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 (2:51 PM)
EJ will be here at the top of the hour to chat!
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
Congratulations to Martin Brodeur on tying the all-time career record for shutouts by a goaltender. It's a terrific record and a great accomplishment. Now, down to business.
What is it about the devils that makes them overachieve every year? last year they loose marty and win the division. this year they are doing it with 6 regulars out of the lineup and rookies filling in?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I have given this question a lot of thought over time. We saw it last year with Brodeur being out. In talking to the guys in that lockerroom that they feel it's just a mindset and culture in that organization that nothing less than success is acceptable for these guys. It starts with the GM. You think about some of the people that are in the organization that have been there for a long time. It's a unique circumstance and I look at their defense and compare to some other groups around the league, I do wonder how they manage to stay at the top of the league. They deserve full marks. It really is a terrific story. I'll be curious to see how things unfold for them in the coming weeks.
B-Diddy (Munstoeville, WYO)
You ready to change your Avs prediction yet? Since they've kept winning everybody's waffling and saying 'maybe they'll hold on to make the playoffs' but I don't think there's any way they finish out of the top 6 in the west. Anybody who thinks Vancouver is more talented than they are is a fool. And what's your prediction for Duchene points-wise for the end of the season? Barring injury I think he puts up 30 goals and maybe 40 assists, something 'clicked' on this road trip for him...
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I think it's pretty clear that the Avalanche have been a really competitive group so far. No question. The standings in the West are tight. Their good start is huge for them. There are no guarantees. It's great for them that Peter Budaj has been forced to play some games through the injury to Craig Anderson. It would be hard for Anderson to go through the year playing 70 games. He's never done that before. We have a long way to go here, but I've been impressed with what the Avalanche have been able to do early in the season.
Does travel make that big of a difference in the NHL? Could you quantify it into wins?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I think it does make a difference. I don't know about quantifying it into wins. I'm not that smart. But the thing that comes to mind immediately are teams like Dallas, Vancouver, teams with no teams close to them, there doesn't leave much practice time. It doesn't give you a chance to work on some things that you would in practice. That's one thing, in talking to coaches, is that you lose multiple practices. There is certainly an impact from having to travel more often than some other places.
Which NY team is better rounded at this point in the season, the Rangers or the Islanders?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
That's a good question. They're pretty similar and close in the standings. When I look at those two franchises right now, I think the Islanders are in a situation where they have a chance to move forward with some of the young players they have in their group now and continue to grow in the future. Where the Rangers, I kind of get the feeling that they're more of a year to year proposition. I don't know what direction they're going. It seems like the Islanders, through high draft picks and moves to rebuild the team, are on the way forward. The Rangers are on the treadmill, so to speak.
mike bradley (atlanta)
What are your thoughts on the shootout and why do you think there's so many more this season, compared to previous years? Also, what else does Stamkos have to do to get spot on Team Canada? Only one other player has scored as many goals (33) since Feb.17, 2009 and that player is Oveckin!
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I don't know what the numbers are. I know that rougly 28% of the games have been going to OT or shootout. It's just a reality that these teams are closely matched. When you get into games like that, sometimes teams play a little conservative when the game is late and tied and try to get that one point. Some teams that do well in the shootout, might prefer to let it go to OT and then the shootout to get the one point. When you have a lot of close games, you'll have a lot of OTs and shootouts.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey EJ, what team(s) are you having the most difficult time gauging?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
That's a really good question. I would say the Flyers are a hard team to figure right now. When I look at their roster, I can't understand how they can go through a 1-6, 1-7 slide like they are now. That's one team that's perplexing to me. The Blues are another team. Not that I expected them to be at the top, but they're playing well on the road and not at home. They play well on the road and come home and lay an egg.
Which Winter Classic would you rather see next year? Caps/Rangers at New Yankee Stadium or Canadiens/Leafs?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I think the Canadiens-Leafs would be a lot of fun. They're natural, historic rivals. But the reality is that the way it's set up with NBC and them really owning it from a TV perspective, you'll have teams based in the U.S. playing. I wouldn't mind seeing a second game, like what was talked about last summer. Having a doubleheader later in the day in Calgary. I like the idea of a second game featuring Canadian teams. I like Ovechkin being featured in a Winter Classic. I wished they had played an outdoor game at the old Yankee Stadium. I do wonder about an outdoor game at the Yankee Stadium, because I think the people that handle those events there are disappointed that Boston was chosen for this year's game instead of the new stadium. I would like to see the Capitals involved to showcase his talents to as broad an audience as possible.
