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 (3:01 PM)
We're getting EJ!
Is Cujo a first ballot Hall of Famer?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
That's a good question Leo. Let me first start by saying that I am biased. He's a nice person. I had to do a feature story for him for ESPN The Magazine 8-9 years ago. He's one of the great underdog stories for a guy that didn't start to play hockey until he was 10-11 years old. He had an unbelieveable career. Whether he's a first ballot hall of famer, it depends on the other guys who are eligible. Sometimes you have a class like we had this year where you have legends that all go in the same year. I guess the knock would be that he never won a championship. He never got to a final. I think he has a chance to get in. I would probably doubt that he's a first ballot guy.
Ryan (Damascus, MD)
Rangers or Devils?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
Well, everyone wants me to make a pick and I'm not good at it. If I were, I'd be in Las Vegas making a living. It's so hard picking against the Devils. They've been so good this year. They continue to find ways to win. It's a real test for the Rangers. If you make me pick, I'm going to pick the Devils.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear EJWhy wasn't Tomas Vokoun suspended for slashing Keith Ballard's ear in that game early this season?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
Hassan, get it right. It was the other way around! Basically, he wasn't suspended because he slashed a guy on his own team. However, I will say this, there is a case to be made that Gary Bettman could have made a suspension just based on the behavior of swinging your stick after a goal is not something they want to see. But really, at the end of the day, the reason he wasn't suspended was he did it to his own teammate.
Joe P. (Las Vegas, NV)
Any chance of Kovalchuk coming to my Blackhawks? If so, do you think it would be a smart move considering Kovy's sometime selfish play and his possible disruption to team chemistry?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
There's always a chance of something like that happening. I kind of doubt it, but there's a chance. That's a deal that would have to work financially and salary cap wise for Chicago. There's always a possibility, but if I'm the Blackhawks, as well as everything's going, I'm not sure I want to mix it up. It will be interesting to see what happens with Kovalchuk, because it's looking more and more that he will be traded.
Do you see the Wild making any kind of trades prior to the deadline or are they just going to wait for the free agency to make some moves?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I could see them making some trades. Their first year GM has already made some moves this year and I think they've all been pretty favorable. After a slow start to the season, they've been playing well. They had a win over Chicago, one over Pittsburgh. I think Chuck Fletcher, it's pretty clear that if he thinks he can help the team, he will. I don't know if there will be any major moves, but he's been aggressive and if there are any moves to make, I don't think that will change.
Can the bipolar Bruins hang on to a playoff spot with all the injuries they are piling up?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
If they don't get healthy, it's going to be tough. They need to have their best guys in the lineup. If they don't have a world of depth, they won't stay at that high level. They're a very well coached team that plays their system. They're very good defensively. They're going to be able to stay in games and that will help them. That said, they might not be the most entertaining team to watch. I don't think the level of competition is as good in the East and that helps Boston as well.
Paul (Gilbert, AZ)
Coyotes had trouble last year after the all-star break. We are about as many games into the season as last year. Do you think (even though it was an OT loss) that the comeback against the Islanders will be a turning point for the 2nd half of the season for Phoenix. There were a lot of blunders by players and coaches, but they still fought back very well to gain a point.
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
Each season is kind of different. The Coyotes team is very different this year. There are many more veterans. I haven't seen anything so far that would indicate that they would have a similar tailspin. I think they've been a great story this year. With Bryzgalov in goal, they've played consistently and stuck to a system of play. But their issue is they don't score a lot. They need a little more offense. Right now, I look at them, I see them a team that will be in the middle until the end. If anything, I look at Los Angeles right now. They're sliding. I see them having more of a struggle than Phoenix.
What will happen with the non-Olympian players during the break? Can teams run practices when in some cases a good chunk of their team isn't there?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
Paarrrty!...they close the dressing rooms for the first eight days, from Feb. 15-23. On the 24th, teams will be allowed to reassemble and practice to get ready for the resuming of the season on March 1. In some cases, there will be a lot of guys at those practices, in others, like San Jose who has 8 players at the Olympics, there will be fewer.
