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 1 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (1:01 PM)
Hey everyone! Beautiful Tuesday afternoon in Detroit, just got back from chatting with Avalanche who about to hit a huge stretch in their schedule. Let's dive right into the chat!
Dara (Boca Raton, Fl)
So the Florida Panthers can't catch a break. No Weiss, Theodore, Versteeg, Bergenheim, Jovo, Kulikov, Weaver or Upshall...no wonder they can't win this season. Guess its time to see what some of the kids Tallon drafted are like. SO NOT FAIR
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Dara - I feel for Florida fans right now. They've been crushed by some bad luck this season. On the bright side, this draft is loaded and they're going to get a really good player. I think it's still a little early to judge all the young talent Tallon is collecting but if they get another franchise guy in the draft this year, the Panthers will be set. That's the silver lining.
Mike (Ithaca, NY)
If Cam Ward misses the remainder of the regular season, who wins the SouthLeast Division? Any chance of more than one team from the division making the playoffs?
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
Amazing considering their starts that the Caps are just two points behind Tampa Bay right now. I still wouldn't rule out TB straightening things out. they've had trouble beating the top teams but stack up well against their division counterparts. Even without Cam Ward, I count Carolina as the favorite. Dan Ellis is an experienced backup. But no, I don't see two Southeast teams getting in.
John (Tampa, FL)
On the proprosed realignment for Florida and Tampa being with the Canadian teams to supposedly draw better crowds because of all the transplants who live down here being a good thing, I disagree wholeheartedly with this notion. Tampa, the Lightning, Mr. Vinik and everyone involved with the Lightning have tried to establish the team with roots and have done so. 20 years they have been here, the kids who grew up watching the lightning are just now becoming the fans who start to purchase tickets. The last thing the Lightning need is a bunch a transplants who live here year round and enjoy the place I was born in but continue to boo the home team. They can all go back from where they came as far as I am concerned. You live here now in Tampa... root for the Lightning. My rant is over, I hope you post this to see the reaction. Thanks, keep up the good work.
Craig Custance (1:06 PM)
John - I think that theory holds more for the Panthers than it does the Lightning. Lightning fanbase is definitely more established. Winning a Cup will do that. I think of the two franchises TB would be more upset with the planned realignment than Florida.
Lonzo (MN, MN)
With having one if not most stocked prospect pools in the NHL are the Wild involved in any trade talks? A big crease clearing D-man is needed here in MN. It is rumored Seto & Bouchard are possbile trade candidates.
Craig Custance (1:07 PM)
Lonzo - Wild are loaded with talent and at some point Chuck Fletcher will have to decide if he wants to move some of it in order to compete now. But I don't think there are many teams ready right now to have conversations about prospects for NHL players. There hasn't been enough separation in the standings yet for that. Those talks will happen closer to the deadline.
Hi, Craig. Can you please tell Mike Babcock how ridiculous it is to keep Abdelkader and Cleary with Datsyuk? Most creative player in the game has been shackled. Free him!
Craig Custance (1:08 PM)
I'll let him know, thanks Keith!
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, what is your top "What If" question for recent NHL history? By that I mean what if something that easily could have happened did happen, how would the hockey world have turned out differently. As a Penguins fan, the easy answer here would be what if the Penguins had won the Ovechkin lottery (and thus not gotten Malkin and Crosby). But for me, a much more underrated example is what if the Pens had drafted Jonathan Toews in 2006 instead of Jordan Staal? You could argue that would have altered the Cup victories in 2009 (when Staal was the Pens best player in the Fnials) and in 2010 (when Toews won the Conn Smythe for the Hawks). But now in 2013 the Pens would have arguably the three best centers in the entire league if they had kept them all. Hard to picture.
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Hey Jesse - I love What If? scenarios. I'm trying to think of one off the top of my head. Hmmm.. What about Phil Kessel? What if the Predators sign him to an offer sheet instead of Boston trading him to Toronto like was rumored? Maybe Boston doesn't have Seguin and Hamilton and the Leafs do instead. When I covered the Thrashers there were rumors that Boston and Atlanta had trade discussions that involved Kessel and Marian Hossa. What if that happened and Hossa doesn't go to Pittsburgh, Detroit and CHicago? Might have chanced the outcomes of a lot of franchises. ANd the O'Reilly waiver what if is a great one too.
bob nj [via mobile]
hi craig do u see the rangers trading m gaborik and what could they get back?
