The Flames may not be a good team this year, but that doesn't mean they don't boast some of their countries' best.
Goaltender Reto Berra will be representing Team Switzerland at the Olympics, while defenceman Ladislav Smid will play for the Czech Republic. Berra, one of two Swiss goalies currently in the NHL, will likely back up Jonas Hiller; while Smid is one of five current NHL Czech defencemen named to the roster.
Berra, in 18 games played, has a 5-11-2 record with a .903 SV%. He has yet to win a game in regulation, but has improved the more he's played. While he's adjusted to NHL ice, playing on an international rink will likely benefit him, as it's what he's used to. Berra last represented his country at the 2013 World Championships, playing in four games and picking up a save percentage of .967 as he helped backstop his country to a silver medal alongside Martin Gerber.
Smid has played 25 games for the Flames this year after being traded from the Oilers. He has one assist. Smid is currently fifth in ice time per game among NHL Czech defenceman, averaging about 19 minutes per game. He also last played for his country in the 2013 World Championships, dressing in eight games and putting up three assists before being eliminated by the Swiss in the quaterfinals.
While Berra and Smid are going to the Olympics, some of their countrymen and Flames teammates are not. Sven Baertschi, one of only three Swiss forwards to have played in the NHL this year, was left to Switzerland's side list. Baertschi is in the midst of a disappointing season, scoring only two goals and 11 points in 26 NHL games before he was sent to Abbotsford. He currently has two goals for the Heat in seven games. He was originally supposed to go to the 2013 World Championships; however, he missed the tournament with a hip injury suffered late in the NHL season.
While Baertschi may be one of Switzerland's more prominent names on forward, being left off the Olympic roster is not necessarily a snub. As he told Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun:
"I know people say ‘Switzerland, you have no guys.’ That’s the usual comment that I get — ‘You guys have nobody.' And I’m like, ‘Yes, we do.' We have a lot of really, really talented players and a lot of good players that have been in the Swiss league for a long time and they’ve been playing really well, and then the guys we have here in North America. (The Olympic team) is definitely not an easy lineup to crack, that’s all I’m saying."
The omission of Jiri Hudler from the Czech roster, however, is much more surprising. Hudler is currently fourth in the NHL for goals and second in points by a Czech player with 12 and 35, respectively, in 42 games played. None of Hudler's Flames teammates seem to understand why he was passed over:
Hudler's Flame team mates were mocking His omission. Questioning judgment of Czech selection process.
Hudler's Flame team mates were mocking His omission. Questioning judgment of Czech selection process.— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) January 6, 2014
And Bob Hartley seems especially unhappy about it:
Bob Hartley says "Czechs must be very good team. They will win the Olympic Gold Medal. Any team that can keep Jiri Hudler off it must win.
Bob Hartley says "Czechs must be very good team. They will win the Olympic Gold Medal. Any team that can keep Jiri Hudler off it must win.— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) January 6, 2014
Hudler also played for the Czechs in the 2013 World Championships, scoring four goals and five points in eight games. He led the team in goals and was second to Jakub Voracek in points.
Hudler's former teammate, former Flame Roman Cervenka, made the cut. Cervenka had nine goals and 17 points in 38 games for the Flames last year. He currently has eight goals and 29 points for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL.
Last but not least, while not one of the frontrunners for an Olympic spot, Mark Giordano was one of the Canadian defencemen who turned heads during the selection process. While he ultimately wasn't chosen, he is a potential injury replacement. The fact that the undrafted Flames Captain worked his way into the conversation is notable, and a good story for both the club and player going forward. Giordano currently has five goals and 18 points in 24 games played, and is eighth among Canadian defencemen for ice time per game at 25:12.