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)
We're getting EJ!
Buzzmaster (3:11 PM)
Hang on everyone, we're waiting on EJ. He's a busy dude so it's possible he got tied up with something.
Buzzmaster (3:12 PM)
It looks like we've got EJ!
Do you like the Caps trade for Chimera??
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I have mixed feelings about the trade. That kind of trade has an impact when you move out a character player like Chris Clark, even though he's getting less ice time. But he's a character guy and had a Cup run. That will change the dynamic in the dressing room a little bit and that can be a delicate balance. However, it will give them some cap room to work with and some help on the left side of their lineup. It's one of those trades that we'll have to really watch it to see if it's going to work out for Washington.
Whats your prediction for the Blackhawks vs. Stars game tonight? Also I saw that Patrick Sharp might be traded off before the trade freeze any stories?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I think the Blackhawks would like to keep their roster intact throughout the season and make a run through the playoffs with this group of players. If they don't have any significant injuries and don't have to do many things with this lineup, they can go far. But they will have plenty of cap issues in the offseason and might have to move players. It's kind of an inevitability that someone will have to be moved. But I get the sense that they're going to try and keep this group together and take a shot now and deal with the difficult cap moves int he offseason.
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
As for the pick, I'm going to take Chicago, they are the better team in that matchup.
Lonny (Coon Rapids MN)
I'm going to the Wild-Thrashers game Feb 12th. Will I see Ilya Kovalchuck that night?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Wow. I wish I had the answer to that question, because I could make a little extra money. I think they would like to keep him, but these things come down to money, as usual. It depends if the current ownership group wants to lay down the financials to make it work. If I'm betting on it, I think he stays there. He says he wants to and I think he's sincere in that. But with each passing day, I think the odds grow against that happening.
Jean-Paul (Los Angeles)
EJ Do you really believe that the Habs will trade Halak or maybe trade Price?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
These two guys are really important assets to the team, but at some point, you're going to have your main go-to guy. If the Canadiens manage their assets well, they'll move one of these guys. But it depends on the market. The simple fact is that you don't really need two young good goaltenders. The model is to have your go-to guy and someone in the backup role to play the 25-28 games and help. I think Montreal would be wise to look into moving one of those guys.
What are your thoughts on the Hawks? Are they really the best team in the NHL or are there flaws they still need to work on??
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
Every team has some things they could do better. As we look at things, they have been an exciting team to watch. They've been dominating some games. They give up the fewest shots in the NHL. They have kind of become the newer, younger version of the Red Wings. My only feeling is that when you get to the playoffs, there will be a goaltending issue. Neither one of them have won a playoff series as a starting goalie. They've both played well this season and that should give fans and the team confidence. But until you prove it in the spring, that's a question that will be out there. When I look at the Blackhawks, it's an impressive group. They're right in there now with San Jose, Pittsburgh, New Jersey as the top point teams and deservedly so.
Dan (San Jose)
When do the Sharks melt-down? First round or later???
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
It's easy to say that the Sharks are a team that's shown a propensity to failure in the spring. But each year is different. A lot will depend on injuries -- injuries really hurt them last year -- how they're playing at the end of the year and the matchup. Last year, they played the Ducks, who were probably the best 8th seeded team we've seen in the playoffs. But if they are healthy, playing well and get a good matchup, they can move on. The difference in winning and losing in this league is so slim. I think we'll have to wait and see how things are looking at the end of the year to say if they're a contender or pretender.
Garrett Benoit (Greensboro, NC)
I would rather have mike green on the Canadian team over drew doughty because of Drew's lack of big game experience. what do you think?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I picked my team for my Insider blog and I didn't have either on my team. Both are great young players, but I went in a different direction. You could go in either direction. Doughty is only 20, but his first year and a half in the league have been impressive. Green is so dynamic. I'll be interested to see what the final roster looks like for Canada. If either makes the team, I wouldn't be surprised. If I had to pick one over the other, I'd pick Doughty because he has some versatility to his game.
Rob (New Castle, Pa.)
It appears that Gonchar isn't going to give a home town discount and is looking for $5mil/yr for 3-5 years which the Pens can't afford if they want to sign Letang and Gologowski. If Gonch holds to his demands do you see the Pens trading him or trading one of the younger defensemen. If they trade what do you think they can get for him?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I don't think they're going to trade Gonchar. This is another chance for them to win a Cup. If they did trade him, I'm sure he could get a nice return for them. But he's a one year rental player. I think they'll go forward and try to win another Cup and let the negotiations play out. Maybe they could give him more term in a way to pay him the salary he wants. We've seen these longer contracts to, in some way, circumvent the salary cap. There's time to talk.
EJ, what on earth is up with the Blues!!! Road stron Home weak is never been a trade market in hockey! Is it time for a change behind the bench and if you fire Murry then who is out there that could be a good candidate?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
The Blues have had a strange season. It seems like they've played much better on the road. I don't know what it is, but they've played dismal at home. Even if they decided to hire Murray, they're not in a position, I think, financially to go outside of the organization. I think they'd just promote one of their assistant coaches. They got a little ahead of schedule because they are a young team that got to the playoffs last year. But they're kind of right on schedule where they should be, even though fans think they should be taking that next step forward. There has been a call from the fans for a coaching change, so it's a situation worth watching.
Who are suitors for Kari Lehtonen now that he is available?
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
He's another interesting guy, because he's had a lot of injuries in a pretty young career. Like Montreal, he's an asset they could move. I think what they'd like to do is have him play a little bit and see if there is some interest. A team like Philadelphia who's had some goaltending issues might be interested. But a lot of teams have salary cap issues.
Jean-Paul (Los Angeles)
The Habs started great than were hit with injuries but now their players are back. Do you think they can make a good run for the playoffs??
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
I think Montreal is one of those bubble teams in the East. They've been winning games lately on the back of Halak. He had a stretch of games where he had 40-plus saves per game. I see them as a bubble team with Florida, the Rangers, a group of teams trying to nail down one of those last spots in the East. The battle for them is to just make the playoffs right now.
Woody (Columbus, Ohio)
Any chance Burke swallows his (considerable) pride and names Umberger to team USA? In your opinion, does he deserve consideration?
EJ Hradek (3:38 PM)
I think he deserves consideration. I don't know if it's a matter of swallowing pride. Burke wants to win. He wants to put people on the team that wants to win. I don't think it will include any sort of personal feelings about it. I didn't have him on my roster, but I guess we'll know after the Winter Classic game, because that's when the team will be announced.
What about from the Blue Jackets perspective? Can this trade give them the spark they need to return to their early season form?
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
That's what their hope is. Shape up their roster and send a message to the room. Clark was a captain in Washington and a hard working player. He'll play night after night after night.
Everyone talks about the Hawks goaltending issue. Is it really that big of an issue?
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
Yeah. It is. A good team with a great goaltender can go a long way. A great team with an average goaltender can only go so far. What happens in the regular season is a different story. If in the first game of a series Huet gives up a few goals, that's all anyone will talk about is the goaltending issue. Marc-Andre Fleury is a great example. He was a young guy, but now that he's won a Cup, no one is talking about him. Niemi and Huet, if they play well, no one will talk about them, but if they don't, it will be a major flaw in the Hawks ability to win a Cup.
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
Happy New Year! Let's keep our fingers crossed for some really cold weather for the Winter Classic.