Chat with EJ Hradek
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join Hradek in The Show on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Ryan (Phoenix, AZ)
The Coyotes are playing some serious hockey right now. How far do you think they go in the playoffs? Is the second round possible for this team?
EJ Hradek (3:02 PM)
I think you have to go one step at a time. They have not made the playoffs in a while. They are in a tough battle for a playoff spot this year. It won't be easy to make the playoffs this year, but that is the focus right now.
EJ, After two ugly (in the extreme) fight results in the past month, how quickly is the NHL machine moving to make serious changes to the fighting element of the sport?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
About as fast as Georges Laraque skates. Which is to say, not that fast. In listening to Gary Betteman and other league execs, I don't get the sense that there is an urgency to address this issue. Unfortunately, it will probably take a very serious injury, or something worse, before we can have a legitimate debate on the merits of fighting in hockey.
Dan (Bridgewater, NJ)
Atlantic Division: Who takes it?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
Right now, I really like the Devils chances to win that division. They will get a lift from the return of Martin Brodeur in late February or early March, and I suspect they will try to add a little more help on defense before the trade deadline. I think it will be a tight race with the Rangers and Flyers, but I give the Devils the edge right now.
Tim (Port St. Lucie, FL)
E.J., any chance the Devils use Scott Clemmensen in part of a package for a big-name defenseman?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I think it's possible. But big-name defensemen are hard to find. I think Jay Bouwmeester is likely the biggest-name defenseman available because of his current contract situation, and I don't think, looking at Florida, that they have a need for a goaltender in return. I get the sense that the Devils will keep Clemmensen around for the remainder of the season as insurance against any further injury or issue with Marty Brodeur.
Will the Capitals trade for a goalie for a cup run? Who would they go after?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I don't get the sense that they will. They're committed financially to Theodore, and he has played better lately. I think that they're also happy with Brent Johnson in the No. 2 role. I get the feeling that they are going to go forward with the guys they have. If Theodore struggled in February, that could change.
Will Therien last the season with the Pens? He's lucky the city of Pittsburgh has other concerns at the moment.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I get the sense that he will, but I don't think it's a given. Clearly the Penguins have to be more consistent in the next couple of weeks. Were they to stumble and go on another losing jag, it's something the management group would consider. But right now, I think he's safe.
Tom (River North)
EJ, what do you think is wrong with the Red Wings defensively? They were pretty much dominant in the playoffs, and brought back everyone. Is it boredom with the regular season?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I think that has something to do with it. After you win a Cup and you play deep into the spring, and your summer is filled with Cup parties, it's a little bit difficult to stay focused on a day-to-day basis in the following season. I think they've been a little sloppy and will admit that, but when they've faced top teams, they have usually responded with a good effort. I expect the Wings will be a tighter group down the stretch as they get ready to defend their title.
All the Avery talk has fizzed out. With the trade deadline approaching, maybe he goes somewhere? We still love him in NY.
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
Not gonna happen. Don't see it. I don't think Sean Avery will be playing anytime this season. I suspect Dallas will buy him out in the summer, and then Avery can shop to see if anyone will give him another opportunity. I suspect somebody will, but it's hard to figure out who that will be.
Do you think the Flames will have their familiar nose dive this March and be battling for a playoff spot come April or is this a different team?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I think the Flames have really shown to be a little bit of a different group over the past few months. They are in a very competitive division where they are challenged most every night. But I think they will continue to be at or near the top of the Northwest division. They just seem like a little bit better group this year.
What do you think of Stamkos? It looks like they are taking a slow approach with him, but he seems to be playing well. When do we see him break out?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I think Steven Stamkos is a really talented young kid. Like most players at his age, he just needs the time to mature physically. I don't know when he'll break out, but I think that he has a very bright future, and I think it is wise for the Lightning to proceed with caution with such a valuable asset. Oddly enough, in their situation, I wouldn't be surprised if they would trade him at some point. I think that's more of a reflection on what they are doing there and what their needs are than a reflection on Stamkos as a player. I think in time, he'll be just fine.
Would you rather be a Pens, Caps, B's or Hawks fan over the next 5 years?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
That's an interesting question. But I think because it's so much fun to watch Ovechkin and Mike Green, I'd have to say I'd be on the Caps' bandwagon. All four teams look like they have a lot to be excited about.
Any chance the Wings look to bring up Jimmy Howard?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I would doubt it. I think they're set with Osgood and Conklin. The only way Howard gets called up is if there is an injury to one of those two. If there is a significant injury, I suspect the Wings would try to trade for a more experienced guy.
What is the latest on Vinny Lecavailer?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
The latest is that he's back with his Lightning teammates. Ironically, they host the Canadiens this evening. I think we are a long way from a trade, and my personal feeling is his contract will make it virtually impossible for him to be moved. I would not want to surrender a package of assets and take on that contract.
Graham (midland, MI)
EJ, what are your thoughts on the suspensions of Lidstrom and Datsyuk? And are you bothered that Bettman personally contacted Crosby to inform him that if he showed for the festivities that he wouldnt be suspended, but never contacted Lidstrom or Datsyuk to inform them of the same thing?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I am not certain who was contacted. I don't know the behind-the-scenes details other than to say I know there was communication between the league and the clubs. I don't like it. I understand the commissioner is trying to make a statement, and evidently, this is something that was discussed with the club at meetings last year. But I don't think it's really in the best interests of the game. For me, there would be another way to handle this. I just don't think it was a great idea.
What can the Wild do with Gaborik? He holds some value to trade before he hits the open market right?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I would guess he has some, but clearly, with the surgery and his inability to perform well into March or beyond, I think it is pretty limited. I feel bad for the Wild, but I do think they could have been smarter in this matter. I think it's been clear that Gaborik wasn't all that thrilled with staying in Minnesota. The club could have moved him over the summer, gotten a good return, and not had the distraction that followed him through most of the first half of this season.
the LOE (Denver)
Do you see the Avs sneaking into the playoffs if they can stay within striking distance (5-6 points) until Statsny and Joe get back? Offensive consistency will definitely help.
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I think it will be real tough for them. There are so many teams battling for so few spots, and their goaltending situation hasn't been very good. I don't think offense is really the problem even with the injuries. I'm just not very confident that either one of their goaltenders can carry them to a playoff spot.
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
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