Do you think the NHL will send a message to the Penguins after what happened with the held back replay on the Gagne goal? If not, then what will stop all clubs from trying to get away with doing the same thing?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
Absolutely. I absolutely think there will be some kind of significant fine that's going to be given out, if indeed it's been proven that there was a deliberate effort to hold back video that would have showed out a Flyer goal. This is something the league is going to be very concerned about. I absolutely think there will be a significant fine involved. I will say this, I feel bad for the Penguins organization because it seems that apparently it was a decision made by the television people. But the league can't allow that, it impacts the competitiveness on the ice.
any chance of a repeat of last season's second half from the blues?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
There's always a chance of things happening. You never want to say there isn't a chance, but I think it's a much, much tougher circumstance this year. There are so many teams fighting for spots. A team like Minnesota is out of the playoffs right now, but they have to deal with them. Anaheim has gotten together lately. The competition is higher this year. The Blues made a coaching change, so they're getting used to a new direction from the bench. I think it would take something special on their part to reproduce last spring. It's asking a lot for them to do it again this year.
How much truth do you suspect there is to Burows' claims today?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
It's hard for me to say, not being at the game or being around the people involved. I would say based on what I understand, there's video tape of the referee Auger speaking of Burrows before the game, which kind of corroborates Burrows' story. But unless someone overheard the conversation, it's hard to say there was an attempt to have those makeup type calls. I would say this is another serious situation for the NHL. If there is a referee involved in this kind of situation, they have to take some action. In a perfect world, you would like to think people can let things roll off their back. But this stems from a previous game and the ref felt embarrassed by a play in which Burrows seemed to fake an injury. If this accusation is true, then I would think that the official didn't let it roll of his back. I think the league is going to look at it closely and do an investigation. I'll be interested to see what they come up with, because this cuts to the competitive nature of the sport. They'll have to take some action if what he's saying is accurate.
Is Phil Kessel's slump putting Brian Burke's job in jeopardy?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
Not at this point. I think it's still way too early in the game for him to be in jeopardy. Certainly Leafs fans aren't going to be happy if Phil Kessel doesn't perform up to his salary. I do think that the Maple Leafs are a long way away from getting where they want to go. So far, I haven't been impressed with the moves Brian's made.
What team in their right mind would trade at least 3 players for Kovy AND then pay him $10M+ per season? He will take up just about 20% of any team's cap...
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I think teams that feel like his presence could help them win a Cup. There are some teams that make moves to sell tickets. But there are very, very, very -- that enough verys? -- guys that are good enough to sell tickets. Even Ovechkin didn't sell tickets until the team started to win. A team like that might feel that they could get a better deal from Kovalchuk based on where the team is because they had more to offer. There are some teams that fit that bill. I'll say this, I think he's a great player, but in a salary cap league, I think you have to really think those decisions through.
What may come of the investigation into FSN Pittsburgh not showing all the views of Gagne's non-goal? What possibly can the NHL do?
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
They can fine the organization and fine them substantially. I think there's an obligation with the TV people and the teams to play fairly. If every home team is going to be broadcasting, especially if there's only one feed...I think the NHL has to make a statement here that this won't be something they'll tolerate. It could be a six figure fine. If this were a one-goal game, it's an even bigger deal, especially where one point could be such a big deal in a close race.
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
I don't know if there's any rules in place for this kind of thing, but if there aren't, they better put some rules in place. You just can't have this.
Any surprise names you see being moved at or before the trade deadline?
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
I think the guys who will be traded are guys like Kovalchuk. Guys at the end of contracts that will become a free agent. Teams don't like the idea of losing assets without getting anything in return. A guy like Turco in Dallas. He's struggled to a certain degree, but has had success over the long term. I think teams that are either falling out of the playoff picture like Carolina or Edmonton, as they feel like they can't get to a playoff berth, they'll try to move guys and get ready for the offseason.
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
Thanks again for the questions. Talk to you soon.