Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:03 PM)
We've got EJ!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Will the 2011 Winter Classic that is scheduled for Saturday January 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh be Cancelled?
EJ Hradek (3:03 PM)
An outdoor hockey game is at risk due to the weather conditions. If we were to have really bad weather for a couple of days and there were no reasonable window of time for it to be played outdoors, there's a chance that they move it inside. The league doesn't want to put the players at risk. It could happen, but I'm going to be hopeful and optimistic that things will go as planned. The weather will always be a story when you play outside.
Adam R. (New Jersey)
What's your immediate reaction of Darryl Sutter stepping down in Calgary?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
Not really that surprised. The Flames have been going in the same direction for the last several years now. That would be away from Stanley Cup contention. I think, as a I wrote in my Insider blog, it's time for an overhaul there. I'll be interested to see if ownership decides that it's time for a new team president as well. That position has been just as culpable in the bad decision making process as Sutter was. There's a lot of work to do for the organization to get back to where they want to be.
Ron (Las Vegas)
Does Osgood belong in the Hall of Fame?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
I'm going to say yes. First, I'll say that I think the Hall of Fame should be reserved for a very few. The reality is that a lot of different people get in for a variety of reasons. To me, 400 wins, 3 Cups, 2 as a starter. Those numbers make it too hard to pass up. Was he the best goaltender in his time? No. Did he play with a great team around him for much of his career, absolutely. I would say yes.
Mario (Milwaukee, Wi)
Do you think J. Quick is s serious Vezina candidate?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
Yeah, sure. If he keeps playing the way he has this beginning part of the season, he's been terrific. He has to be in the conversation. It will be tough to win it. Tim Thomas has to be the front runner. Quick is a really good young goalie.
Obviously the Devils are finished for this season. But is there any hope for the future? Is there a superstar in the upcoming draft? Will Kovy's contract cripple them for its duration?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
There's always hope for the future. They have to make better decisions. They have to look at their roster and prospects. They might have a high draft pick. They have to really figure out who they want to be. If it's a change in philosophy they want, then they have to make a clean break. Then they ahve to go out and find players that fit the new philosophy. They're facing some interesting choices. There is always hope to turn things around. We've seen it too many times in too many sports.
The Avalanche seem to be a very streaky team. Do you see this continuing, or can they make some adjustments to be more consistent?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
You're really right about that. They've been really streaky. I think it might just be a product of having a lot of young players. Having young players, maybe you're just going to have that wave that goes through the group. This is a team that's really surprised and have achieved more than most of us felt they would. I like the direction they're going in. They seem to be able to plug in different guys and have an impact. I like the Avs. That inconsistency you're talking about is just the key young guys continuing to mature and being able to stay away from that emotional rollar coaster.
EJ, excited for the Winter Classic? What do you think the NHL/NBC projections are for this year over previous years?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
I think the league has really good expectations. They have a lead up show on HBO as they chronicle the teams as they get ready for the game on Jan. 1. I've heard a number of casual sports fans tell me they have had an interest in that. That might lead to more watching the game. They have two of premiere players facing off in Crosby and Ovechkin. The bar has been set pretty high with previous years games. The only unknown is the weather. As for me, it's a huge event. Fans have really taken to it. They love the event aspect of it. We really don't have that in hockey. I think fans have really been excited by it. I'm looking forward to it.
The Blackhawks have been up and down all season to this point, and would only be the 7th seed if the playoffs started today. Is it time to panic in Chicago, what deals should be made to improve the teams playoff chances?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I don't know if panic is the right word, but I would certainly think it's time for some concern. The West is really tight. The Hawks played well last night. They have to keep their ups high and their lows to a minimum, because of how they played in the first part of the season. They had a dramatic change to their roster. For Chicago, it's going to be a battle in the second half of the season, because they're going to have to play at a consistently high level.
Eric (Los Angeles)
Are Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson the best D-Line in the NHL right now?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I like both players. Doughty is a magnificent young guy. He's a natural on defense. He has great skills. He sees the ice well. Jack Johnson's play has been inconsistent early in his career. He plays bigger in big games. As a pairing, when I look around the league right now, there are some that are really balanced. Pittsburgh has one. Individually, they're two very talented guys who will have an impact on this league for a while.
Rachel (Los Angeles)
Do you see the Kings making a deep run in the playoffs this year?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
I think it's really possible. This is a really good team. They're balanced. They are a team that can play a lot of different ways. They have some key guys that are still young and inexperienced. Their position with cap space is something to keep an eye on. But playing in the West is about being consistent. I'll be looking to see what kind of moves they make before the deadline, but they're positioned to be a strong team now and for many years to come.
Tony (New Jersey)
EJ, I';m a lifelong Vancouver Canucks fan and was wondering what if any additions you see them making. Salo is due back in February and other than a grinding 4th liner they seem set.
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
They're playing really well right now. It might be a situation where the pieces are in place and they just need to execute. They have a tendency to wilt sometimes in the big games. There are still questions about Luongo and Cup games. Can he be a guy to win it for you? They'll have to move one of the defensemen to alleviate the cap issues. That's a pretty good roster of players there.
hey do you think the Rangers are going to make any significant moves or any moves at all
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I like the Rangers the way they're playing. They're competing. They're playing hard every night. They're getting a lot out of what they have. They've developed a lot of their young players. They've identified the type of scheme they want to have on a night in night out basis. They're not a team that has a high end player, but they're going in the right direction. I like watching them play. If they get healthy and are in the right circumstances, they'll be a hard team to play against.
EJ, who do you see being in net for the Caps for the Winter Classic? Varlamov or Neuvirth? And do you think the Caps will make a move on a vet. goalie?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I would go with Neuvirth, based on how things have gone this year. I like both guys. Neuvirth played in the shootout loss last week. With the injuries Varlamov has had, I would suspect he's the guy. Either way, you have a young goaltender to trust.
EJ,Will the Bruins make a move for a puck moving d-man? If so, who could be on the move (current roster player/ minor league player)? What will Tuukka Rask's role be in the 2nd half of the season? Can the Bruins win the cup this year? - Thanks, Josh
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
The Bruins have cap issues. That will be a problem for them. They will certainly look to improve his roster. As for Rask, he's a really good young goaltender. Tim Thomas has played phenomenal this year. His role will be to make Thomas look over his shoulder every once in a while. Rask is their goalie of the future. Thomas has turned back the hands of time this year.
Jason (Long Island, NY)
Name one team in the East and one team in the West that is a sleeper that can cause damage come playoff time? Happy New Year EJ!
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I don't think people are talking enough about the Stars, considering they've been at the top of the West for a while now. They have a group of 6-7 good guys. Their defense is a bit of a no name group. That's a team that could give you fits come playoff time. In the East, we've talked a lot about Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, the Big Three, but I don't know about the other teams. They're very up and down. I've talked to people that say the Rangers could be dangerous because of their work ethic and they have a good goaltender. If you said Team A would beat Team B in a playoff series, it's hard to say that it would be impossible to happen.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks for the questions. Have a great New Year! Looking forward to the Winter Classic. Enjoy it. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say about it.