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 (3:02 PM)
We've got EJ!
Mike S (CT)
EJ, following an awful start to the season, the Islanders are currently tied for 7th in the east after Dwayne Roloson's 58-save win last night. What has been the main cause for this sudden turnaround and do you see the Isles actually making the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I don't know if it's a sudden turnaround. They're also in a pack of teams where if they were to lose 2 in a row, they'd be 12th. I think Tavares has quite easily lived up to expectations this year. He's been playing a lot of minutes and scoring some goals while playing with Moulson. This year, they've had more injuries on defense. The two experienced guys they have in goal this year is a big help. I think they're in a rebuilding project and a work in progress. I'm not feeling all that surprised that they've been competitive. I don't know if they are a playoff team, but I think they can stay in the race for a while. As long as they can stay healthy, they've got a chance to hang around. If you can hang around long enough, you never know.
What will be the Blackhawks top line when Hossa returns?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I think they'll have a lot of choices. I get the sense that I don't think he's going to load up and have Toews, Kane and Hossa on the top line. I can't imagine that's something he'd try to do on a permanent basis. He'll be looking for some kind of balance and have two lines that are dangerous offensively. I don't know how that will break down and which players with be comfortable with who. It will be interesting to see how Hossa fits into the group and how they manage his minutes as he gets back into game shape. They have a great problem on their hands in figuring out who plays with who.
Sean (Orange County, Ca.)
Hey EJ, your thoughts on Jiggy's performance last night. I thought he looked solid. Think he'll be the starter for the Ducks for awhile?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
That was a great performance last night and definitely a performance that came at the right time. They've put themselves in a tough spot. They're 2-1 on their current homestand. They need to get wins. Giguere stepped up and gave them strong goaltending. Carlisle is just going to play the hot goaltender. I think he'll roll with Jiggy as long as he's playing well. He talked earlier in the season about not wanting to be a backup role. As long as he plays well, he'll be in there.
Kyle (Raleigh NC)
Please tell me that when the Canes get healthy, they can manage to regain their dignity? Too much to ask??
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I think they can regain their dignity. Whether they can move up in the standings is another story. They've probably dug themselves too big of a whole to get out of. And all the 3-point games we see with one team winning in OT and getting two points and the team losing getting one point, it's hard to move up. I think it's going to be a really big mountain to climb to get to the playoffs this year.
Grahame (Vancouver, BC)
EJ, If this Phoenix thing isn't sorted out by the end of the season, is Bettman out of a job?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
I don't know if one particular item would be cause for the owners to want to make a change like that, but it has to be resolved soon. I don't think the owners want to continue to fund another franchise that's struggling. It's one thing for an owner to deal with his own situation. I don't think a lot of these guys see that as a good solution long term. I think they're working hard to find new ownership for that team. I'm sure Bettman would love to get it done as soon as possible. With each month that passes, there's a degree of capital that he's lost with certain owners. But that's speculation on my part. I don't think the owners make a decision like that on just one particular element of the business.
Who do you thinks going to win between the Hawks and Sharks on wensday and how exciting is that game going to be?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I guess if you want to make me make a pick, and I haven't been very good making them these days, I would say San Jose, because they're at home. They would want to exact some revenge of sorts for losing to the Hawks a couple of Sundays ago. I think it will be really competitive. Chicago has won their last three out in Western Canada. They've been winning in a lot of different ways. But if I have to put the kiss of death on somebody, I'll pick the Sharks.
It's deja vu all over again. Who can the Rangers possibly add to help put points on the board? Of it's not Jagr they rely on, now it's Marion. He needs help. Any idea how they can get a solid center or winger?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
Certainly the Rangers are a team that couldn't afford to have too many injuries. They have some significant ones. It does give an opportunity for some younger guys to step up and have a role. The Rangers have to try to score by committee after Gaborik. He's a natural goal scorer and he's been great. The defense is a mixed bag. With Lundqvist in net, most nights they'll be able to win some games.
