Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Do you have a feel good story for this shorten season?
Craig Custance (1:01 PM)
Lawrence - There are so many of them. It's impossible not to feel good about the performance in goal of James Reimer in Toronto considering all he's been through the last couple years. He had to sit there and listen to speculation about trades for veterans who would take his job for the last year and all he did was go out and lead the Leafs to the playoffs. Incredible kid, very humble and enjoyable to talk to. One of my favorite feel good stories.
Do you like the new realignment for 2013-2014?
Craig Custance (1:02 PM)
I actually do. I realize with the makeup of the league's geography, it's not an easy assignment and there will be weird marriages. But I'm excited to see how it shakes out and if there are some old rivalries renewed. The best part, for me, is the home-and-home between every team in the league. That's going to be fun.
Craig, I have two questions my first one is Do you think we see Seth Jones on the Olympic roster next year? and my second question is do you think any bad blood carries over between teammates from the NHL to the Olympics? Like Crosby & Giroux for example??
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
Kyle - Great question on Seth Jones. That's a big assignment for a teenager, but if he looks at home in the NHL to start the season, they have to at least consider it, no? Jones is poised but that's a huge stage for a player his age. As for your second question, guys bury those rivalries when it comes to playing for their country. I remember doing a story in Vancouver during the 2010 games about Ryan Kesler and I believe David Backes burying the hatchet for their country. ALl that stuff goes on hold for the tournament.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions?
Craig Custance (1:06 PM)
I'm still thinking about it. Leaning West though.
Wendel Clark (Kelvington, SK)
Craig, the Leafs finally made the playoffs! If Leaf fans HAD TO CHOOSE between seeing their team win the Stanley Cup or never ever being able to watch old youtube videos of me punching guys in the face while emotional "pump-up" music plays in the background ever again....which one do you think they would sacrifice?
Craig Custance (1:06 PM)
Haha. I think they'd take the Stanley Cup. But barely.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, which playoff drought ending was more unexpected going into this year (i.e., which team is more "ahead of schedule')...Leafs in for first time since 2004? Islanders in for first time since 2007?
Craig Custance (1:08 PM)
Hey Jesse! To me, it's the Leafs. You could make a case that the Islanders were at a point in their development that they could make this growth. I honestly didn't see Toronto at the same point nor did I see them getting the goaltending they've received. I thought the only way the Leafs were making the playoffs was if they traded for Roberto Luongo.
Should I be nervous about the Det-Dal? Detroit riding a win streak and Dallas has been playing pretty bad; but it's exactly the situation where you see the 'bad' team tear off 3 or 4 quick goals and spoil the whole party.
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
Chris - Any time it comes down to the last game, you should be nervous. Like you said, the team playing without pressure can come out flying get a couple early ones and that's all she wrote. Dallas showed a lot of pride in battling after the trade deadline. That's a team that won't lay down on Saturday.
Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh, PA)
Craig, now with Crosby cleared it looks like we will have all hands on deck for the first playoff game. If so, who should I use on our top powerplay? You can't leave out Crosby or Malkin. You need Kunitz (leading GS on the team) as the net front guy. You need Letang as the puck mover. So that leaves either Iginla or Neal for the last spot. Neal led the league in PPG last year, but he is another left-hander that clogs up the right circle. Meanwhile Iginla gives us the added dimension of a bonafide right handed sniper to spread out the D and rip one-timers from the left circle (i.e., the Stamkos position). So whose ego do I possibly bruise?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Hey Dan - Glad to see you're finally asking for my advice. Seth Rorabaugh who covers the Penguins for the Post-Gazette reported today that the Penguins were practicing a PP unit consisting of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Letang and Iginla. That's ridiculous. Hard to argue against that group.
Hack Comedians (Canada)
Craig, not sure if anybody has made this joke so far, but quick can you name 10 things that did not exist the last time the Leafs made the playoffs? youtube. gmail. HDTV. twitter. iPhones. iPads. NHL Network. . Crosby and Ovechkin as household names. Anything else? Update: EVERYBODY has made this joke...including Glen Healy. Haha....that old gag...
Craig Custance (1:13 PM)
Haha - Get ready for another round of those jokes if the Red Wings miss the playoffs for the first time in over two decades.
Who do you see the Blues facing in round 1 and how do they fair?
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
There won't be an easy assignment for the Blues in the first round. Kings, Sharks both tough outs. I think St. Louis survives though. Love that team.
