Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com NHL Insider Craig Custance stops by to chat about the latest news from the ice.
Custance joined ESPN in September 2011 as an NHL reporter for ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Insider and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN following a stint with the Sporting News. A graduate of Michigan State University, he lived for nearly a decade in Georgia working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he spent time covering the late Atlanta Thrashers.
Send your questions now and join Custance Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Hey everyone, excited to talk hockey during a busy week. Lots going on out there, let's dive in.
Hi Craig, What do you think of the job Mike Yeo is doing? The young d-men he had in Houston last year seem to be doing better than expected, but the Wild power play is not going well. Thoughts moving foward for the Wild, playoff chances. Thanks
Craig Custance (2:04 PM)
Mike Yeo deserves a lot of credit for Minnesota's success right now. New system, new players and they're winning. When I spoke with Chuck Fletcher last week, he believed that Minnesota would ultimately be a better team at the end of the year than they are now because of the expected development of some of the young players. Josh Harding has sped up the learning curve a little bit and Minny is a little ahead of schedule. They've put themselves in position to be in the playoff hunt but I'm going to stick to my original prediction that put them outside the top eight. I think they're a year away but if I'm a Wild fan I'm excited about the direction on Yeo and Fletcher.
Still feeling like the Leafs are a playoff team? If Reimer has a more prolonged absence, they are toast, right?
Craig Custance (2:06 PM)
Yes, I still believe they'll get in. I think this is an important year for the Leafs and Brian Burke will guide them into the playoffs. If Reimer's head injury continues to drag out, I don't think Burke would hesitate to add temporary help in goal and he has the assets to deal if necessary.
With Hitchcock now in St. Louis, who replace Howson and Arniel assuming that Columbus will get rid of them?
Craig Custance (2:09 PM)
Great question Andrew. If you're going to fire your coach, you'd better be sure you have a replacement in mind. Todd Richards is the best internal option in the interim. There are some strong candidates in the AHL (like Craig MacTavish who knows Scott Howson well from days in Edmonton) but some might be contractually obligated to stay put. It's a situation to monitor for sure.
adam henrique, rookie of the new jersey devils has looked very good, and solid in all areas since he has been called up and has worked his way to the top line, what are your views on him? what are your expectations? can he stay? he elevates his game with the more skilled players he plays with (hall)also what are your views on adam larsson? how impressive has he been? what does he need to work on the most?
Craig Custance (2:13 PM)
Hey Adam - I remember talking to New Jersey's David Conte about some of the young talent in the system and I didn't ask about Henrique. Dave went out of his way to mention how much he liked his game. Here's his opinion which is considerably more valuable than mine: "He had a spectacular junior career. Two Memorial Cups and was a key player overshadowed by Taylor Hall. He's a complete player - can check, can kill penalties. He's going to be a top player for us." That's a pretty ringing endorsement.
Whats the Montreal Canadiens problem ? Rwporters say No Markov, baddefence, and Gomez... I believe it's coach martin and GM.
Craig Custance (2:17 PM)
You can't ignore the injury to Markov but at the same time there was risk in signing him and depending on him again this season. If you want to be a serious contender in today's NHL you need depth on defense and I'm not sure Pierre Gauthier adequately addressed that this summer. I think there are serious questions about how this team is built.
Should Ranger fans feel relieved after their last week, or are tougher times coming once more?
Derek Stepan - 45 pts in 82 games last yr. Thus far he has put up 8 pts in 13 games (with 4 of those in his last 2 games). Looks like he will be top 6 and get significant PP time. I think 65 pts is very attainable for him. Think he gets there?
Craig Custance (2:20 PM)
His improved play is one of the reasons you have to like the direction the Rangers are heading. Look for him to get more power play time and if he capitalizes, I think a 60-point season is certainly possible. Obviously the Staal injury is a big reason for the early season struggles but I think we'll look back at that rigorous schedule as having a big hand in the struggles too. I still like the Rangers.
Sean (Charlotte, N.C.)
Can you give us a detailed breakdown of every Michigan State player currently playing in the league, as well as the entire current Spartans roster?
Craig Custance (2:21 PM)
Have I mentioned Corey Potter's great start yet? Because I really meant to. Also, congrats to David Booth on scoring his first goal with the Canucks on Sunday.
Isn't it pretty incredible that the Pens have been able to maintain their success despite the best player in the league being out and the other general injuries they've dealt with from Malkin, Staal, Orpik, Michalek, etc?
Craig Custance (2:22 PM)
Yes, it is. That'll be the challenge when Sid returns, not letting off the gas.
Who leaves LA first? Penner or Murray?
Dean Lombardi (LA)
Who can I trade to wake this team up? I figure my only untouchables are Kopitar, Richards and Doughty. Do I have any chance of landing a top 3 forward?
Should the Kings fire Terry Murray
Craig Custance (2:28 PM)
Lot's of concern for the Kings right now and rightfully so. Five straight losses (or non-wins or whatever) will do that. I think Terry Murray has earned the time to work things out but if Dean Lomabardi can find a taker for Dustin Penner, that deal will happen. You can't help but wonder how much the holdout and contract situation has seeped into Drew Doughty's game. Now would be the perfect time for Mike Richards to be the kind of leader Lombardi expected when he made that summer trade.
What is your outtake on th Coyotes ? Playoffs last few years with average players but first rd exits.Cooach Tippett is solid. This year prediction ?
Craig Custance (2:31 PM)
Coach Tippett is solid might be the understatement of the year. I expected that team to finish in the basement, that he has them competitive again just shows you how good he is and how much the players believe in him. It's a total buy-in. I just spoke with a player who just faced the Coyotes and he was really impressed with Mike Smith in goal. Sean Burke deserves a lot of the credit for that. Some finality in the Kyle Turris situation will certainly help in the next month. Not sure I'm ready to put them in the playoffs but I'm finding it harder and harder to bet against Tippett.