Joey (Oakland )
What has Milan MIchalek done differently in Ottawa than in years past? Or is this just a case of him finally playing to his potential, through 20 games?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I don't think he's doing that much different. I think we've seen him play pretty well in San Jose. He's got a lot of speed. It might be the simple situation where he's being counted on to do more. He's coming into the real peak years of his career as opposed to being a real young guy. He has a load of talent. Maybe the change of scenery as well has made a difference. This is a talented, talented player.
Bruins have won 3 straight (on the road), they are getting healthier, and Rask has proven he can be a starting goaltender in the league with Thomas injured, can they hit a mid-season stride similar to last years?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
It's certainly getting Savard and Lucic back is a huge benefit to the team. Savard is helpful in a lot of different areas. Lucic brings a physical nature to the game and a certain number of intangibles. Those guys being back really helps and will be a tougher team to deal with. I don't know if they're quite the same team they were last year, but there's no question with those guys back in the lineup, they'll be harder to deal with
Brett (South Jersey)
the flyers have tremendous scoring balance, what are your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I like the Flyers. They have a terrific roster. They have a lot of fire power up front and it shows when they're missing Gagne and they haven't missed a beat. Pronger is a huge addition to the team. The key question, as it always is in Philly, is their goaltending. Will Ray Emery be enough? That won't be a question they answer until the spring. When I look at them, they're one of a handful of teams in the East that can compete for the Cup. This is a very good hockey team.
Seeing the 'Hawks have a lot of players that they need to get under contract but they do not want to upset team chemistry, how much of a tightrope are they going to have to walk to keep the team together but still try to get some value for the players that will most likely have to walk?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
They're going to have some tough decisions. They have an abundance of really talented young guys. It looks like they have worked out deals with three of their better players in Towes, Kane and Keith. They have run into some problems in the CBA as far as the cap. But if we assume that those three guys will be back, it still creates some challenges. They'll have to make some decisions about some of the other guys and while it's nice to be in that situation, it still means you have to make some tough decisions.
Christophe (Washington D.C.)
If you were George McPhee and the Caps what would you do to remedy their deficiencies, read: defense, between now and the trade deadline for a better shot at the Cup.
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I think the Caps like their defense and some of their younger guys they have in their system going forward. The fans and those of us in the media look at it and say they need to add some help back there, but I don't know if they look at it that way. They need a veteran that's won before and has a little bit of a snarl to his game. They need that kind of player that would have a positive impact on their team going forward. They have a lot of young guys and they haven't won before. Someone like that who brings a little bit of an edge would be someone that would be helpful for them.
Do you think Team USA really has a shot to compete for a medal in Vancouver?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I think so. I would say this: they have the benefit of the North American ice surface. This is the first Olympics that will compete on the NHL sized ice surface. They have the good fortune of coming in under the radar. If you're in goal, these guys have all shown that they're capable, especially in a short tournament. I look at it and see Russia and Canada and maybe the defending champ Swedes as the team to watch and have a good shot to win the medals. Brian Burke is playing up the underdog role to the hilt. I don't think he's wrong on that. I think he's smart to do that. If you can get off on the right foot and get the ball rolling, the next thing you know you're on the medal stand. I don't think they're the favorite, but if things fall their way, I think they can have a good tournament.
Jake (VA Beach)
You said 'with Lunqvist in net', but it seems as that hasn't helped much this year. Is it due to the Rangers' style, or has he taken a step back?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I think their style is definitely different than the past. They were more of a defensive style team previously. They're not that way now. They take more chances. They have a couple of rookies playing defense. Some of their veteran guys have struggled a little bit. It's tough to say. It's a thin line. Maybe Henrik looks at it and might say that he could be better, but he's in a different situation than past years.
Your thoughts on the rumor 7yr deal for Marc Savard?
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
It seems like it's got a lot of legs. It's something that they're working toward in Boston. When I look at that, seven years, they're probably looking at something that's front loaded and add on a year or two on the back end so it's a cap friendly contract. It's not easy to replace top play making centers. While I'm not a huge fan of the long deals and at 33, Marc is probably looking at the better years of his career, I don't think Boston sees a better alternative. And Marc is a pretty good player.
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
Thanks as always for the questions. I hope everyone in the U.S. has a great Thanksgiving. We'll do it again next week.