What are the chances Datsyuk signs an extension after next season?
Craig Custance (1:16 PM)
I know there are a lot of people nervous that Pavel will return to Russia after next year. We'll have a pretty good idea how this will play out this summer. Red Wings will talk to him after the season and can sign an extension in July. I still think it'll happen but if there's not a deal done by the start of the season, Red Wings fans should start getting really nervous.
What do you expect from the Caps during the playoffs? Among the four teams they still could play, which is the best match-up and which is the worst for them?
Craig Custance (1:18 PM)
People I've spoken with really like the Capitals. Playing well, Ovechkin is engaged and they have depth plus experience. I think the Islanders would be the worst draw. The best draw, to me, would be the Leafs although that's a longshot.
Jamie (Raleigh, NC)
The two hottest teams in the East have to be Pittsburgh and Washington - with the late season resurgence of Alex Ovechkin, what would it mean to the league to see those two teams in the ECF?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Nothing moves the needle in the States among casual sports fans like a Penguins/Capitals series. It'd be huge for the exposure of the playoffs in the states. I know hockey fans get tired of hearing about Crosby and Ovechkin but the reality is those two really resonate with the casual fans. They tune in to that series.
Do you think that Ryan suter has a chance to win the Norris?
Craig Custance (1:20 PM)
Yes. In fact, I think he wins it. Unless the Wild miss the playoffs, then all bets are off.
Judeman5000, CPA (Bakersfield, CA)
Are you pulling for the Blue Jackets to make the playoffs?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Hey Judeman - It'd be a great story and that's what we like as journalists. Great stories. I wouldn't say I'm pulling for them, because that's really not how it works from our end. But it would be a heck of an accomplishment.
dan (columbus, ohio)
craig, first, thanks for your great coverage of the NHL. Second, being a lifelong hockey fan from Ohio (growing up on Bobby Orr and the Bruins) it is finally great to have an electric atmosphere here with the Blue Jackets. Tomorrow night will be huge here trying to get into the playoffs. My question is this community has seemed to bond with this team over its hard working personality every night and with John Davidson here, there seems to be a growing respect for Columbus around the league. Is that your take on it and is this feeling going on around the league. Thanks.
Craig Custance (1:24 PM)
Dan - Talk to any player who has played in Columbus and they'll tell you that it has the potential to be an incredible hockey market. Guys really like playing there and if they start winning it could be a great hockey city. It really started with the hiring of JD. He's a great hockey man and has the respect of hockey people across the league. ANd then he absolutely nailed the Kekalainen hire. The book was out on Todd Richards but he's earned the respect of everyone with how hard he has that team playing on a nightly basis. It's been a complete culture change in Columbus and JD deserves a lot of credit for that.
If the Pens are not healthy going into the playoffs can they be upset in the 1st round?
Craig Custance (1:26 PM)
Chris - In today's NHL, no team is safe in any round. Look at what happened to Pittsburgh last year. Let's say they get the Islanders - even at full strength, I think the Islanders push the Penguins in that series. Great skating, fast team that jumps on its chances. Nobody is unbeatable.
I see the final four as the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings. Or, if the pairings don't make that possible, maybe the Blues and Islanders. Thoughts?
Craig Custance (1:27 PM)
Really hard to argue that foursome Rudy. Darkhorses to think about on each side would be Washington and San Jose. Just spoke with a coach yesterday who said not to sleep on the Sharks. It'll come down to matchups.
Jamie (Raleigh, NC)
John Taveres and Alex Ovechkin have to be the odds-on favorites for the Hart trophy, don't they? Are either of those teams in the playoffs without them? Can't say that about Crosby, Kane or Toews.
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
Jamie - If Columbus makes the playoffs, I think I'm voting for Bobrovsky. If they don't, it's wide open. Case to be made for Tavares, Toews, Ovechkin and I still haven't ruled out Crosby. It's going to be such a tough call.
Do you see the wings upsetting the Hawks, if they make the playoffs? 3 out of the 4 games went to OT or SO and the Wings are scoring in bunches right now
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
Jeff - Saw Detroit beat the Kings the other night and they looked really good. Nyquist is playing well. Franzen is engaged. Howard is playing well. I certainly don't think they'd be intimidated by the Blackhawks and would give them a better shot than, say Columbus. I'd still pick Chicago though. But it might go six or seven.
