The owners of the coolest jerseys in the Olympic hockey tournament are in a bit of a tough spot this time around.
Sure, the Slovakian men's national team boasts impressive top-end talent, not the least of which is national flag-bearer Zdeno Chara, who delighted the BBC during the Opening Ceremonies by being so freaking big. But a lack of depth, particularly on defense after a key loss, will be a huge question mark.
The team that's been most hurt by injury is either this group or the Swedes. Slovakia will be missing Lubomir Visnovsky and Marian Gaborik because of injuries that did not heal in time for the games. Branko Radivojevic has a fantastic name, but he's obviously nowhere near the offensive talent that Gaborik is.
Vishnovsky's replacement has not been named yet (official rosters aren't due until tomorrow, I believe), so here's a look at the group as it stands:
After looking at that list, I want to see the comedy that happens when a coach is working with the group of forwards and calls out for a Tomas. It's the same issue the US had with the Ryans back in 2010, except Eastern European.
Most have Slovakia in the group of teams who could possibly end up with a medal but just barely. They're probably the longest shot of all the teams that boast more than one or two NHL players (sorry Slovenia). But they've still got some very nice top-flight talent that could make them a handful in the opening rounds, when they will play both the United States and Russia.
Odds are that Slovakia will be one of the teams that has to play in the qualification round before the quarterfinals. They'll probably get through to those before running into a winner-take-all contest against one of the prohibitive favorites. And as much as they can put a scare into to some people, you'd expect the depth of the favorites will be the difference maker in a game like that.
Still, Halak is a scary goalie if he gets rolling, and even without Gaborik, the Slovaks can throw out some fairly formidable offensive talent. They're not a team to sleep on for sure, and they're all ready for a medal ceremony with the anthem printed on their sweaters.