Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, 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 Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
So much to talk about and the questions are piling up. Best time of the year! Let's dive in early.
Ric (Nashville,TN) [via mobile]
Where do the Preds go from here? Had the most talented team in their franchises history and couldnt get out of the 2nd round. They will probably lose Suter to FA and Radulov back to Russia, with also alot of other FAs and RFAs
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
Hey Ric - Yeah, what a disappointment for Nashville, eh? I really thought they'd make a run and now we're going to see the repercussions of underachieving. If you're Ryan Suter and your position was to wait and see if this team was capable of winning it all, this doesn't help. I wouldn't be surprised if he hit free agency on July 1. Let me reverse that, I'd be surprised if he doesn't. Everyone I talk to thinks Nash is going to trade Radulov but if you're trading for him, you'd better be sure he's going to stick around and play in the NHL. It's going to be an interesting summer.
Was key to devils win last night not retaliate against cheap shotting flyer players with thug tactic?
Craig Custance (2:04 PM)
Devils kept their composure much better than the Penguins did against Philly, that's for sure. Look at how the stars performed in this series. Ilya Kovalchuk is banged up, toughs it out and is fantastic. Much more productive than Giroux. Very happy for him. Marty Broudeur outplays Bryz. Give the Devils all the credit in the world for this run.
Craig; The makings of a defensive standsstill coming our way witth the Kings vs. Coyotes or will one of the offenses come through with flying colors. And if so whose offense will shine?
Craig Custance (2:06 PM)
Two very similar teams going at it in WCF. Phoenix surprised us with the way they approached the Nashville series and were much more offensive than usual, early on. But I can't imagine this being too offensive when it's Quick vs. Smith. The big challenge for Phoenix is that Los Angeles' top two lines are much more potent than Nashville's. The production of Kopitar and Richards could end up being the difference here.
Sean (St. Louis)
Now that the Blues sale to the Stillman Group has been approved by the NHL, what kind of moves do you expect the Blues to make in the offseason?
Craig Custance (2:09 PM)
Very happy for Blues fans that this got done. They deserve it. The big thing is for new ownership to back the current management team of JD and Doug Armstrong. I remember talking to Armstrong at the end of the summer and he said it was definitely on his mind to have a good year so that new ownership would keep them around. They've earned the opportunity to see this through. I wouldn't change a thing in upper management. Now hopefully, they won't have such a tight budget. For me, the big thing will be taking care of their own guys. Perron and Oshie deserve nice extensions. They'll need to make a decision on Jackman and Stewart too.
Much has been made of Phoenix and their organization being able to make any goalie look good. What is it about the Flyers that makes any goalie look bad? Should they fire their goaltending coach? I see organizations like Washington develop almost a goalie a year while none of our go anywhere. Bobrovsky has only regressed.
Craig Custance (2:12 PM)
The problem in comparing Philly to Phoenix is that Phoenix makes a lot of teams look bad. Sean Burke is the best goalie coach in the game right now. If I'm Paul Holmgren, I'm sending a truck full of money to Phoenix to see if I can lure Burke to Philly and see if he can get Bryz going. You can't underestimate just how good he's been in the desert.
Craig Custance (2:12 PM)
Or overestimate. Think I meant to say overestimate there. You know what I mean, Norm.
Craig, any idea on when the west finals will begin?
Craig Custance (2:13 PM)
Trying to book some travel myself, so if you find out, let me know. But I'd bet heavily on Saturday.
Kevin (New York)
It's very clear Torts only trusts 4 1/2 defensemen on the Rangers. Do you think we can make a cup run with Bickel playing so few min, and Stralman not getting too much more?
Craig Custance (2:15 PM)
Kevin - I think that's a valid concern. The big thing has been Staal's emergence. Can you imagine if he wasn't playing as well has he has? We saw a little bit of the same thing when Philly went to the finals a couple years ago against Chicago. They clearly didn't trust all six of their D and it took its toll against a deep Chicago team. It might not become an issue now, but those guys could get worn down if NY keeps advancing.
Who wins game 6 tonight in WSH?
Craig Custance (2:15 PM)
This thing is going 7. Put me down for 2-1, Capitals.
What do you think of the Kings chances to win it all? I love the Kings but being a fan I also know they can go from Hot to Cold real fast.
