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 (2:52 PM)
EJ Hradek will be here at the top of the hour to take your questions!
Do you think Ovechkin's knee on knee hit warrants a suspension? Or can he just apologize like he did with Gonchar and the league looks the other way?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
This is a really tough situation for the league. Let's try to put our fans glasses away for a minute and say that this guy is the most exciting player in the league. I'm sure the NHL guys don't want to be in a situation where they suspend this guy. People pay money to see this guy play. However, you can't have a situation where a guy is making reckless plays and puts others, as well as himself, in bad situations. Maybe the league, in the short term, suspends him one game and calls him into the office and has a sit down with him. I guess one of the reasons as fans we love him is his physical play combined with his amazing talent. But I don't think we want to see Alex not playing physically. But the league also has to make it clear to him that there are certain times and moments that you have to be a little more responsible and respectful to the guys you are playing against. We can talk about double standards and other things, but this is a special, special player. I think the league is in a tough spot here.
Guy (Enfield NH)
Can you get suspended for smoking your own teammate in the head????
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I don't think so. I guess we've put that question to the test on Monday night. It was just ugly to watch. You just gasp. I've seen it a number of times now and every time I'm amazed at what happened. Obviously, he did not mean to wack his goalie across the head with a baseball swign, but that doesn't make Vokung feel any better. But it does really show you that it's good to always keep your emotions under check. This was very dramatic and it could have had worse consequences. Who knows if it will have any lingering effects. When you lose control of your emotions like that, there will be consequences. Let's hope Vokung doesn't have any lingering effects. It was an ugly looking incident.
EJ,How do you feel about the contract extention that the Bruins signed Mark Savard to? I know it's a lot of years but a smaller than expected cap hit each year.
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
Clearly, they wanted to keep Marc. No question about that. They wanted to keep him in the fold. If you look around, teams are signing their players that they want to keep. For the most part, they don't get to unrestricted free agency any more. They did what a lot of teams are doing right now, they stretched out his contract to lessen the salary cap hit. They've got to hope that Savard, who's in his early 30's now, can play at a high level for the next 4, 5, 6 years. Under the circumstances, it's what teams are doing right now. But it does leave you with less flexibility down the road.
EJ, whats going on with the contract talks with Kaner, Toews and Keith? Seems like everyone just stopped talking about it. Are they done? Your boy Jesse Rogers is saying their all but done so whats the deal man?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I get the sense that the parties have an agreement in principle. The Blackhawks, because of CBA rules regarding tagging rule, which is the amount available to the team within the salary cap structure going forward into next season, it's a little bit of a confusing dynamic that's a part of the CBA. But needless to say, the Blackhawks can not finalize the agreements because of this issue. That's where it stands. That's why I think people really stopped talking about it, because they just can't make an announcment or discuss it at this point. It's a matter of time before they are able to make some kind of roster move to allow them the room to make those official, or those contracts remain in the GM's drawer for a couple of more months when the team is able to make a move within the structure of the CBA and do it at that time.
Matt Lang (Suburbs, MN)
How many years until the Wild have another playoff season? I'm guessing 5; you?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
Five? You are a pessimist. I think we've seen that things can turn around in a shorter time period than that. I'm not a huge fan of what they have there now. Backstrom in goal is a good goalie. That's a plus. They have a problem with one of their top defensemen, who's out with a concussion for the second time in 8 or 10 months. That's a concern. They're under new management there. I understand what you're saying, but I don't think it will be that long. They're in a competitive conference and they have areas to improve upon. It will be at least this year that they are on the outside looking in.
Ovechkin has a history of making these hits, yet we never see him have to drop the gloves for his actions, why hasnt that happened yet?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I think we can go around the league and look at a bunch of guys that have a history of questionable hits and don't always have to answer to those hits by fighting. But I think you're right that Alex is developing a history of those kinds of plays. Gonchar last year. I was at a Bruins game last year where I thought he made a reckless hit. I think this is a realy tricky spot for the league. I do think that the league and Alex and the Washington coaching staff and Ted Leonis, the owner, probably need to have a dialogue of some of the do's and don't's. If you're asking if Alex is afraid to fight anyone, I don't think that's it. He's a pretty big guy. But I don't think that's really beneficial to the Capitals.
Mike S (CT)
EJ, if you had to pick the NHL's player of the decade, would it be Martin Brodeur or might someone like Lidstrom/one of the young guns swipe the honor?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Marty Brodeur is a man for all seasons. We've seen what he's done for his career and it's amazing. He has a couple of Cups and a gold medal this decade. Lidstrom from Detroit is another guy with a gold and has had excellence this decade. Those are guys that come to mind immediately. Other guys in Ovechkin and Crosby that came into the league halfway through that have been really important to the NHL the last couple of years. But to me, Brodeur and Lidstrom are the guys and if I had to pick one, I'd pick Lidstrom.
