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!
Buzzmaster (3:00 PM)
EJ will be here shortly, everyone!
Valik (Philadelphia, PA)
What's your take on the surprising Colorado Avalanche? Sure, they're on a bit of a losing streak at the moment, but I feel they'll turn that around starting in Calgary tonight. A lot of people feel Anderson won't be able to keep up the workload for a full season, I disagree. Thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
You're bang-on when you bring up Anderson and the workload. That's the critical question to me. He has really never played more than 35 games in any of his five previous NHL seasons. He's gonna be asked to play sixty to sixty-five games this year. He's not a big man, per se, so that will be the key for the Avalanche. If he can shoulder that workload and perform at the high level we've seen in the first quarter of the season, the Avalanche will have a chance to keep at a high level. If he starts to fade, it will put a lot of pressure on that team. You also make a great point that tonight, they open a three-game road swing against the Flames. First place is on the line as the Avs have a one-point lead.
Are the Sabres seriously interested in acquiring Marty Biron? And does this move solidify them as a cup contender?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
There's been some talk of that in the media. Marty Biron is a guy who has spent many years in Buffalo. He's a wonderfully likable guy. He's on a one-year contract currently. If at some point in the season, the Sabres made that kind of move, they wouldn't be in a tough situation salary cap-wise. They would like to feel a bit more comfortable with a No. 2 goalie. It's a very possible scenario. It kind of makes sense to me, but a lot of it probably depends on when and if Rick DiPetro will return for the Islanders...if he can't get back on the ice, the Islanders would be hesitant to trade Biron. I think they see themselves in the playoff chase, at least in the first part of the season.
Sam (Arlington, VA)
Any news on the Nylander front?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
No, nothing new on Nylander. It appeared last week that he might have been headed to the KHL in Russia. The deal that was that they were working with the Capitals, but the Russian team has not yet been able to come to terms. For now, he remains in hockey limbo, but it's a well-financed limbo as he's still getting paid.
Are you surprised to see Alex Ovechkin still tied for the goal scoring lead after missing 6 games?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I don't know if I'm ever surprised at anything he does anymore. He's a dynamic player off to a terrific start who created a gap between himself and the rest of the field. I would say Ovechkin is a pretty solid bet to win the Richard trophy as the league's top goal-scorer.
Have you been impressed with the Thrashers so far this season? Have they turned the corner?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I have been impressed with the Thrashers so far. I don't know if this is saying a whole lot, but I think this is their best team. The goaltending has been pretty good, their defense has improved, and they really have some skilled guys among their top-six forwards. They really cause concern for opponents. They are playing well on special teams too, and they are dangerous when Kovalchuk is in the lineup.
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
It will be an interesting year in Atlanta as they will see if they can sign Kovalchuk. I think they have a great chance to make the playoffs, and maybe even win a game or two.
So have the Flyers proved themselves to be cup contenders yet? Seems like some games they have what it takes and if they keep it up the cup will be no problem, but they never keep it up. Is that the same with every team or is it unique to the Flyers?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
The Cup is never a no-problem situation! You have to be good, healthy, and lucky along the way. For me, looking at the Flyers before the season started, it was pretty obvious that they were among the Stanley Cup contenders in the league. For me, there are three legit Stanley Cup teams in the conference: Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia. The Flyers have had a bit of a disjointed schedule to start the season, and they play ten times in seventeen days. But I like them and think a lot will depend on injuries or good fortune. A lot of it is on how their goaltending holds up. We'll all be curious to see how Emery that.
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
Just got this note: Brendan Shanahan is retiring. Congratulations on a great career and good luck in retirement. I'm sure we'll be seeing you around the rink.
Mark (Da Burgh)
What is the next step in the Coyotes sale? Is Ice Edge basically guaranteed to purchase the team? What can they possibly do to turn things around in AZ?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
It's hard to me to predict what the next step will be in the Coyotes sale. This thing has been all over the map. Right now, the NHL is basically running the team on a day-to-day basis. They are looking to find a suitable buyer. The Ice Edge group is one that is in the mix. The league is looking at all their options and certainly hope to facilitate the sale ASAP.
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
As for the future in Phoenix, that's a tough question. It's hard to say. They have a new building, and yet it is not ideally located for the area. The team has had no history of any kind of prolonged success in that market, and that will certainly impact and has impacted the viability of that franchise. As far as the next step, the league really has to go through its due diligence to purchase the franchise. I know that the team obviously performed a little bit better on the ice, and they are primed to get better, but whether that means they will stay in Phoenix or not is really hard to predict right now.
The Lightning are doing much better this year but they don't have a lot of people doing the scoring. Do you think that hey can stay in the playoff race?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
It's been an up-and-down start for the lightning. LeCavalier hasn't really found the form that we have expected of him. He has been coming around of late and had a good showing in Phoenix, but certainly if Vinny could get his game to where we expected of them offensively, the team would benefit. It would also take some of the pressure off their team defense and goaltending. They'll be a bubble team if they can stay healthy.
So, in your mind, the Devils are not a legit contender in the East? Sad to say but the Capitals have lost 3 times to them already this season.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
I guess when I look at the Devils, I'm still not quite a believer. That said, they have had a great start. They're winning one-goal games and are doing the things you need to do get a good seeding and win in the playoffs. I wonder if they're good enough to win in a seven-game series. When I look at Philly, Pittsburgh, and Washington, while they all have flaws, they all have strong and deep rosters. New Jersey, however, has been doing nothing but proving me wrong for the past few games.
What is going on with Carolina. They are almost at the bottom of the Eastern Conference Standings. Do you think they could make a comeback this year?
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
They've gotten themselves into a huge hole here. They got their first win in over a month...they were in a 0-10-4 stretch, and when you consider Cam Ward will be out, I just think they dug themselves into a hole that it will be tough to get out of. I'd love to be wrong, and I'd love to see them go on a huge winning streak and get back into it, but it's a lot to ask considering their injury problems and general level of talent. I would be shocked.
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
Thanks a lot! See you next week!