Craig Custance (1:13 PM)
Bob - Seems like a longshot, although Bruce Garrioch floated the idea in his column this weekend. Have to imagine they'd be targeting a defenseman who can help on the power play in any Gaborik deal but that's a big player for them to move right now.
Was 5 games for Kaleta about what you expected?
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
Not enough, with his history in my opinion. But Shanahan has the toughest job in the game and every decision is well thought out. It's harder than people realize.
Going into the season i knew it would take the Wild a little bit of time to get going because half there team was new. For awhile they were always calling people up and shifting lines, they couldnt score, they were playing sloppy and just looked bad. But in the last 10 or so games they have been improving every night. It seems they have finaly found the right line combos, and they are now scoring. With everything coming together will the Wild keep climbing the standings? I think there capable of winning there division and going far into the playoffs. What do you think?
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
Andrew - They definitely look better lately. I'm going to stick with my original thought on the Wild. They are a bubble playoff team right now and their best chance at contention comes next year and the year after when some of that young talent matures. Not sure this team is ripe for a long playoff run just yet.
More of a theoretical question, but do you think any of the players in the NHL today being among the greatest players of all time (top 10 or 20) once their careers end?
Craig Custance (1:18 PM)
Andrew - Without a doubt. The talent level we're watching now is incredible. I think it's a great time to be a hockey fan and some of the players we're seeing like Brodeur, Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos, Datsyuk, Weber, etc. will go down as some of the all-time best.
Are the Kings starting to sneak up on teams again? Very little fanfare for the defending champs winning 8 of 10.
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
They're only going to get better too as the games get tighter and the playoffs close in. That's a heavy, fast team build for the postseason.
What do you think about the lineup the Bruins currently have? Strong enough to make another run at the Cup? Which players do you think have been performing best for the team so far? It's rumored that Chiarelli may be looking for an impact player, what are your thoughts on this, and who do you think would be a good fit in Boston?
Craig Custance (1:21 PM)
Ariana - Just spent six days in Boston to see the Bruins. Very impressive group. They have everything you like - strong defensively, tons of forward depth, strong goaltending, experienced roster. I'd elevate them to the Eastern Conference favorite right now. And yes, I believe Chiarelli is looking to add an impact player if they can. Especially at forward. As far as individual performances go, Seguin is heating up and I was really impressed with Brad Marchand. Great hands, really has a knack for scoring goalies.
Lonny (Blaine, Mn)
With so many struggling franchise why would the NHL expand. I know money from the new franchises but wont that just cause more headaches with future collective barganing sessions?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Lonny - It's simple. Money. Both sides gain a lot with expansion and I think we'll have two more teams by the time they're negotiating another CBA in 8-10 years. Not sure if it causes more headaches, just more money to split up.
Keith (North Illinois Suburbs)
Blackhawk streak is obviously fun right now, but in the long run what does this portend for the playoffs? Flame out or long run?
Craig Custance (1:23 PM)
Keith - It just shows you the ceiling of this team, and that's a fast, dominant Stanley Cup winning team. To me, it's simple. If they can remain healthy, they'll be a Cup contender. But there's still a lot of season left.
I'm a die hard Rangers fan, and I'm a little concerned with their inconsistent play this season. Do you think they'll make the playoffs and still consider them a contender?
Craig Custance (1:25 PM)
Gary - Yes and yes. Tampa got a good look at how this team can play when they' get the necessary pieces back in the lineup. The only way they don't make the playoffs is if too many guys get hurt.
Hi Craig,First, thanks for doing these chats. ESPN needs all the hockey coverage they can get and these chats are fun. Ok, with the trade deadline being so late this year, when do you think we'll see start seeing movement? Also, who are the big names, if any, on the market? Does Iggy move? PS, Malkin's goal was some sweet sauce last night. Thank you.
Craig Custance (1:26 PM)
Kylebob - Love doing these chats. Fun to interact with fellow fans of the game. I believe Jarome Iginla will get traded, but that's up to him. He's the biggest name out there. I think Ottawa will stay in the playoff hunt, that team has a ton of character and great leadership so that means no Alfredsson trade. But boy, teams would love a crack at him. And yes, Malkin goal was unreal.
