Chat with Pierre LeBrun
Based in Toronto, LeBrun joined ESPN in September 2008 after spending 13 years with The Canadian Press as its national hockey columnist. LeBrun was also a contributor to Rogers Sportsnet and a regular guest on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada."
Send your questions for now and join LeBrun in The Show on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Pierre LeBrun (3:04 PM)
I'm glad the puck is dropping tonight. The summer has been too long. Let's get'er going!
Tim (Wilmington, NC)
What do you think the chance of the Sharks finally winning the west?
Pierre LeBrun (3:05 PM)
I picked them to win the Stanley Cup. Even though Detroit is head and shoulders above everyone else, I hate picking the obvious. I went back to the well with the Sharks, a team I've picked a few years in a row. I love the way they built their team, and I love the fact that they added champions like Blake and Boyle. I like their chances.
Jimmy (Long Beach, NY)
Pierre. Tell me something good about my Islanders. And the Mausoleum Nachos don't count
Pierre LeBrun (3:06 PM)
I like their rookie, Kyle Okposo. I just think he's the real deal and the type of player you can build a team around. He will get some ice time given how thin they are up front, and I think he'll be a special player.
Chris (Syracuse, NY)
I'm a Sabres fan dying to see my team come back to the pack and compete - do you think the promotion of recently acquired Craig Rivet to Captain will solidify their place in the playoffs?
Pierre LeBrun (3:07 PM)
I think it was a wise decision to name a permanent captain. They've had a rotating one for five years and I'm not a big fan of that. Some of the players in that dressing room were tired of it too. This is a decision that would appease their dressing room, which was a factor in the decision yesterday.
Spencer Oland, Toronto
What team do you think is going to surprise people this year?
Pierre LeBrun (3:09 PM)
I think the Oilers will surprise a lot of people. It wouldn't surprise me if they snuck up and won the Northwest division. They have a lot of young offensive talent and really bolstered their blue line. That would be my surprise team in the west. In the east, the Bruins are overlooked. They have a good young core, and I don't think it's a fluke that they almost upset Montreal. They will challenge the Canadiens for the Northeast.
Alex (College Park, MD)
Do you see the Rangers being better or worse this season? I think they're younger, faster, deeper, and are being underestimated by many in the hockey world.
Pierre LeBrun (3:10 PM)
I don't disagree that they are younger and faster, after losing to Pittsburgh, it became apparent. but when you make that many core changes to a team, in hockey especially, there is always a transition period. Starting the year in Europe may help speed up the process. If they can gel quickly, they will be reckoned with.
Ryan (Sudbury, ON)
Pierre, just wondering what your thoughts are on expansion into Europe, and when/whether it will happen?
Pierre LeBrun (3:12 PM)
It's great to get a question from a fellow Northern Ontario native. I do think that the league is more fiercly contemplating that than they ever have before. It really used to be a pipe dream, but now they are putting some thought into it. They will play regular season games to start the season, and increase that every year. IF it ever happens, we're looking at 10-15 years from now.
Eric (Jackson, MI)
Pierre, it?s hard to question Coach Babcock, but do you think splitting Dats and Zetts is a good idea?
Pierre LeBrun (3:13 PM)
If you're a good enough team where you can spread your offensive stars, I like that because it makes you harder to defend against. Most teams have a dedicated forward line to shut down a team's main threats, and this makes them more dangerous. It's something Babcock wanted to do last year, and with an addition of a superstar like Hossa, it will be very dangerous for the rest of the league.
Matt Gilbert, AZ
Do you think the coyotes have a shot in the pacific and in the western conference?
Pierre LeBrun (3:14 PM)
I don't think they have a shot at winning the Pacific--there are three powerhouses in San Jose, Dallas, and Anaheim right nearby. But I do think they are definitely headed in the right direction in terms of how they are building that team. I see them on the bubble for the last playoff spot in the West.
With economy problems looming (seemingly everywhere), how concerned is the NHL that teams will be able to fill their arenas on a regular basis? If fans simply cannot afford to come to games and prices don't drop accordingly I can see many owners losing a boatload come playoffs.
Pierre LeBrun (3:16 PM)
That's a great question and one I asked the commissioner last month when the NHL owners met in Toronto. The answers I got are that the early numbers are up from last year. At this point, they are quite confident, but how will it affect the next season? Any league, the NHL not being exempt, will be affected. It will be interesting to see whether the salary cap goes down after going up every year since the lockout.