Craig Custance (2:17 PM)
Love the Kings. Admittedly, my predictions have been mediocre at best in these playoffs as Devils and Coyotes fans like to remind me. But I picked the Kings to beat the Canucks and Blues and I'll pick them to beat the Coyotes. They need to stay healthy, but there's no reason LA can't win it all.
Other than the monumental collapse near the end of the season, the Leafs had what was looking like a respectable season. They obviously need a goalie to get anywhere near the postseason. When they consistently made the playoffs 10 or 15 years ago, it was always on the back on Cujo or Eddie the Eagle. Do you think they will go after Luongo, or make any other steps to acquiring a goaltender.
Craig Custance (2:19 PM)
They absolutely must address their goaltending. I still think Luongo is a longshot though. I can't imagine that Brian Burke is too eager to bail out Vancouver and that awful contract. Plus he hates those contracts in the first place. The only way that changes is if Dave Nonis gets in his ear enough and convinces him it's the only option. But they have to bring somebody in if they want to make the playoffs. I'd love to see them make a play for Tim Thomas.
Any chance the Flyers can deal Bryz to Van for Luongo?
Craig Custance (2:19 PM)
Not sure that solves anything for the Canucks. So, no.
What are the chances the Conn Smythe Trophy goes to a position other than goal tender?
Craig Custance (2:21 PM)
Good question. I think the goalies are definitely the front-runners right now, Ryan. But if I had to pick a non-goalie, I'd look really hard at Dustin Brown, Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Richards if they can keep winning and producing.
Eddie (Hoboken, NJ)
I talked to you last week about the Devils getting no respect. You cited, and properly at the time, the lack of D and the goaltending as the reason to have picked agains t the Devils vs the Flyers. 5 games later and here we are again... what will make you pick the Caps or Rangers this time?
Craig Custance (2:22 PM)
Haha. I deserve it. Let me see how 6 and 7 play out before I come up with my reason for picking the Devils to lose.
Would Giroux have made a big enough difference in last nights game? Seemed like the Devils did there homework on him.
Craig Custance (2:23 PM)
Giroux is a difference maker, but you're right. They did an outstanding job containing him. Pete DeBoer has been magnificent in these playoffs and I don't think it would have mattered.
Sean Couturier (Danny Briere's spare room)
Is it good for me and my fellow Flyers rookies to taste disappointment our first year? We've still got Danny B and Giroux (classy of him to come out for the handshake line last night) and myself, Schenn and Read had good first years. If Holmgren adds another stud blue-liner to go with Coburn and Grossmann and Bryz stops orbiting Jupiter we could really have a good few years in Philly, no?
Craig Custance (2:26 PM)
That's the thing. There's a lot to like about the Flyers moving forward. Great young talent on that roster, especially up front. The goalie situation is a real problem for them though. If the new CBA doesn't come with a way to get out of the Bryz deal, they have to find a way to make it work. Maybe the second year will be easier now that he knows what to expect. As for a stud d-man, I'm not sure that's going to be so easy. Lots of competition for Suter and it thins up pretty quickly after him.
Craig, do you think the fact that the Devils have (finally) advanced in the playoffs help their case to sign Zach Parise longterm? Obviously another one-and-out season would have been devastating come negotiating time.
Craig Custance (2:27 PM)
It helps but I don't think it helps as much as people might think. There are going to be a lot of factors that go into the next Parise deal and winning is just one of them. You're right though, a first-round loss to Florida would have been a deal-breaker. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
Everyone knows Semin gets lazy from time to time, What will it take to light a fire under him?
Craig Custance (2:28 PM)
I think at this point the Alexander Semin we see is the Alexander Semin we're going to get. Whoever signs him for next season has to take the shortcomings that come with all that talent.
Must pick a winner Mr. Craig. LA versus Phoenix. No dodge question. Make prediction.
Craig Custance (2:29 PM)
Oh, I'm picking LA. Just haven't decided in how many games.
Hi Craig, just wondering what your thoughts are on the Kings-Coyotes series and can you ever recall when an 8th seed was ever favored over a 3 seed? Thanks!
Craig Custance (2:31 PM)
The way the seeding works makes it a little misleading. Look at the East - I probably would have said Ottawa would be the favorite against No. 3 Florida and the Senators were an eight seed. That said, these Kings may be as good as any eight seed we've seen.
Robbie (New York)
What is your opinion on the Rick Dudley situation? He was preparing the Leafs for the draft and knows all their inner workings, and now may jump ship to the Habs. Does he have to stay till after the draft?