Sal (NY, NY)
Do I have a legit argument with my Pittsburgh buddy that Steven Stamkos is a better player right now the Crosby and Malkin? I say that because Crosby and Malkin have each other as well as Neal and a good supporting cast. Stamkos has an aged St Louis, and aged Lecavilier, and only a decent Purcell. What do you think?
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
Oh man, that's a tough call. I would disagree with slighting Marty St. Louis though. He may be aged but he's as good as he's ever been. Great player, great leader. It's not like Stamkos is on an island in TB.
Do the players get Oates system now and is it too late for the Caps to turn it around? How much are they missing Laich?
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
They players I spoke with at the start of the season all said that it takes a good 20 games to get comfortable in a new system. They're exactly at 20 games and it looks to me like they're much improved over the start of the year. I think that improvement will continue but my suspicion is that they dug too big a hole to make the playoffs. They'll be really good next year.
Will the Hawks be players at the trade deadline? I know things are going as good as they can be right now, but they are under the salary cap and I would love to see them load up for the playoffs with someone like Jerome Iginla?
Craig Custance (1:32 PM)
Eric - Stan Bowman said he has a very specific list of needs and wants and he's already let his fellow GMs know who they are. When we spoke, it sounded like he wouldn't stray to far from that list. In other words, he won't make a move just to make a move. I'd be very surprised if they're in the mix for Iginla.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Here's a "what if." What if the Bruins and Maple Leafs didn't botch the first Kessel trade and it was Kessel for Kaberle, instead of Kessel for Seguin/Hamilton?
Craig Custance (1:32 PM)
Another good one. Seems like we can build a bunch of what ifs just around Kessel.
Craig, we need a Book of Hockey like Bill Simmons did for Basketball. Get on it! In all seriousness, who would be best to write something like that which goes through the history of the game as well as ranking the top players and teams ever?
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
That book is awesome. I would totally read it, but I'm not who I would pick to write it. I'd want someone a little older who saw some of the greats from other generations in person. My candidate would be Roy MacGregor from the Globe and Mail. Extremely passionate about the game, great writer with great perspective of history. I'm a huge fan of his work.
Craig, shhhh don't saying anything but the Blackhawks are on a little streak I don't know that anyone knows about. Shhhh don't jinx OH WELL THAT'S OVER...outcome for tonight's game between MIN/CHI?
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
I'm done picking the Blackhawks to lose. It hasn't worked out for me. So Chicago 4, Minnesota 3.
Lonny (Blaine, Mn)
What if Quebec does not move to Colorado. Patrick Roy does not go to the Avalance. Where do you think he would have ended up?
Craig Custance (1:38 PM)
Another great what-if. What if he doesn't get lit up by Detroit and he stays in Montreal?
With recent comparisons to Sidney Crosby, how good is Connor McDavid going to be when he is selected #1 overall in a couple of years?
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
Danimal - Everybody I respect in the game who has seen him play absolutely raves about him. I've only seen him once live and couldn't believe i was looking at a 16 year old kid. His hockey sense is unbelievable. I think he has the potential to have the kind of immediate impact in the game that Crosby had.
Sean (Orange County, Ca.)
What with the Ducks goaltending situation? Do you alternate between Hiller and Fasth? Who do you think is the stronger goaltender at this point in the season. Seems to be a hot topic amongst Ducks fans.
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
Good problem to have, eh? I think you alternate for now, but as the playoffs get closer, you hope one gets hot and seizes the job. We saw with St. Louis last year that, come playoff time, you may need them both.
What do you think about Claude's recent comments about Montreal? Seems like sour grapes to this Bruins fan and probably wouldn't have said anything if the Bruins won. Any news of him possibly being fined for his comments?
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
Mike - I was standing there at the press conference listening and couldn't believe how pointed his comments were. But they appeared to be very deliberate, planting the seed for next time these two teams played. Haven't heard anything regarding a possible fine but wouldn't shock me at all.
Hey, if you want to give credit to the best player in the league who is playing on both a figurative and literal island, Taveras is the best around. With how inconsistent the Isles have been, do you think Capuano can lead this team to the playoffs? It doesn't seem like he has a system sometimes, and there is undeniable talent on the Isles.