Steve (Woburn, MA)
This Blake Wheeler kid looks like the real deal for the B's, do you think he has a chance at rookie of the year?
Pierre LeBrun (3:18 PM)
That's a tough one given that Stamkos of the Lightning will get a lot of ice time and will be given a chance to produce offensively. It'll be hard to match his offensive numbers. Having said that, it does look like the Bruins cut Peter Schaeffer in order to make room for Wheeler. That's how high they are on him.
If you had to look into your crystal ball, what's the next town to get an NHL franchise?
Pierre LeBrun (3:19 PM)
Las Vegas. I'm absolutely certain the league wants a team there. It's a matter of time. It's a league the market wants to beat the NBA to, and it's a market in which a deep pocket owner wants to put a team--Jerry Bruckheimer of CSI fame. I'm interested in seeing how that goes down.
Brian (Villa Park, IL)
With the Blackhawks surprising a lot of people last year, what can we expect from them this year?
Pierre LeBrun (3:20 PM)
I think they will make the playoffs. They will be one of the more exciting teams to watch. Chicago will be a fun place to watch hockey again. Watch out for the Blackhawks,
Nick, Raleigh NC
How do you feel about the younger Hurricanes this year? Will they win the Southeast? Go deep in playoffs?
Pierre LeBrun (3:21 PM)
I like Washington to win the Southeast. I'm afraid that with the significant injuries the Hurricans have already suffered, they will be a bubble team. I don't think they'll win the division.
Logan (Corpus Christi, TX)
I'm a native Detroiter, and like a lot of people I believe the Wings are set to repeat. Do you see any weakness that needs to be addressed by the Wings organization?
Pierre LeBrun (3:22 PM)
None whatsoever. Such a deep team that they sent back some players this week that would make some good NHL rosters. They sent back Jonathan Ericsson, who is a young defenseman who will make a good player someday. This is a team that will be good for some time.
Andrew (Washington, DC)
What does Alex Ovechkin do for an encore? Don Cherry says the sequel will not be nearly as good. What do you say?
Pierre LeBrun (3:23 PM)
I think he'll lead the league in goals again, but I don't think he'll take the scoring title for points. A healthy Sidney Crosby will reclaim that trophy, but that's not to take away anything from Ovechkin.
Nick (Denver, Colorado)
I'm reading around and I'm seeing how everyone isn't giving the Avalanche a chance this year. Are they really that bad of a team? They've got some good defensemen which should help which every goalie is in net and there's plenty of offense to go around
Pierre LeBrun (3:24 PM)
People are down on the Avs because they lost Theodore and didn't replace him. Peter Budaj is his replacement by default and wasn't able to handle the No. 1 job last year. If he is able to deliver, that changes the Avs dramatically. People are scared of them because they just don't think they have the goaltending.
John (Philadelphia, PA)
How good are the Flyers this year? What are their biggest weaknesses?
Pierre LeBrun (3:26 PM)
I picked them to win the East. They were already a team whose young core was emerging, and they showed that by reaching the Eastern Conference finals. Add to the fact that they have a healthy Simo Gagne, if he can stay healthy, it's like a big free agent signing. They are the team to beat in the East. People continue to doubt whether Martin Biron is a legit No. 1 goalie, but I don't think that is fair to ask after last year.
Ryan (Toronto, ON)
Hey Pierre how do you see Luke Schenn fairing for the Leafs this year? Also, are they in contention for the Tavares sweepstakes or could they be a playoff contender?
Pierre LeBrun (3:27 PM)
There's no way they make the playoffs, I don't think. If they keep Luke Schenn the entire year, they will be giving him lots of ice time. No way they keep an 18-year-old who means so much to their future and don't give him minutes. I think he's the real deal and should be a star defenseman in this league.
Scott ( Huntsville, Al)
Do you believe that Nashville has a shot at possibly making a run in the playoffs?
Pierre LeBrun (3:28 PM)
I would have liked their chances better if they still had Radulov, but his defection to Russia was a serious, serious blow for a team that had to work for its goals in the first place, losing their most offensively gifted player is really tough to swallow. You might see them drop out of the playoff picture.
Pierre LeBrun (3:29 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions. Keep them coming, and don't be shy to call me on things I've said. See you soon!