Sunday, March 13, 2005


Sparta Falls: History Repeats Itself

With Vitkovice defeating Sparta Prague 4 games to 1 in the opening round of the Czech Extraleague playoffs, we get an excellent example of history repeating itself - Not only in hockey terms, but in real-life terms.

In 401 B.C., the great Greek military superpower known as Sparta was as the height of its' power and was the most powerful empire in Greek history.

The Spartan infantry soldiers, 'Similars' were exceeding confident, skilled, and elitist. The Sparta empire plundered and took advantage of weaker neighbouring empires, and, from the outside, they looked invincible.

Then, in 371 B.C., the cracks began to show and the armed forces of Thebes took advantage of Sparta's overconfidence.

While Sparta was very proud of its elite infantry units, it did very little to train its calvary to the same degree. The Spartans believed their infantry soldiers were 'superior specimens' amongst the human race, and they didn't need the help of animals or 'inferiors' (which were lower on the social ladder and fought in different units).

The Thebians took advantage of this rigidity within the Spartan structure and overwhelmed the Spartans with a clear advantage in trained calvary units. It wasn't long before the Sparta empire was defeated once and for all.

Fast forward to 2005, and the Sparta Prague hockey team (one of many clubs named after the ancient empire).

Like the ancient empire, Sparta Prague plunders and takes advantage of the weaker and poorer teams around the Czech Extraleague. With it's large piles of $$$, $parta will often sign good players away from poor teams (Like Jan Marek and Libor Prochazka from Trinec, or the bevy of NHLers on the team this year).

Just like the ancient empire, there is definitely an elitist mentality within the Spartan hockey organization. For years and years and years, Sparta has composed its roster full with offensive-minded finesse forwards and players with 'Star' power. Finding a heart-and-soul type of guy on Sparta is very rare indeed. It's almost as if they see any players of lesser offensive skill as 'inferiors', no matter if these players are good defensively, good in the corners, or in the trenches.

This disease has served to prevent Sparta from winning many league titles despite the fact that they usually have the deepest and most powerful looking roster. Why?

Because, as we saw with the Spartan empire, you can't win a war with just one type of fighting unit.

Sparta has a very bad habit of loading up 4 forward lines with offensive-stars and no checking forwards or gritty 'role players'. As we've seen in recent history with the Dallas Stars, playing an offensive star such as Pierre Turgeon 10-12 minutes a night on the 3rd line, without Power Play time, is a poor use of resources. Turgeon can't possibly produce the kind of offense that is expected of him, and he's not fit for the role of a checking center.

With too many stars and not enough ice time, the Spartans often suffer froma lack of good chemistry. Each of the players wants more ice time, and most of them won't get it. When the going gets tough, Sparta doesn't have the personnel to shut down opposing offensive stars nor win the wars in the trenches.

Full congratulations to Vitkovice for their surprisingly easy victory. Before the series, I was guilty of the same overconfidence that the Spartans are known for:

"This is the most lopsided mismatch of the entire first round. How could
Vitkovice compete with a Sparta team that has 8 NHLers and other top European
stars like Jan Marek, Petr Ton, and Martin Chabada"

How indeed? :) I hope coach Spartan coach Slavomir Lener is polishing his resume.

The Hero:

Vladimir Vujtek - 5GP 4-3-7 +6

The Goat:

Martin Havlat - 5GP 0-0-0 -8 20PIM

The other game yesterday featured Hame Zlin taking it to Litvinov with a 5-0 whitewash.
This was a penalty-frought game with 98 minutes dished out in total. There were no fights in the game, but a hell of a lot of hacking and whacking. It's almost as if the players were possessed by the demon spirit of Derian Hatcher.
Martin Erat was the star of the game with a goal and two assists, while Jaroslav Balastik went pointless and spent 16 minutes getting to know the penalty box a little better.


Zvolen 6 - Liptovsky Mikulas 2 (Zvolen wins series 4-1)

As predicted (yay, I got one right!), Zvolen disposed of LM in 5 games and did so rather easily in Game 5. Once again, the NHL line wasn't the one doing the bulk of the scoring - Vlado Orszagh had 1 goal and Richard Zednik added 2 assists.

Slovan Bratislava 3 - Poprad 2 (Slovan wins series 4-1)

I had predicted a 4-game sweep for Slovan, but a shootout victory for Poprad gave them a little something to be proud of.
Miroslav Satan assisted on Zdeno Ciger's 1st period goal and Slovan never looked back. Radoslav Suchy finished the series with no points and -7 rating in the 5 game series (sucks to be the guy assigned to check Satan) and will now go home to rest in preparation for the World Championships.

Bah. :P
Neener. Neener. Neener.
Those players should learn about the tactics used against them so that their team could formulate something which could effectively counter such strategy.
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