Craig Custance (2:33 PM)
That's a tough one Robbie. If there's an out in the contract, and in this case there was, then there's an out. I can see where Toronto was mad but I wouldn't stand in the way of Dudley advancing his career. In the long run, that's the best way to treat your employees. For the record, great hire by Montreal. Really like the direction the Canadiens are headed right now.
DonCherryParody (Coach's Corner)
YKNOW HOW MUCH IS BETT MAN GONNA SLIP EACH REFAREE TA MAKE SURE THERE ISNT A NEW JERSEYS/PHOENIX STANLEY CUP FINAL? LET'S GO! (THUMBS UP)
Craig Custance (2:33 PM)
Love it when you stop by DCP.
mikey (allentown pa)
Hey Craig,Would you feel comfortable labeling the Flyers season this year as a success? During the offseason I know alot of writers didnt think the flyers would score and they were picked to maybe make the playoffs..i know the way they went out stings but, overall, success season?
Craig Custance (2:35 PM)
I don't know Mikey. There's a lot to like. They developed some great young players but now have this huge issue to deal with in goal. On one hand, they beat Pittsburgh but on the other didn't show well in round two. Knowing the high expectations of Holmgren and Laviolette, I don't think you can call it a success.
Is this Rangers/Capitals game going to be another nail biter?
Craig Custance (2:36 PM)
I'd be stunned if it isn't. I can't wait for this game, really excited to see how it plays out.
I wanted to ask this question prior to Game 5, but why in the world would Trotz bench Radulov for game 4? He put himself in a position that either dictated Radulov would sit again (if they won) or the Coyotes would be 1 win away from ending the series...either way he might as well just said Radulov was done for the Series and ended any distraction around the topic (which would have been equally ridiculous). Trotz's decision did the opposite and dragegd out the distraction through another game. Radulov was one of their best offensive producers...that's like PIT benching Crosby at the end of the Regular Season (or Neal in the Playoffs) just because they won a game without him. I have a lot of respect for Trotz, so please convince me this wasn't a complete rookie mistake. Thanks.
Craig Custance (2:38 PM)
Jake - I have no issue with the way Trotz handled that situation. I think he was rewarding the players for their effort in rallying during a tough situation in Game 3. In the past, Trotz hasn't shown any hesitation changing things up after a win, so it's not like he was superstitious or something. Don't be mad at Trotz, be mad at the guys who blew off curfew.
A Devils/Caps Eastern Conference Final would send the NHL how far back? 10 years? 15 years? Do you think Bettman stays up at night shaking at the thought of a Coyotes/Devils final?
Craig Custance (2:41 PM)
The NHL has their huge American TV deal locked in so I don't think it would be that devastating. Might have been a different story last season. Plus, ratings were strong with a Canadian team last year and that was supposed to be a concern. But yeah, I think a Kings/Rangers final would have much more public appeal to the general sports fan.
Do people turn on Russians in the NHL faster than Western European and N. American players? Over the last two years Kovalchuk, Ovie, Radulov, Semin, and Bryzgalov have all been torn to pieces at some point for some combination of perceived lack-of-work-ethic, defensive play, aloofness and/or being a Prima donna. For example, I'm the biggest Danny Briere fan in the world,(nobody is more clutch) but his defensive play has cost the Flyers as many lazy goals as Ovie or Radulov have cost their clubs, and your don't hear near the ranting and raving about him. Doesn't this seem unjust? The NHL should be wise to keep Russian talent here and away from KHL, because money talks and Canadian talent could follow.
Craig Custance (2:44 PM)
That's a fair criticism. People are so quick to attack Russian players and they shouldn't be. You always hear the phrase enigmatic Russian, but you rarely hear about the enigmatic Canadian or enigmatic American. The league is a much better place because of players like Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Ovechkin, etc. And even though Bryz had a rough year, he's still on my short list of favorite interviews. I love talking to him. So yeah. I agree.
Where does Jagr go from here?
Craig Custance (2:46 PM)
Great question. Should be another fun July 1. He had great chemistry with Giroux and his worth ethic really impressed Flyers management. He wants to keep playing and there will be a spot for him somewhere.
What does the Flyers getting dominated say about the Penguins? I think it makes Fleury look even worse.
