Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:03 PM)
EJ is here!
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
What do you think of the trade between the Hurricanes and the Flames last week? Has Carolina's defense improved with White or is it just chance due to small sample size?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
White is probably a guy that you can use in more situations. Babcheck is more of a one-dimensional defenseman. White is a guy you can probably feel more comfortable in different situations. I wouldn't get carried away with either guy. Neither is a high end guy. They're both role players.
Hi EJ! What's up with the sharks? That road trip was brutal. I know they're better than that. Your thoughts? Thanks!
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
Up and down this year for them. With the Sharks, a lot of it will be with who they are playing. There are some teams that they can overwhelm with their forwards. There are others that can prove to be a problem. I don't think they are quite as good a team as they were last year. It's going to be more of a struggle for them this year, during the regular season at least. The key for them, more than years past is for them to secure a spot in the top 8.
Joel (Niagara Falls/Buffalo) [via mobile]
Mr. Hradek, What is your thinking on why the Canadiens never regained their dynastic tradition much like the Yankees did after about eightteen years in the wilderness ? Thank you.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
The draft changed the dynamic of things in Montreal. When you go back in the 40s and 50s, they were able to secure the top players in Quebec. That's why they were able to control things at the time. When you get to the draft era in the 60s and 70s, the Canadiens made some trades to get draft picks. They were able to get their dynasty rolling through the decades. But now with the changes in the league, the time that's past and the salary cap, it's different. In baseball, the Yankees are able to manage a cap above and beyond what everyone else in the sport is able to do. Part of that with the Yankees have been done with drafting and developing some guys. Over the last 20-25 years Montreal probably could have drafted and developed better.
EJ,Have my Coyotes finally turned the corner from a sluggish start or is this 6 game streak (points in last 8!) just a flash in the pan?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
Wins are wins. In the NHL, you take a win and you're happy with it. When you look at them statistically, are they dominating any area? Not really. I think they're a slight minus at this point. Their PP and PK are average. They've just been finding ways to win. I don't know if in the big picture if this is a flash or if they're turning the corner. But the teams are so tight. The teams are separated by 4-5 points. Looking at their numbers, they have to improve in certain areas, but as long as they get good goalie play, that's all they can ask for, really.
Chris (Long Island)
What is your take on the Islanders/Chris Botta situation?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
I would say this. I don't see how an NHL team can take away a media credential from someone who is working for a national organization. It's not like Chris is working out of his basement, he's working for a national news organization. I don't understand how the Islanders can do what they've done, but it's something they feel they can do within their rights. I imagine that the league isn't happy with it. There is a history between him and the Islanders, but I would think that there's a solution in there.
I think the referees will be very strict in tonight Habs-Flyers game and that it will not be an action-packed game as advertised. Your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
You make a good point. Usually when there's any concern that there could be something that happens in a game, that refs wisely keep an eye on things. I don't know. Montreal and Philly had a pretty hard fought playoff series last year. I will be keeping an eye on it. You never know what to expect. These are two teams that just played one another. Everyine is fresh. It should be a good competitive game, regardless of what else happens.
Brad (Philadelphia, Pa)
EJ...Big time Flyers fan here. While watching Caps/Flyers game, I was impressed with the CAPS, terrific size and speed. I feel they are the team to beat in the East. your thoughts??
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
They're on the short list, aren't they? They're loaded with skill players. They're good, young, lots of skill. They've made the playoffs the last couple of years. They need to find a way to get through the first few rounds and get to the Cup to win. A Philadelphia-Washington playoff series would be great. Top to bottom I would say they're the best in the East. No question the Caps have the tools and they seem to be on a mission this year. We'll see how it plays out and see if they can make that next step.
EJ, do you think that if Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford played more he would be better, or is the main starter for the Hawks going to be Turco?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
We saw it last year in Chicago, they're going to play whoever they think gives them the best chance to win. They went into the season with Huet as the starter and Niemi took over the starting job. I think we'll see the same thing this year. If Crawford plays well when he gets his chances, he'll play more. If I were in Crawford's shoes, I would be real happy that I'm in Chicago and I know if I play well I will play more.
Shhh!!! The Jackets are off to a franchise best start. Yet, nobody seems to notice the quality of play, and the quality of teams they beat. What has been the key and will they keep it up?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I was Tweeting about it over the weekend. You can follow me @EJHradek_ESPN. There are many Blue Jacket fans that think they've been overlooked, but I caught on after they swept the three California teams. The obvious thing is that Nash is their best player and he is playing well. They're getting great goaltending. I like the way they're playing. They're doing a lot of the little things that you need to do. Some of the younger players have really developed and that's the natural course for young players. On defense they've been very good. They're getting a lot of contributions from a lot of players. They have a tough game tonight, though. They come home off of a western trip. Historically, for some reason, that's a tough game for teams, a home game after a long trip. Tonight will be a real test for them and see if they can stay on top of their game.
Justin (Boulder, CO)
What more can be said about Datsyuk? Can any team top Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, and Ralfalski 4v4?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
That's pretty good. There are some teams out there that can match up with that. Not a lot, but that's a pretty impressive group. The Red Wings are the Red Wings. They've been a championship club for 20 years now. The one common denomenator all those years has been Lidstrom on defense. He's been the real deal since he walked into the team since the early 90s. This is a key time for them, as Lidstrom gets to the end of his career. Each year will be more challenging for them. But right now they still have what it takes.
Bob the goalie rested Saturday because he earned/deserved a break or because of that overall dismal outing by both teams goalies against Tampa? Where are the Flyers headed this season in your opinion?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I think it probably had a lot to do with that. Peter has a habit of riding guys who are playing well. I saw him do it a lot last year, some times by necessity. I think they were just playing well. When they had that crazy 8-7 game, I think he saw it as an opportunity to let Boucher have a rest. But I think Bob is a big part of their plans this year.
Knew the Kings would have some bumps in the road!! Are they missing Willie Mitchell and Ponikorovsky a lot or will they be able to play through this and be even stronger upon their returns?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
The NHL is a long season. It's really tight with those teams I mentioned earlier. I've gotten into a habit of saying there's no '77 Canadiens out there. There are a bunch of good teams that are close. It's tight. The Kings have a couple of guys out of their lineup. They've been on the down side of those. I like their team a lot. This is a part of an 82 game schedule. I expect them to get their game together and get back on track.
Hey EJ! So what do you think of the Avalanche this year?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
They're off to a pretty good start. On back to back games it feels like they're good one night and not so good the next. But they beat the Rangers and then went to Dallas and won a shootout. They had such a good year last year with the young players that the natural thing would be for them to have a drop off, to get them focuse on 2010-11 and not 2009-10. But there hasn't been a big drop off. It seems like they'll be in the mix again this year.
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your week. Enjoy your turkey. Enjoy your hockey. See you next week!