Rob (New Castle, Pa.)
Is Ray Shero the best GM in hockey right now? When healthy can you see anyone beating Pens in a seven game series
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I think Ray's doing a great job in Pittsburgh. They've already won a Cup in four years there in Pittsburgh. Ray walked into a great situation with some players who were already drafted there. They were clearly on the up swing. But he's shown patience when they've needed it. He's made some good moves on personnel and coaching. Is he the best? I still think Ken Holland in Detroit is the standard bearer. And Lou in New Jersey has shown that he can do it over a long period of time. I think Ray benefitted tremendously by taking the right steps before taking that position. He was an assistant GM in Ottawa and Nashville for more than a decade. That experience has more than helped him be a quick study as a manager.
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
Some guys elevate to that position, former players or people from other parts of hockey and get there without direct experience and it hurts those guys, making it a very difficult job.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
What do the Hurricanes need to do to get out of the up year - down year cycle they seem to find their way into? I know injuries haven't helped this year, but is it more than that? Front office, culture, coach?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
I don't know if there's anything they can do this year. They've had all kinds of problems and they suffered a major injury last night. I think this year we're looking at a team that has a long string to play out over the next 55 games. Their GM will look at their roster and see what kind of veteran players they may have and see what their value is on the trade market. They'll try to stay respecatable. They would have to win 15 games in a row to even get back into the mix. Unfortunately, I think that pattern of good year, bad year will continue at least through the end of this one.
The Rangers can finally score (well mostly Gaborik) and still stink. What's their problem?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
They're scoring because of Gaborik. It's amazing. This guy has been the single most dangerous weapons on their team, if not the only dangerous offensive weapon. They're not very good on defense. They don't have a No. 1 center, which is key to have, especially in a conference with some of the top guys at that position. They don't really have a No. 1 defenseman. It's just a poorly constructed team. They're just lucky that Gaborik has been very good.
Let me know if i'm too optimistic. I'm really not worried about the wings this year. As long as they get healthy for the playoffs, there isn't a team that wants to see them come first round. With guys like Z, datsyuk, lidstrom, draper, all the veterans, they've done and seen it all. Not worried. My analysis correct?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
I can understand. Let's face it, if the Red Wings are healthy in the playoffs, you're right, no one wants to face them. But this is not the same team as last year. They're missing a key element in Hossa. This is just not the same team. But if they're all healthy, as well coached as they are and in a conference where Chicago and San Jose are very good, we can all see them being beaten. They'll be a hard out in the playoffs.
Randall Graves (California)
The ducks seem to be turning things around, How come not a WORD has been said about Corey Perrys 18 game point streak? I get he plays in Anaheim but sheesh if it was Ovechkin nobody would shutup about it....
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
It's funny. I did mention him on my blog post on Monday. I mentioned his streak. From a start that the Ducks wouldn't have liked to have had, but Corey Perry is doing his thing. He's quickly earning and solidfying a spot in the Olympics for Team Canada. They've dug themselves a hole, but they really needed to gain some points. That's where Anaheim is. They need to continue to play well and pick up points and close the gap to where they are and in the top 8 in that conference.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
EJ, worse apparatus swinging incident....Keith Ballard on Vokoun or Tiger Woods' wife on his car?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
Good question. I would have to say Keith Ballard's swing was worse, because he made contact. As far as we know, Mrs. Woods did not make contact with Mr. Woods. We don't know all the details of that and we may never have all the details. But we have video evidence on Ballard. I would have to say his stick swinging was worse than Mrs. Woods' club swinging. But very good question.
"This is a really tough situation for the league". Thats crap! He should get a suspension just like anybody else. How can they have a double standard just because he's a superstar?
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
We can all live in a fantasy world where everyone's treated the same, or we could live in reality where everyone's treated the same. My experience has shown that. It's disappointing when you go to the rink and he's not in the lineup. Yeah, you can say that everyone should be treated the same, but pretty clearly, that's not how it works in life and in sports. The league needs to have him on the ice and continue to be the entertaining player that he is. I think there needs to be a clear dialogue that at some point there has to be some discipline applied if this dangerous plays continue.
Terry (Denver CO)
Early assessment of the Avs: one-hit (well, early season...) wonders destined to fade -- perhaps even out of the playoffs? Or a young up-and-coming team?
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
I think maybe both are correct. They have some good young players there that have been very exciting to watch. That's true, but maybe they just got off to a great start and play at that level over the course of 82 games. I'll be interested to see them, because they've had some struggles in November. They had a good win last night. That gets them back on track. The whole league is competitive and tight. It will be interesting to see how their young kids progress over the season.
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
In light of recent events, keep your stick down and eye on the puck. Have a great week. We'll talk next week.