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 (3:00 PM)
We're getting EJ right now!
RAY GORDON REID ( EVANSTON ILLNOIS 602O1)
QUESTION TO EJ HRADEK AT 3.20 PM HI EJ HOW DID YOU LIKE THAT BLACKHAWKS COMEBACK LAST NIGHT
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
It was fun. It was a great game for everybody except for the Flames and their fans. I'm sure new Hawks center John Madden, who scored the first Hawks goal in the comeback, enjoyed it more than anybody, because of the fact he was able to stick a little bit of a pin into his old coach who's now the coach for Calgary. That's a real budding rivalry between the Flames and Hawks, especially after last year's playoff series. I'm sure the Flames have already quietly circled their Nov. 19 meeting as a chance for revenge.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey EJ, I didn't like the Heatley trade when it went down and felt the Sharks were messing up their chemistry. They wanted to shake things up, but can we admit this is going to turn out bad?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I think it's really early in the game. I think it depends on what day you look at it. On the day Heatley has a hat trick and they win, it looks great. On another day, maybe they don't play as well. When you make an addition like that, it's kind of a work in progress. I think Dany will do what Dany does and that's score goals. But if the ultimate goal is to win the Cup, I think the Sharks might still be a little short on defense. I will be curious to watch them closely as they get toward the spring. I wouldn't be suprised if they don't try to address that at the deadline, if they can find the cap room.
EJ, which goalie will get it together first...(or who will lose their job to the backup?)...cristobal huet or carey price?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
Tough question, only because I would say both teams have a lot invest in those two players. I think they'll give them every opportunities to succeed. That said, Carey Price being much younger is still a kid that's learning and developing, which can be tough to do under the microscope of Montreal. With Huet, we know what we're getting as he's further into his career. The expectations are high. His backup Antti Niemi, if he can play well and get the eye of the coach, he has a chance to play more this year. I guess, to answer your question, Chicago has the chance to have more movement.
Are the Kings really this good? It has been such a long time since I've been excited, but I see this team actually becoming a cup contender in the next 2-3 years.
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I think the Kings have an excellent chance to move forward dramatically in the next few years. I don't know if this is going to be the year, with the Western Conference being such a competitive conference, but I do think they'll continue to be much better. I think the GM has had the wise approach. The patient approach. By comparison, I think the rebuilding process in Toronto could really be stunted by the Phil Kessel trade. I just hate to see teams who are trying to restock their organizations trading away multiple picks. I like the way the Kings have done it and the future is really bright.
EJ, how likely is it really for johan franzen to be back in 4 months? other sports can require up to 6-9 months for ACL reconstruction....if he does come back that early...how effective can he really be? Thanks!
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I think that's a good question. I am going to side with the Red Wings doctors as to the rehab time. I'm going to venture that they know what they're doing there. Even in a best case scenario for Franzen, it's tough to come back and pick up where you left off. He's got a lot of work ahead of him. He has to hope there are no setbacks in his rehab. It's a big loss for the Red Wings. Fortunately, they still have some really good players and competitive players who will up their own performance in his absence.
What so you think of Ray Emery's start to the season for the Flyers?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I think he's doing pretty good. He's had to handle the work for them, because their No. 2 got hurt late in the season. I think Ray has done pretty well so far. They've faced some quality opposition in the last few games. I'm sure he would like to have a goal or two back in some of these games. When push comes to shove, he'll have to be better.
Reason # 1,209 why hockey is better than baseball: Champagne celebrations over Divisional Series wins vs Entire team refusing to so much as touch the Conference Trophy.
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
In hockey, there is a lot of tradition and maybe even superstition that comes with the challenge of the playoffs and trying to win championships. For me, whenever you can win a division or any round of the playoffs, it's a reason to celebrate that accomplishments. It's up to the teams in any sport to celebrate up to the guidelines and the unwritten rules of that sport. In hockey, the players are somewhat superstitious and that comes along with it.
ERIC (BROOKLYN NY)
EJ, Do you think the Rangers are good enough right now to compete with Pitts and Philly or do they need to add another scorer and or defenseman?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I think the Rangers have gotten off to a great start, which is great for them. I have to give John Tortorella for getting the team into great condition and having them play the game he wants, an uptempo game. When you talk about competing with those top three teams in the East - Pittsburgh, Philly, Washington - I think they still need to add a center and some defense. But that said, the Rangers and fans have to be thrilled with the start they've had, especially with the additions and rookies. Gaborik have been great. Matt Gilroy has been a great addition. It seems like right now they're moving in the right direction.