Craig Custance (2:47 PM)
Each series kind of takes on its own life but yeah, that doesn't look good for Pittsburgh, does it? Had the Flyers gone on to win the Cup, the Penguins could have felt a little better. I don't pin it on just Fleury though. They're going to have to address that defense.
Paul Holmgren (Hiding under his desk)
Can you please explain to my irate fan base that just because we are out of the playoffs and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are still in it does not mean those two trades were mistakes? I think a lot of those two players, but we did set our previously aging club up very well for the near future by trading them... and yes, I know the Bryz contract is a whole other issue...
Craig Custance (2:49 PM)
I think both teams make those trades again. LA GM Dean Lombardi loves Richards. Loves him. And when you look at the young talent Holmgren got in return for Richards and Carter, there's a lot to like. But there's no getting around the disaster that is the Bryzgalov contract. I wonder how much of that is on Holmgren and how much on ownership trying to get a franchise goalie though.
Gary (New Jersey)
Craig - What happen to my Blackhawks !!!Beside getting beat !
Craig Custance (2:52 PM)
I think we're starting to find out just how dysfunctional that situation is. It looks like they're taking steps to address the problems there but it'll be interesting to see if it ends with the firing of an assistant or if there's more to come. They need management and coaches all on the same page.
Do you think the Wings sign both Prasie and Weber/Suter this off season? What are the chances of Nashville going 0 for 2 on their top blue liners?
Craig Custance (2:54 PM)
I think Weber to Detroit is a huge long shot. He's restricted and if Nashville does decide to trade him, I'd be stunned if David Poile picked Detroit as the trading partner. And I'm not sure the Red Wings have the kind of package Nashville will require. But yeah, Detroit will be very aggressive in pursuing both Parise and Suter. Nashville losing helps the cause with Suter.
P.J. (Hamilton NJ)
It's funny, everyone was picking the Penguins to win the cup, but then the Flyers beat them fairly easily so it was the Flyers are the favorites. Now that the Devils have beat the Flyers, I'm seeing writers say that the Devils are the favorites (Burnside), even though not one person picked the Flyers to beat Pitt or the Devils to beat Philly. I think the Devils played great this series, but I also think that like the Penguins against the Flyers, the Flyers just played awful this series. The Flyers admitted that they didn't take the Devils seriously. Look I'm not saying that the Devils couldn't beat either the Rangers or Caps. As a Rangers fan I think they could definitely beat either team, but the one thing I do know is that no matter which team wins that series, neither one would ever think of taking the Devils lightly. Sorry this is more of a rant than a question. Just annoyed how people seem to dramatically change their opinions after 5 or 6 games. I think if you look at the teams left, there is 1 thing they all have in common, a commitment to a system, so any of them could win.
Craig Custance (2:57 PM)
PJ - You're right. It's human nature to let a lopsided series shape your opinion of the next series. But seriously, the Flyers absolutely dominated Pittsburgh. So it would have been very hard to take a stop back and say, maybe they'll underestimate New Jersey. These playoffs have been especially challenging to handicap, that's the only constant.
Matt Carle (Cleaning out his Locker)
Where do I go from here? I don't hear much interest in Philly resigning me. It seems the offensive-defenseman fad has died down a bit; neither me or Letang had a good playoffs
Craig Custance (2:59 PM)
You still need that puck mover, especially during the regular season. I think Matt Carle is going to get paid, I just don't think Philly is going to be the one doing it. Carle's future may depend on what happens to Suter.
Wouldn't the NHL be better served trying to showcase each of the teams in the playoffs in the first round to create further interest in the potential matchups down the road? The Devils have no shortage of offensive stars or compelling storylines but their first round series was totally buried and the average fan is happy to compare them to the Devils of old instead of watching Kovy, Parise and the aggressive forechecking style.
Craig Custance (3:02 PM)
I give the league credit for getting every playoff game on national television. I think that's really raised interest across the board in these playoffs. But I'm not sure you could have force fed Devils/Panthers on a national audience on Sunday afternoon on round one. Especially when you had those crazy Pens/Flyers games that became must-see. The Devils are a story that's being slowly built and now it's suddenly very compelling. You have Kovalchuk trying to win his first Cup. Parise's uncertain future. Brodeur's potential swan song. There's lots of story lines right now in NJ and they're starting to get the attention they deserve.
Craig Custance (3:03 PM)
Alright everyone, great questions as always. Really appreciate the interaction. Enjoy the game tonight!