Katie Baker (Bakersfield)
Shake and bake. Er.
Craig Custance (2:32 PM)
This is the portion of the chat where I tell you to go to Grantland.com and read Katie Baker's fine work covering the NHL. Awesome stuff. Just wait until we're done here.
Is there any other team in the NHL who would be dumb enough to accept any kind of trade for Steve Mason?!?!
Craig Custance (2:34 PM)
Nope. That ship has sailed. Maybe if Columbus took a bad contract back. I was told he was shopped some this summer and there were no takers. He's done nothing since to change minds.
Am I the only one crossing my fingers that the Coyotes stay put? I along with some friends have season tickets to the Ducks, but Phoenix/Glendale is a fun road trip for us.
Craig Custance (2:35 PM)
You and every hockey writer. I was just trying to come up with a story to pitch that would send me to Arizona in December. I think we're long overdue for a Keith Yandle feature, right?
With as deep as Detroit is in the prospect department, do they have some ammunition for a trade if the offense continues to sputter? What about someone like Zach Parise from NJ? Apparently, he and Ryan Suter are very good friends. Not many teams would have the money to sign both. But Detroit probably will...
Craig Custance (2:38 PM)
Cam - I wrote about this in the insider blog last week, but it sounds like Ken Holland is willing to move some of the young talent in the organization if the right opportunity presented itself. Most likely closer to the trade deadline. If Ryan Suter ever came available Detroit would instantly become the leading contender to land him and we've also seen some of the scoring issues they've had this season. Parise would certainly help there. But NJ wants to keep Parise and Nashville is going to do whatever it takes to keep its big three. Sounds like Predators ownership is opening up its wallet, which is bad news for Red Wings fans.
What is going on with the Ducks? Why can't they seem to get it together? What are they missing?
Craig Custance (2:42 PM)
Jonas Hiller needs to be better. He's allowed five goals in two of his last three games. They could use some scoring help from forwards besides their big stars. The Ducks play five of six at home coming up and need to pull things together during this home stand.
jeff (oakley, ca)
hey craig, whats your position on the 3 point nights? the nhl is the only league that rewards teams for losing. it is the most irritating thing about the nhl. why not just have a win/loss and be done with it. rewarding a team for a losing effort is the most proposterous thing ive ever heard of
Craig Custance (2:44 PM)
I don't think it's the most fair system but it has created parity and I think that's good for the league and for fan interest. It also makes it nearly impossible for teams that get off to a slow start to climb back into the playoff hunt, making the start of the season that much more important. I don't see it changing anytime soon.
Hi Craig, Why would the league try and realign the teams at this time when teams like Phoenix, Dallas (ownership issues) and even Columbus (barely breaking 10,000 in attendance) continue to sputter along?
Craig Custance (2:46 PM)
Hi Karen - I posed that question to a GM recently and he suggested that league realignment will be done in a way that makes it easy to slide Phoenix into another position if they move. I think it will certainly come into the debate in December. It's one of the reasons I believe there's momentum building for the four region concept rather than two conferences w/divisions.
Marc (Malden, MA)
The reason for the three point night is that before it, teams would play for the tie and the last 5 mins of regulation and OT were boring. They should make it 3 pts for regulation win, 2 pts for OT/SO win, 1 pt for OT/SO loss.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Why would they put Pitt, Det, Bos in the same division and make the first two playoff rounds in the division? Don't you want 2 of those teams meeting in the conference finals?
Craig Custance (2:48 PM)
I think all of that is being hashed out right now. But regardless of how things are divided, you're still going to have attractive matchups in the conference finals.
Any chance the Flyers trade Brayden Schenn this year?
Craig Custance (2:49 PM)
I'd be surprised but then again I didn't see Paul Holmgren trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards on the same day. He's fearless.
How long can the 'Bulin Wall keep it rolling for? Oilers have to be the story of the year so far... Thanks for the chat!
Craig Custance (2:51 PM)
The Oilers may be, especially if they can keep it going. The thing Khabibulin has going for him is that the Oilers have a young goalie in Devan Dubnyk who can give Khabibulin plenty of rest throughout the season. For me, the big issue with Khabibulin is health. You wonder if he'll break down at some point.
Craig (Lindsay, ON)
Tell me the 3 headed goalie equation on the Island will end soon. And while everybody wants Nabakov the one dealt (as do I) perhaps it should be Montoya. I think he has more trade value currently and lets face it, none of the 3 there are the goalie of the future (Poulin/Nilsson). who should go and who should be starting 55-60 games there this year?
Craig Custance (2:55 PM)
Craig - It's an interesting thought on trading Montoya but it sure looks like they're showcasing Nabokov. If I were Garth Snow, I'd deal Nabokov ASAP and Montoya would get the majority of starts. You say he's not the goalie of the future but all he's done is play well since they acquired him. I'd love to get an extended look at him in goal for the Islanders. I think he deserves it.
now that they blues have canned davis payne, which players do you see them shipping out? there's got to be a short leash on guys like oshie and berglund, who have never really performed up to expectations.
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
Al - I think ideally Doug Armstrong would like it to work with the players they have there now. He now has his coach in place so it's squarely on the players to perform and you're right that Oshie and Berglund have underperformed. But with any young talent, there's risk in trading those guys and seeing them blossom elsewhere. Both Oshie and Chris Stewart are restricted free agents this year and I'm sure on some level they're pressing a little bit in a contract year. Armstrong has already said he'd love to reward the players with contracts, they just have to earn it. I think they'll get time to perform under Hitch and he will have a strong say on who stays and who goes.
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
Great questions as always everyone. Looking forward to doing it again next week! Thanks for dropping by.