Friday, 19 September 2014

Čada calls time on Slovan career

Hockey fans in Bratislava woke up to a shock this morning, as Slovan Bratislava announced on their website that the team and head coach Rostislav Čada had come to an agreement over the termination of the latter’s contract. For all intents and purposes it appears that Čada asked to be released from his contract rather than being fired by the club.

Photo from Rostislav Čada's last game in charge of Slovan
Čada has had a mixed bag of success since joining Slovan Bratislava in 2012, upon their entry to the KHL. The Czech born coach had floundered with Avangard Omsk, but found his niche with a battling Slovan side, and whilst his brand of defensive hockey may have been dour at times, it did get results. Slovan’s first season in the KHL was an unmitigated success, as the team with one of the smallest budgets in the KHL made it to the Gagarin Cup Playoffs.

However, Jaroslav Janus and the rest of Slovan’s capitulation to Dinamo Moscow in the 2012/13 playoffs set the tone of things to come, and last season was one of frustration at the Slovnaft Arena. The sole Slovak team in the KHL toiled but could only finish 11th in the Western Conference, meaning it was the Nadezhda Cup rather than the Gagarin Cup they were playing for.

Despite this, Rostislav Čada’s time in Bratislava will be well remembered, as he managed to make what should’ve been a struggler, into a competitor. Slovan have consistently punched above their weight against the giants of Russian hockey, and Čada’s style of play has been an integral part of the club picking up historic victories over the likes of SKA St. Petersburg, Ak Bars Kazan and Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Over the past two seasons, Čada’s brand of counter-attacking hockey, relying on the speed of players like captain Milan Bartovič and Libor Hudáček has proven successful, especially when paired with the incredible performances of Jaroslav Janus, especially in 2012/13.

The announcement on Slovan Bratislava’s webpage is as follows:
“HC Slovan Bratislava thanks Rostislav Čada for the honesty and responsibility he showed during his 29-month tenure in Bratislava for our cub. We wish him every success in his future work and private life."

Without wishing to enter the realm of counter-factual reporting, Slovan’s recent turn in results may have convinced Čada that he had achieved all that he could have with his limited resources. After three wins out of three to start the current campaign, Slovan’s luck has turned, and most recently a toothless 3-0 loss on home ice to strugglers Severstal Cherepovets may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Slovan's fans have supported the team in their droves, yet
budgets remain tight at the Slovnaft Arena
To try and give some context to Slovan’s financial battle, GM Maroš Krajči announced last week that Slovan’s budget for the coming KHL season would be €13million. Using figures compiled by, for the 2013/14 season, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov make €8million and €5.8million respectively on their own. What’s more, no Slovan players featured in the top-90 paid KHL players according to the same website. According to official figures released by the KHL Slovan’s budget was the second lowest in the KHL last season, a startling seven times less than top spenders SKA St. Petersburg. Within this environment, it is a miracle that Čada was even able to get Slovan to the playoffs in the first place.

Vladimir Országh becomes Slovan's interim coach
along with Ján Lipianský
Slovan announced that their interim coaches would be former NHLer Vladimir Országh and former Slovan fan favourite Ján Lipianský, who played for the club during their first KHL campaign before hanging up the skates. While this coaching pair will only have the job temporarily, it will be interesting to see how the team performs under the tutelage of the pair. Országh is being tipped as one of Slovakia’s best young coaches and will potentially be given the job when current national team coach Vladimir Vůjtek leaves the post. Országh had spent the last two seasons as head coach of Banska Bystrica in the Slovak Extraliga, and was named assistant coach of the Slovak national team in the summer of 2013 as a nod towards his potential. Still only 37 years of age, Országh has a lot to learn, but getting thrown in at the deep end may not be the worst thing for the former Nashville Predator.

It doesn’t get much tougher for Országh, Lipianský and Slovan as they look to break their three game losing streak against Alexander Radulov and his CSKA Moscow side at the Slovnaft Arena on Saturday. CSKA have won five games out of six so far this season, whilst a Slovan loss may see the team fall out of the playoff positions already.

I, for one, will miss Čada. I think he did a fantastic job with what he had before him, and has made Slovan into a competent and competitive KHL team. I’m going to miss seeing him on the bench at the Slovnaft Arena, where peculiarly he stood in front of his players, right at ice level. Who knows what is next for the Brno native, but Velvet Hockey wishes him all the best.

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