|Doug O'Brien (left) and Tomáš Kůrka will need to find|
new teams for 2011-12. Photo: www.getfoto.cz.
Sparta finished the season with a record of 16-7-3-32 on the 3-2-1-0 point scale to finish twelfth in the 14-team Extraliga. For the proud team whose history dates back to 1903 when it was founded by Canadian expatriate Lyle P. O'Connor, it was their lowest placement ever.
"The core of Sparta must change," Sykora said in a press conference on Thursday.
O'Brien started the season on fire, recording 6 points in the first 9 games. In the third game of the season, he scored the overtime winner against his ex-team, Plzeň 1929. After that, however, he recorded only 6 more points the remainder of the season. He remained a strong physical presence on the Sparta blueline as the team fell onto hard times. A junior with the Hull Olympiques, O'Brien was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003 and played 5 games for them in 2005-06.
Gulaši, one of the team's highest scoring defenceman and hardest hitters, is also leaving, though apparently by his own choosing. "Michal, we offered a new contract. We were interested in him and offered a new contract with a raise. But he declined the club's offer and therefore will play elsewhere," said Sykora.
Výborný is probably the best-known player of the group. The 36-year-old team captain was third in team scoring this year with 20 points in 51 games; a figure that is a reflection the team's offensive woes this season. Výborný is a product of Sparta's youth program and first appeared on the A-team as a 16 year old in a three-game stint in 1991.
He was drafted in 1993 by the Edmonton Oilers and played for a year with the club's AHL affiliate in Cape Breton. After returning to Sparta and also playing for a year with Swedish club MoDo Örnsköldsvik, he made his NHL debut with the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000. Výborný played seven NHL seasons, all with Columbus. His best was 2005-06, when he recorded 65 points in 80 games. Internationally, he won five World Championships with the Czech Republic between 1996 and 2005.
It appears that the team will try to build around an offense led by the French brothers Yorick and Sacha Treille. Yorick just finished his first season with Sparta and, in a season shortened by injuries, recorded 18 points in 29 games. Younger brother Sacha was acquired in a late-season trade with Vagnerplast Kladno.
"We want Sparta to play fast, very fast and high-pressure hockey. New players must meet that criteria, along with enormous enthusiasm. During games, the team must play with emotion," Sykora explained, when asked about who will play for the team next season. "Please be patient while players still have valid contracts with other clubs. Gradually, we will build a lineup and a lot of work is ahead of us."