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 (3:01 PM)
Robert (San Antonio (ex Chicago))
What's the deal with the Blackhawks? They play great one game and look like an AHL team the next. Do they have what it takes to win the Cup, or are they too inconsistent?
EJ Hradek (3:02 PM)
They only need seven more wins, so I guess the answer is yeah, they have what it takes to win. They've gotten this far and they lead their current series. They have a lot of young players that don't have a ton of experience in this circumstance. But I think they understand the challenge they face in San Jose. I don't think they have room for the up and down play in this series. I expect them to be more consistent in this series.
hey ej with the 4 teams left sharks black hawks canadiens and flyers who in the championship game and who wil win in ur opinion thanks
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
They are two really different series. You have favorites on one side and Cinderella's on the other side. It's unusual to have Cinderella vs. Cinderella in the same series. I like the Hawks, I think they're quicker. Philadelphia-Montreal, take your pick there. I like the matchup for Philadelphia. They make the goalie move around the crease in traffic. For Washington and Pittsburgh, they're very talented teams, but I don't think that's at the heart of how they play offense. I picked Philadelphia and I think they have something going after coming back against Boston.
Leighton has been playing great, ever since he got an opportunity in the regular season. Has he put himself in position to be the Flyers number 1 guy for the next few years, or at least hold down that job going into next year without the flyers looking for someone else? The guys been solid as can be and I really think hes a late bloomer (even though hes only 28) and not just a fluke.
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
A lot will depend on what happens in the coming couple of weeks. He has a great opportunity to take that job. He's a guy that should be in the prime of his career and making a statement to be the No. 1 goaltender on a team. The opportunity is definitely there, it's just a matter of how he performs. If he does well, particluarly in light of the salary cap issues there, I think they would like for him to grab the goalie position for the next few years.
Eric (new york)
This won't be popular with hockey traditionalist but wouldn't hockey gain more fans if it were a 4 vs 4 sport? alot more goals and players like crosby would be more showcased. Don't hate i'm an occasional hockey fan (ISLES fan also)
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I don't think that's necessarily a bad idea. I think because the players have gotten bigger and the ice surface has stayed the same size, it can be crowded out there. But you said it, it would be a radical idea and a change would be near impossible to implement at this time. It's a valid argument, in terms of the pace. But with fewer players on the ice, there would be fewers players on the rosters, so I would think the players association would object because it would be a loss of jobs. There would be a lot to go into it to make that kind of change. I don't see it happening in the near future.
There were a ton of questions about Mike Richard's leadership (or lack there of) throughout this season. Is that behind us after this post-season run, or does the credit go more to Pronger and coach?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I don't think any team has one leader. I think there are always several guys that lead for teams. When you have Chris Pronger on the team and younger players on the team, Pronger is a guy that will have an impact on every area of your organization. Maybe it's taken some time for everyone to figure out their role on the team, but they seem to have found that now. Mike Richard has found that spot now. Some people in Philadelphia, the younger players, have seen what Pronger is all about. It takes time to develop chemistry as a group and to see what this team is all about. It's taken several weeks.
EJ!! Who do you think will be coaching the Devils next year?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
That's a great question. Lou hasn't called me lately to consult with me about the opening. One name that's a big name in this equation is John Maclean. He will be considered. He's been with the organization for a long time. With Brodeur playing in the final 2, 3, 4 years of his career, I would think there would be more of an urgency to go with an experienced guy. When you have a team that hasn't played well in the first couple of seasons, I would think that you'd want a coach that has a little more playoff seasoning. I think Ken Hitchcock would be a good fit to where they are as an organization now. We won't really know until Lou makes a decision and we've seen in the past that he doesn't make a rush to make a decision.
EJ - I understand what the fans did to that Montreal reporter's car was terrible and there is absolutely no need for it, but isn't it pretty ironic for all these Montreal writers to slam the Philadelphia fanbase and cite things that happened 40 years ago when the Montreal fanbase rioted LAST WEEK. Maybe it's just me, but vandalizing one car pales in comparison to a full scale riot. Basically what I'm trying to say is - Hi Montreal, my name's Kettle. You must be Pot.
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I wish everyone could just get a grip on their emotions here. I know the writer. He's a great guy and he's a guy that's been covering hockey for many years. He's a little bit of an older gentleman. It really bothered me what happened to him. It really bothers me with the outlandish behavior that happened in the Montreal community especially when there should be joy in the air instead of the need to be destructive. I hope cooler heads will prevail instead of causing this kind of mayhem.
Can we now put to rest the discussion that Niemi is not a goalie that can lead the Hawks deep?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
With a guy who hasn't won, especially goaltenders, they have to show that they can get through a whole playoff season. He's been terrific. He was the reason they won Game 1. But if he comes up with two stinkers in the next games, we'll be revisiting it again. Guys prove it by playing. But what we've seen is that Niemi is a good goalie. We'll see how far he can go.
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I saw some stories comparing him to Ken Dryden and I would say that's not really an accurate depiction of history. Dryden was younger and he had only a small handful of NHL games that year. That team was a real underdog that year. If people are making that comparison, I don't think they have a good grip of historical facts.
Can we take anything away from Chicago's Game 1 win as to how the series will go?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I don't know. I don't think so. As fans, we got a handle on how these teams look on the ice, right now. San Jose stepped up their game in the playoffs. They showed they can keep up with Chicago. In the regular season, I didn't see that. That's the only thing that I can take from Game 1. I think it's going to be a great series. Usually Game 1s don't have that kind of high energy and intensity that carry throughout the game. These teams are really well matched and really want to get to the finals. It re-affirms to me that this will be a great series.
Team that made the playoffs that has best chance to go deep next year?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
Let's start with Washington and Pittsburgh. I think both of those teams had bitter disappointment. That will be a real motivating factor for them next year. I listened to the Penguins coach today and he could barely speak about it, he was so disappointed. Start right there for sure. On the other side, I think Detroit is still a team that can be dangerous with the right change. L.A. is a team on the rise. They remind me of Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago in recent years of a young team ready to make another step.
Can the Red Wings reload yet again?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
I think a lot will depend on what Lidstrom does. If he comes back, that's a core piece on defense. If he decides to retire, that would change things. That decision will be important to where they will be next season. I think they have a good organization from the top down. I suspect they'll be a good team again next year.
who's the best remaining goaltender?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
Niemi and Halak have gotten the attention. Halak in particular has gotten the most. He's just been dynamic in leading the Canadiens. Out of the guys left, he's been the reason Montreal is where they are. It's been a different group of four guys remaining this year. It's a good group who fit where they are. The only way to really answer that is to say that Halak has been the most dynamic and important to getting to where his team is now.
E.J., with the salary cap issues for the Blackhawks for next year, can this team stay competitive and Stanley Cup hopefuls for the next few years with the right people calling the shots in the front office?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
They will have some challenges, no question. They'll have to figure out how to make it work with the cap. They'll have to make one or two decisions from the guys that are in their group. They've made some good decisions and have a bunch of guys under contract who are core guys. There will be tough decisions, but I'm sure they are decisions that I'm sure 25 other teams would like to be making. This will be a team that will have good players in the lineup and have a chance to be a competitive team near the top of the Western Conference.
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Doubleheader tonight! Sit back, get the popcorn, have a drink or two and enjoy the games.