How much trouble are the wild in right now with these injuries starting to happen? I know they weren't going to have a great team this year but these injuries are not helping them
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
It's not a good start for the Wild and the injuries are not a help. They're trying to play a different style and try to go in a dramatically different direction than they've gone in the past. That would be tough to do if the personnel were in place, but they don't. They have a number of weaknesses, particularly if you want to play the puck pressure type of offensive game. I'm not going to say that they can't make that transition at some point, but they have to really make evaluations of the guy on your roster. I don't see them as a real deep group. When I look at the Wild, I see a rebuilding situation and it will be tough to make the playoffs.
are the leafs the worst team in the league? does kessel help that at all when he returns from injury?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
If they're not the worst team in the league right now through the first 10 days of the season, they're in the conversation. I saw the Leafs play the Rangers last night in the Garden. This team is really slow on defense. They've added bigger, slower defensemen in an era where speed and quickness is at a premium. Their starting goaltender is average at best. Really, they need to upgrade that position. Their group of centers is not a strong or deep group. You look at those three spots, goaltending, defense, up the middle, if you're not strong there, you're going to have a tough time. When Kessel returns, he'll give them a scoring threat. He's not a center and that's a lot to ask of a young guy with only one year in the league. He was a good fit in Boston where he was supported by other players. In Toronto, it will be a much tougher sled to pull. When you're rebuilding a team to trade away high draft picks, it's a tough deal. They made have traded away the No. 1 pick in the draft to a team in their own division. That would be a devastating position to be in for the Leafs.
Whats wrong with the caps?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
The weaknesses they have are the goaltending is not strong. That's going to shine through for any team in hockey. You need to get saves from time to time. Jose has been OK, but they haven't been better than that. When I look at their team, they're so good and dynamic in their offense, their defense is kind of a defense by committee. The goaltending has been pretty average. That's where they get into a little bit of trouble. They're giving up goals that maybe they wouldn't have given up with a better goaltender. They have to hope that Theodore steps up or someone else. The Caps are a dynamic team and Bruce Boudreau will be working on the little things as a team. If they can nail down that stuff, that's where they can go from a really strong team to one that can win the Cup.
I hope the Bruins follow the same trend as they did last year, struggling the first 7-8 games and then hitting their groove. What has been the main issue so far, and what type of playing time do you see Tuukka Rask getting during the season? (he hasn't looked as bad as his GAA is so far...)
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
When you get higher expectations and you've had success, I think teams sometimes don't always respond to that right away. They've had changes to their group. Losing 36 goals from Phil Kessel, it's something you have to think about replacing. Then some smaller changes. The decision to trade Aaron Ward, who I think was a big voice in the dressing room. You make moves and you think you're bettering your team, but at times there are other chemistry issues that are a factor. There are a lot of guys who aren't particularly happy with their player rep to the union. The Bruins are a team that usually starts their season on the road. This year they started at home. When I look at them, I think they have a good team, but I don't think they'll be as good as last year in the regular season.
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
Right now, I see them as a No. 4 in the East behind Pittsburgh, Philly, Washington.
At what point in the season do the hawks trade cam barker? his defense is lacking and with seabrook and keith on the PP, do we really need him anymore? where do you see him going?
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
I think they like Cam Barker a lot in Chicago. I think he's been a helpful guy on the power play. He's been a part of a good group of defensemen. The Blackhawks are facing salary cap issues in the future. It will be interesting to see how they eleviate those problems. It doesn't take a strong math major to straighten those issues out. I think if they could figure out a way to move Brian Campbell's contract, that's the one that they would like to move. But they have some issues going into next summer with all of the young players they ahve to re-sign.
Mikey (St. Louis)
How are attendance numbers so far this year? Is the Ovy/Malkin/Cosby effect outweighing the economy's negative impact?
EJ Hradek (3:39 PM)
I think the league, generally speaking, has been pretty happy with things so far, especially with the economic woes with the country. They were thrilled with the opening night crowds. No question with certain teams and franchises, there is some concern. The game has been so entertaining with all of the terrific young players. With over 1,200 games played during the season, you're going to have some stinkers in there. But it's exciting and that's what brings the people to the arena to be entertained.
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions. We have a great start to the season. See you next week!