Erik Karlsson (Kanata)
Should I just change my name to Superman? I mean two assists and 27:11 TOI in my first game back
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
Follow up to Jess, should Brodin be getting more love for the Caulder?
Craig Custance (1:31 PM)
Patrick - If you were on our hockey writers chat on Wednesday, we gave Brodin a lot of love. In fact, I'm leaning in his direction for my Calder vote. What he's done at his age has been remarkable and like Suter may hinge on whether or not the Wild make the playoffs. The problem is, so many of the voters in the East haven't had a chance to see him and his numbers don't pop.
If Greg Sherman is let go, who likely replaces him? Maybe Sakic with Roy as coach? Or any chance they go with experience like Burke as GM and Ruff to coach?
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
Bill - I think Brian Burke will be a GM in the league next year if he wants. Can you imagine if he ends up in Buffalo? The name that keeps coming up regarding Colorado is Joe Sakic, assuming that's something he wants to do full time. Wouldn't be surprised at all if his role in the organization expanded at some point.
Montreal and Boston look prime for an upset in the first round. Who do you think has the best chance to turn it around?
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
I like Boston's chances a lot better than Montreal in the first round. Much better.
Hey Craig, if Detroit wins tomorrow in Dallas and gets into the playoffs they way they're playing right now, do you think they have a chance to surprise some people they way the Kings did last year? It seems like everything has finally been coming together for them the last few games if they're able to keep it up.
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
Tod - I don't. That team isn't comparable to the Kings. The Kings were poised to make a Cup run, they were at that point in their development. The REd Wings are not. Anything can happen, but Detroit isn't a team I consider a serious Cup contender.
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh, PA)
Craig, let me add some perspective to the Hart Trophy debate. Right now I am third in the league with 56 points, behind St. Louis (58) and Stamkos (56). I only played 36 games. If I had played all 48 at that pace, I would have 75 points. Guess where St. Louis and Stamkos would be....still at 58 and 56! Would anybody have denied me the Hart if I had won the scoring title by 20 points AND my team ran away with the East. They didn't do that to Mario in 1993 when he missed 22 games and the Pens were still a juggernaut.
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
Hey Sid. Welcome aboard. If you had played all 48 games we wouldn't be having this debate. Unfortunately you didn't. I hear what you're saying but you can't discount the games lost to injury.
Dave (Rutherford, NJ)
Craig, if we had a traditional length season, do you think the Devils and Flyers would have made the playoffs? Both of them have had some injury issues, but when healthy they have been fairly tough.
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
Dave - Great question. I was just having this discussion with somebody. I'm not sold on New Jersey in that scenario but definitely Philly. If the Flyers were reasonably healthy, I think they find a way in during an 82-game season.
Everyone always says "don't sleep on the Sharks" when we really should be given their underachieving in the playoffs. Why is this year different?
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
Right, I hear ya Tom. But they're a faster team this year than last year, playing a different style and their PK is much improved. Niemi has been good too. Nobody is talking about them and they have the talent to play with anybody. Couture so underrated.
Louie (Tampa, FL)
Craig, I'm gonna cut right to the chase - do the Rangers have a Cup run in them?
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
I'll cut right to the chase. Nope.
Chaz (East Lansing)
Craig, Greetings from you old stomping grounds at MSU! how do you see the the final 2 spots in the west play out? does Detroit keep the streak alive a 22 years? or will the Wild validate the big off-season signings (barely)? Do the Blue Jackets surprise everyone as they have all year? I think the Wings and Jackets lay claim to the final spots. Keep up the great work fellow Spartan! also Hoping Adrien Payne stays one more year!
Craig Custance (1:43 PM)
Hey Chaz - If I had to bet, I'm picking Detroit and Minnesota. Wild have two games left including a very winnable game tonight. Detroit is playing great and should be able to beat the Stars. But my confidence level isn't really that high. Columbus might just be a team of destiny. Now go grab a pop outside at the Peanut Barrel. Perfect day for it.
Anthony (The land of 10,000 lakes)
Who is your favorite to win this years Calder Trophy?
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
I'm leaning towards voting for Jonas Brodin but I wouldn't consider him the favorite. It's a wide open race and Huberdeau, Gallagher and Saad will all get votes. It'll be interesting to see who wins.
Hi Craig,So who are your picks for the ECF and WCF? Any upset predictions?
