Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season.
Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join EJ to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
More EJ Hradek: Chat Archive
Buzzmaster (3:04 PM)
Adam (Lake George, NY)
Do you think Tyler Myers will remain a Sabre this season?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
That's a good question to start with. The Buffalo organization has been concerned over the years. That decision is something they've given a lot of thought to. He's a big defenseman and he's young. I'm pretty sure he had a good camp and they like the idea of him starting the season there and push forward from there. He has an excellent chance to be there for the full season.
Hey EJ thoughts on the Blackhawks?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
The Blackhawks, coming off last year when they went to the conference finals and they have a lot of terrific players. Having that experience of going that far, I would consider them as having a shot to contend for the Cup. The big thing for me is the goaltending. Khabibulin was the guy that really backstopped them through playoff wins. His departure and the fact that it will fall to Huet now, that's a big question mark. Huet, as far as I know, has not won a playoff series. Will he be good enough to get them to a high seed in the standings? Will he get them where they need to go? That's my biggest issue and then going forward, they'll have some salary cap issues, mainly signing their young stars like Kane, Towes.
Justin (Boulder, CO)
Will my Wings game seven loss and time in Sweden lead to a hangover to start the season?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I think it might. It might be a concern for Mike Babcock and the coaching staff there. When they come back, they play Chicago, and since they were there too, it will create a similar situation. It will be an issue come November, December, getting the guys ready on a night to night basis. That's what the coaches will have to do to keep them sharp. But this is a talented group. They'll have some challenges this year. But this is still a team that will contend for a Stanley Cup.
I'm trying to figure out the lineup in Toronto when Kessel returns. There's no way Burke is finished wheeling and dealing, right?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
Brian will try to add players through trades when he can and it makes sense for them. But it's hard to make trades in this league. He will try to work those new guys they've acquired. That's where they are.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
Toronto is really in a rebuilding situation there. I don't expect that he can do too much in the regular season to change the lineup right now.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Simeon Varlamov at the moment. How far do you think the Caps can go with him in net this season?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
They've got Jose Theodore still as a veteran guy. Varlamov is coming off a good playoffs. They're going to start the season and give their goalies a chance to play and see who takes to the net and keeps it. I like their team a lot. They're going to score and be a team that will be dangerous in the regular season. The goaltending will be good enough to get them to the playoffs, but that's when you need one of those guys to step up and emerge.
early stanley cup prediction???
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
We always have to have some picks. It's so hard to figure out anything this early because there will be a lot of injuries over the course of the year. Mike Babcock was worried about that because of the Olympics. Going into the season, one of the teams that I really like the way they reconstructed their team was Anaheim. They traded away some of their defense, but with the way the league is now, it's hard to win games 2-1. I like them in the West and in the East, if it had to be nailed down now, it would be hard to bet against the Penguins. In the end, I like the Ducks a lot right now. This year it seems like it's more open than the last couple when I was convinced the Red Wings would be the team to go all the way through. There are 6-7 in the West and 3-4 in the East that all have a legit chance to make a run at the Cup.
Assuming Cam Ward continues his steady play he showed last season, how far do you see the Canes going this year? Also, do you think they have enough on the blue line to be considered one of the upper echelon teams in the league?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
They certainly have some pieces to the puzzle there with Cam Ward and Staal. Those are two big pieces and guys that have already achieved success on the big stage. I look at Carolina and I see four teams in the East that stand above them - Philadelphia, Washington are two of them. But they've had championship success already. And they showed last year that they can put a run together. That group of defense is going to have to show that they're strong, if they're going to get past the others.
EJ, Do you think the Lightning have done enough to contend for the playoffs this year?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
The Bolts...They made a lot of moves in the offseason. They made some good ones there. They tried to solidify their defense. They still have some really terrific defensive players. Maybe getting stronger and aware of the NHL game. I see Tampa as one of 5, 6, 7 teams in the league to qualify for the playoff spots. We'll see how they make out with injuries and how some of the new guys click. They took a step forward and they have a chance to make the playoffs.
Al (Worcester, MA)
Where do you put the Bruins among the top teams in the East? Do you see any type of hangover after last year's surprise?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
I think the Bruins will win the division, the Northeast. I don't think they'll win the conference this year. I don't know why, but I just don't think they'll put up the same number of points. But I think they'll be in the top 3. We'll have to see how their key players come out of the Olympic break. I think there's a potential for them, because of the draft picks and talent involved that they could make a move. But they are in my mind the clear pick to win their division and be one of the top teams in the conference.
Mark (Charlotte, NC)
Will the Coyotes issues affect their play this year?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I think it will have to have some impact on the guys in that room. It's hard to say because everything is evolving and changing on a daily basis. These are human beings and they'll be discussing the future with their families. There's a distraction there. When there's a distraction at this level of play, there has to be something there. We'll see if they can push forward, but I think it will be tough for them to move up in the standings.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey EJ, I enjoy your insight and coverage. Anything to read in to the Penguins ugly preseason record? Who do you like to win the Atlantic Division?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I don't read into preseason records. Teams, especially good teams, have been there and know what it takes to win. The roster is pretty much set. I think they look at it that if the guys are progressing along and nobody's dinged up, they're ready to go. I wouldn't read too much into what's going on in the preseason.
Brian (New York)
How will the Rangers do this year?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
The Rangers are a team kinda like Buffalo, Florida, maybe even Tampa, Toronto, they're in a group of teams that will be fighting for the 5, 6, 7, 8 spot in the league. They have to score more goals this year. They have to hope that Marion Gaborik stays healthy, but they still have some holes. They're vulnerable on defense. I see them as one of those teams that could be 6-12 in the conference.
With the league coming out and saying they're going to crack down on the instigator this year, how weary should one be about the Flyers knowing they picked up both Pronger and Emery this offseason? Will they ever not have a player in the box?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
Chris Pronger is one of the smartest players in the NHL. There have been times when he stepped over the line, we all know that. But he is a very bright guy and he'll adjust to the situation. Emery is a goaltender and whenever he gets into scraps it makes the news with them fighting in the big pads. He would do himself a favor by not focusing on the other stuff as much and focus on stopping the puck.
Ryan (Bowling Green, OH)
EJ, how much will the Stars' new system effect their play the first month or so?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Any time you have a new coach and a new way of doing things, most of the time there will be a transition period. For the Stars, a lot will depend on Marty Turco. He's a veteran goalie with a lot of success in the league and if he can give them reliable goaltending. They have some good players but it's so important that Marty Turco plays well. They're not a team that can deal with adequate goaltending, they need him to be good in goal. If he doesn't, they're looking at being at the bottom of the conference again.
Justin (Boulder, CO)
What's your take on the state of the NHL? Will the "Big 3 the NHL" ever again be the "Big 4?"
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
I don't know. I think that depends on your perspective or where you live. It's kind of an individual thing. They don't pay as much attention to the other sports. The majority of the US, football, baseball and basketball are huge. Soccer is a sport that continues to gain in popularity in the states. When you think about the Big 4, when I was a kid growing up, it was pretty straight forward. There is a tremendous following of all the teams in hockey. There's as much passion as any sport anywhere. There are issues off the ice that are problematic, but the fact that we have great young players right now there is a lot of positive things to talk about right now.
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
Thanks again for the questions. Let's get ready to lace them up! It should be great! Looking forward to talking some more down the road.
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