Dave (Long Island, NY)
The Isles had planned on dealing Biron when DiPietro got back on the ice, but Biron hasn't played much and when he has, it's not been very impressive. Is there any market for him now that DP is back on the ice?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
I think they're going to be real careful with doing anything with their goalie situation until they're sure that DiPietro is 100%. I don't think there is anything imminent with Biron. I think people around the league know what he is all about. He's somewhere in the middle of the pile. The one thing I do like about him is that he's a likeable guy. He can fit into most situations. He's been a starter, a backup. He doesn't seem to be a guy that complains about things either way. He would be good for a team looking to upgrade their goaltending. I don't think the Islanders would get a ton in return. They might get a player in return or a third round pick. If people are expecting them to get a high pick or a top tier player, they're overreaching.
Randall Graves (California)
EJ When will my ducks fire the coach, I know for a fact the players hate him, hes lost the team, given how tight the west is they are not out of it but without him we're rebuilding. So if they stink Niedermayer being traded would seem to be logical no?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I'm not going to dispute whether the players like him or not. I have heard that some players are not happy, but that's the nature of things when you've been around a while. He's been successful in the minors and he won a Stanley Cup. He believes in a certain way of doing things and he's not going to change. I've heard that they have no plans to make a coaching change. The Ducks have been a disappointment to me in the first months of the season. They certainly miss Pronger, but I thought they'd be a more balanced team. They haven't been great in any particular area. They haven't been great on defense, their goaltending has been average. They find themselves taking penalties in games. They beat themselves from time to time. THere is time left in the season, but each opportunity they don't get points makes it tougher on them.
Hey EJ,In light of the Savard signing. Is this contract loop-hole going to be filled in soon? Or do they have to wait until the next Labor Agreement?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
They're going to have to wait until they can collectively bargain that in the next deal. Especially since the NHLPA is not going to do any deals right now, because they have some disaray in their own group. Teams that want to keep their players and want to do it in a cap friendly way, there's nothing that prohibits it and as long as the teams and players involved in those deals don't openly say they're trying to circumvent the salary cap, there's nothing they will do. For fans in each market, I think it's a great thing for them. It allows them to keep their players. If you're a Boston fan, I would think you'd be happy to have a deal that keeps your players on your team, no matter how it is structured.
Jeff (Exton, PA)
It seems Carcillo got a four game suspension for fighting. Bradley was a willing participant in that fight when he got knocked out. Do we need a bell to signal the start of a fight now?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
Bradley was not a willing participant in that fight, if you watch that replay. Carcillo crosschecked him and grabbed him. At that point Bradley still hadn't dropped his gloves. I've broken this film down and only when Carcillo's fist is within an inch of his jaw does Bradley drop his gloves. It was a close game. There was no need for Carcillo to act in that matter, at that time. I thought it was a very selfish act by him. I think that's been a part of his game ever since he came into the league, reckless and dumb behavior that hurts his team. If I were the Flyers, I'd release him and be done with him. The league got it right. If they had given him 10 games, I would have been happier.
Sean (Arlington, VA)
How do you think the Caps D is playing these days? Could you imagine how many goals Ovie would have if he had not missed 7 games?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
There has been some question about the Capitals' defense, because they're so strong up front. Teams look at their defense and say that's an area they could be better. I think they're 19-5-6 at this point. They've only lost one game this season by more than one goal. This is a team with a legit chance to win the Cup this year. They really do well in games. As for Alex Ovechkin, when he does miss games, he just gets back in the lineup and picks up where he left off.
Rachel (Orange County, CA)
Where do you think the King's will end up this season? Do you believe their hot start will continue? Can they make a run in the playoffs this year with this young team?
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
I think they'll compete the whole season for a playoff spot. If they get Ryan Smythe back in the lineup soon, and continue to get good goal play, I think they can stay right in the race. The Kings, looking down the road, is a team that will get better and better and eventually will be able to compete for a Cup down the road.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks again, as always. We'll do it again next week.