA BAY to win the Stanley Cup, but they can't allow Slovakia to play with a nice full roster. Thanks, guys.

Overall, it's been a bad bad bad bad bad bad summer for the Slovaks. After I'm done writing this entry, I'm going to put them completely out of my mind and focus on the Canadian effort.

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