January 09, 2014

Sergei Gonchar's Exclusion From Russian Olympic Team Angers Viacheslav Fetisov

When it comes to the greatest defensemen in the history of Russian hockey, the name Sergei Gonchar is certainly on the board.

Which makes it somewhat surprising that Gonchar's name was left off of the Russian Olympic roster for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Games.

Had Gonchar been named, he would have been participating in his 5th Olympics - a new record for Russian hockey players. He has been an integral part of the Russian Olympic roster since 1998, winning silver medals in Nagano and bronze in Salt Lake City.

“I couldn’t imagine that I will have a chance to participate in such a number of Olympic tournaments,” Gonchar said. “I’m already happy that I played at four Olympic Games, but I hope to go to a fifth.”

But coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov - a former national team defenseman himself - and the rest of the Russian Olympic hockey management team did not invite Gonchard, which has shocked Viacheslav Fetisov, who is universally hailed as the greatest Russian blue liner ever.

“In this situation, I feel very sorry only for our experienced defenseman Sergei Gonchar,” said Fetisov, who won Olympic gold with the Soviet Union in 1984 and 1988, plus two Stanley Cups.

“After all, our defensive line looks pretty young and Gonchar’s playing well in the NHL at the moment. I think that at such a fast-moving tournament [as the Olympics] his experience could be useful for the national team, especially on the power play.”

“However, if the coaches have made that decision, I hope that they’ve made the right decision. Everyone understands the responsibility for the result.”

In the defense of the Russian Olympic team the 39 year old Gonchar is not having a banner season by any stretch of the imagination. In his first season with the Dallas Stars he has 0 goals and 12 assists in 36 games. He is a -7 - the worst ranking among all Dallas defensemen. He is averaging the fewest minutes played in his illustrious career. That career has been largely built on his expert ability to quarterback a power play, but the Stars power play is the second worst in the entire NHL, operating below 13% success rate.

With or without Gonchar the Russian's Olympic blue line looks thin and could be a problem for them in their pursuit of gold.

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