Craig Custance (1:44 PM)
Joe - Haha, great point on Tavares. Legit superstar. And yes, on an island. I still don't think that's a playoff team. Not sure I pin it on Capuano, there's lots of blame to go around. That team needs more veteran presence to take that next step.
John (Santa Monica)
Has Kopitar played his way into the discussion of best players in the NHL? I watch a lot of hockey and there are only a handful of guys with the two way game that Kopi has. He's got so much skill offensively and he's really a great defendsive forward when you watch him carefully.
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
John - Yeah, Kopitar is in the conversation for exactly that reason. Great two-way player. A real threat to score anytime on the PK as well as at even strength and the PP. I think the hockey world got a great view of just how complete a player he is during the playoffs last year. That's the kind of guy you win with.
What do you think of Alexander Semin's performance so far? Good pick up for Carolina and will they get him to sign a long term deal?
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
Keith - Great pick-up for Carolina but in checking in on that situation recently I got the sense that they're going to wait until after the season to have any discussions regarding a long-term deal for Semin.
Are the Avs playing suck-for-Jones? Or with the new lottery rules do they have no shot at getting #1 overall no matter the record (draft lotteries are easily among the shadiest things in sports).
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Huge stretch of games coming up for the Avalanche. They got O'Reilly back and should be getting EJ back soon. Those are two big pieces, and they managed to tread water without them. We'll know by this time next week whether or not this is a playoff team or not.
Jim (Chi- town (snow city today))
Love the what ifs.. Gretzky almost going from the Ice to Chicago... etc. Anyway. The overlooked part of the Hawks run is their dominant depth and defense. 13 DIFFERENT players with GW goals and leading the league in GAA and Takeaways. Defense is consistent whereas offense is streaky. Anyone capable of knocking them off for the cup?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
As good as Chicago is, there are still teams capable of beating them in the postseason. In the West, Kings and Canucks are two I think would give Chicago all they could handle in a 7-game series. And man, a Boston/Chicago SCF would be incredible. But you're right, their improved PK and depth on defense is a big reason for their success.
If you could take one player in NHL history for one season in their prime, who would you pick?
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
I try not to out-think myself on questions like this. Gretzky.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Here's an older what if: what if the Yzerman to Ottawa trade had gone through? On a more current note, do you think the Red Wings are going to be able to make the playoffs? With the injuries to Filpullua and Helm they are short some offensive firepower and I just don't know if they can score enough to win.
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
What if the Avalanche don't match Joe Sakic offer sheet from New York? I could do this all day.GBK - Don't underestimate the coaching job Mike Babcock is doing right now. He's had to change the way they play, but that group is grinding right now. Getting Helm back in the lineup will be huge for them.
Eric (Chicago) [via mobile]
What if Chicago kept Hasek instead of Belfour? What if the Blackhawks didn't lose to #8 seed North Stars? We're talking about franchise changers here.
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Eric - Now you've introduced a whole new wrinkle into the what-if scenario.
How good would it be for the NHL to have all of the original 6 in the playoffs??
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
To me, it's the same as the traditional powers in college football. Just like I think football benefits with USC, Alabama and Notre Dame being good, I think the NHL is better off when the Original Six are all competitive. That seems to really resonate with the casual sports fans, in the states especially.
From speaking with the Avs, did you get any feel for whether or not Sacco has completely lost these guys?
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
Didn't get a great sense of that. Will be watching them live tonight for the first time, will get a better feel for that. Two games against the Blackhawks this week will really be telling in that regard too.
Mike (Mission Viejo, CA)
What do the Kings do with their goaltending situation? Quick is one of the top goalies in the league but he is being outplayed by Bernier right now.
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
That's the best scenario for the Kings. Bernier proves he's the player we think he is and boosts his trade value. Quick is still your franchise goalie but now teams have a better idea of what Bernier can do.
Wit (Illinois )
What do the blues need to do to put some distance between them and other teams in the standings. Do they trade for a big shutdown df or go for more offense
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Doug Armstrong's focus is on upgrading the D. That's the right move.
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
Alright everyone, great questions as always. If I missed you, hit me up on Twitter or in the mailbag. http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/mailbag/_/id/40243/craig-custanceHave a great week!
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