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
Sarah - I know it sounds like a cop out but I want to see the matchups before making picks. You know how it goes though, there are going to be some upsets.
Is Logan Couture a lock for Team Canada in Sochi?
Craig Custance (1:47 PM)
That team is so loaded up front Mike that I think the number of absolute locks are very small. Couture is a great player but he'll have to play his way on that team. They're just so deep.
As a Rangers fan, I'm rooting for anyone but Montreal in the first round. They just don't play well in Montreal. Who is their best first round opponent? I think it might be Boston.
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
ASN - I know what you're saying about the Rangers in MTL but that would still be my pick. I know Boston hasn't been playing lights out lately but neither has Montreal. I'd rather face Montreal than Boston for sure.
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay)
Am I the next Chris Chelios? Think I can make it to 50?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
Haha - not sure anyone is as crazy as Chelios when it comes to extending a career. He'd lace them up right now if someone offered a contract.
Tim (Reading, PA)
Craig: any chance the Flyers and Preds get together on a trade this summer, with Shea Weber finally going to PHI and a package of Couturier, Read and someone else going to NASH?
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Tim - That's an interesting thought. The problem is that the Predators have to pay him that huge bonus this summer, so it would be really tough to trade him after cutting that check. I think this potentially could be an interesting off-season for David Poile and the Predators.
Ottawa Senators (Ottawa)
No Calder love for us? We have 4 rookies in the top 10 of scoring
Craig Custance (1:52 PM)
I would say, of those guys, Conacher has the best shot. Great season for him.
Chaz (East Lansing)
Already at the Barrel, having a "pop" in your honor.
Craig Custance (1:52 PM)
Atta boy Chaz.
What do you think Tim Thomas is doing right now?
Craig Custance (1:54 PM)
This is the time of year I really miss Tim Thomas. Great competitor and great person. I hope, wherever he is, he's enjoying the time with his family and maybe deep down considering one more kick at the can.
Paul Holmgren (Voorhees, NJ)
Craig, should I use the Flyers' 2 amnesties on Bryz and Briere this summer, or should I bring back Bryz one more year, and see whether he can play better in front of an improved (or, at least, healthy) D?
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Hey Paul - Since you asked, here's what you should do. Use one compliance buyout on Danny Briere this summer. Give it a season to see how Bryz looks and leave that option for next summer. At that point you'll have a better idea of what the future salary cap will look like too.
foamyjess [via mobile]
Hey! You think it might be possible to make it through a chat without talkin about the location of the phoenix franchise for next year?
Craig is the NHL waiting to see what happens with the NBA team in Seattle to make a decision on the Coyotes or is still gonna be the same joke for another year??
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Sorry, foamyjess. Sounds like there's legitimate interest in Phoenix but I do think the NHL likes Seattle as a destination and is watching the NBA situation very closely.
HockeyDon (New Britain, CT)
Points points points points point! That's what everyone talks about so often whenever the Hart Trophy is mentioned. Why do people really think of the Hart as simply the Art Ross trophy part 2? As a Red Wings fan, it pains me to agree with you about Bobrovsky, and that should probably still be the case WHEN the CBJ don't make it. After all, nowhere in the definition of the Hart Trophy is there a "must qualify for the playoffs" phrase.
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
HockeyDon - I disagree that Bob deserves it if they don't make the playoffs. The Hart goes to the guy most valuable to his team. If they don't make the playoffs, CBJ is a non-playoff team with or without Bob. Hard to make him the league's most valuable player then. You know what I'm saying? Part of being valuable is doing on a team that's considered successful. Even if they overachieve it's hard to call a non-playoff team a success.
Everybody has been talking about teams like the Hawks, the Ducks, the Kings, and the Blues possible winning the West and not much people are talking about the Canucks having a chance. But the way that they have been playing lately and how they dominated over the Hawks a couple of days ago, do you see them in the conference final?
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
I like the Canucks. ALthough I was just talking to a player who thought their 3rd and 4th lines were too easy to play against to be a true Stanley Cup contender but I definitely put them in a group that can win it all. It's really wide open in the West.
Ed Snider (Philadelphia, PA)
Craig, let's get this straight. So you are telling me the goalie we traded away is now the best goalie in the league and his new team might make the playoffs? And the goalie we kept stinks and we missed the playoffs? And we have him for another 7 years? That can't be right......
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
On that note, we'll wrap it up. Thanks for stopping by everybody! Enjoy the playoffs!