|Jaromir Jágr salutes the travelling faithful at the o2.|
Photo: Josef Poláček
Last season was an awful one for Slavia, their worst in a long time. However, optimism is somewhat high after the club managed to nab Vladimir Sobotka and Roman Červenka. The latter was due to begin his rookie season for the Calgary Flames this year, after two very productive seasons with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. Červenka comes back to the Extraliga after two seasons away. His last campaign, in 2009/10 saw him single handedly carry Slavia to the semi finals. He won the scoring title by a mammoth 18 points, and had more than double the amount of points of anyone else on the Slavia roster. Červenka and Sobotka were paired with Slavia's main off-season acquisition, Jaroslav Kalla, in the game against Kladno, and both of the locked out NHLers had 1+2. However, Slavia still only sit in 10th place, as both Červenka and Sobotka have only added a point each since, and Slavia's anaemic offence has only managed to find the back of the net 10 times in 6 games. Still, if it's any consolation, they are still ahead of fierce rivals Sparta, who signed the extremely average looking Michal Neuvirth, whose save percentage is under .900.
|Vladimir Sobotka (red) flattering to deceive with Slavia|
Photo: Petr Vančura
One place above Nedvěd's flounderers are last seasons champions HC Pardubice, who have forward Aleš Hemský and Jakub Kindl on their roster, as well as the distinct possibility of also grabbing David Krejčí, although insurance issues have been stalling the deal so far. Pardubice, who are desperate to become the first team to retain the Extraliga title since Sparta did it in 2007, are certainly experiencing the winner's hangover on their showings so far, although the losses of Petr Koukal and Jan Kolář to Neftekhimik in the KHL gutted the team of two top quality first liners. Pavel Brendl, their big summer signing, has been dreadful so far, putting up a paltry two points from five games. Martin Růžička's goals against average isn't looking too healthy when it's pushing four as well.
|Petr Nedvěd and Ondřej Pavelec both need|
to be better for Liberec
Photo: Joerg Stephan
|Ľubomír Višňovský celebrates|
his goal against Avangard
Photo: Ján Skalican/Ziakoo
Last but not least, a quick mention for Tomáš Tatar, the only NHL player at the moment who has taken up a place in the Slovak Extraliga, playing for the league's new boys, ŠHK 37 Piešťany. He was part of the roster which sent shockwaves through the Extraliga following his side's 8:2 demolition of HK36 Skalica, a side featuring a number of players in the Slovan system. However, his side were humbled 9:5 by HC Košice two days later. Tatar currently has four points in three games. It is interesting to note how hockey has changed in Slovakia, as the last lockout saw Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa line up for Dukla Trenčín, Višňovský and Miroslav Šatan play for Slovan, Ziggy Pálffy for Skalica, Richard Zednik and Michal Handzus lace up for Zvolen, and even Ladislav Nagy played for Košice. Still, I guess that's a story for another day.
The lockout will once again increase knowledge of European competitions, if only for a few months, but it's certain that the Czech Extraliga, already incredibly competitive, will benefit (from an entertainment point of view) from the influx of Czech NHL talent to the league. It's a boost that the league desperately needs.