The hits keep on coming for the Czech Republic’s entry to the World Cup of Hockey. After having to name a replacement for star forward David Krejci Saturday, the team has had to replace two more players ahead of training camp, which officially begins Monday.
Winger Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks and defenseman Radko Gudas of the Philadelphia Flyers have each withdrawn from the tournament due to injuries. Hertl is still recovering from the knee injury he sustained during the Stanley Cup Final, while Gudas suffered a reported wrist injury during offseason training.
The Czechs have replaced each of the injured NHLers with a pair of KHL players. Tomas Kundratek, who played in 30 NHL games and currently skates for Slovan Bratislava, will replace Gudas. Michal Birner, forward for Traktor Chelyabinsk, will be subbing in for Hertl.
This squad was already dealing with depth concerns, but losing Krejci and Hertl, who each would have been key forwards for this team, just days before camp opens in devastating. They apparently tried to bring in some NHL talent and would have had a good option in recent Dallas Stars signee Jiri Hudler. However, they couldn’t get a hold of him apparently. Seriously.
Czech GM Martin Rucinsky: “Hudler didnt answer phone calls & messages. His agent Petr Svoboda then told us Jiri didnt have interest to go.”
— Roman Jedlicka (@jedli) September 4, 2016
Who knows if it was because he was questionably snubbed when this roster was initially named or if he really didn’t want to end his offseason early. Whatever the reason, Hudler is probably not alone in his lack of interest to attend.
With Hertl and Gudas dropping out, 11 players have been replaced on their respective rosters over the last two weeks. With players reporting Sunday, perhaps that will be the end of it. However, there are a lot of exhibition games to be played over the next week-plus. There could yet be more replacements named if more injuries crop up. The risk of injury for minimal payoff in a tournament the NHL created as another live event cash cow is not going to be worth it for a lot of players.
The good news for the NHL is that they still have their biggest names participating in the World Cup. Losing one or more of them would be a tough blow for a tournament that is already being viewed with a fairly skeptical eye. It’s hard to see how this event is going to satisfy fans’ appetite for international hockey enough to offset the league potentially skipping out on the Olympics.
Source: CBS Sports / Sharks’ Tomas Hertl, Flyers’ Radko Gudas withdraw from World Cup with injuries