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 (1:00 PM)
Hey everyone! Great to be back talking hockey and taking your questions. Let's jump right in.
Bill (Pasadena, CA)
HI Craig, What do you make of Ben Scrivens back to back shutouts? Is he really this good, or is it more of the defensive system the Kings play? And any time frame on Carter's return for the Kings? Thanks!!
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
It's great to see for Ben. Fantastic guy to deal with from a media perspective, as smart as they come. I don't think you can ever write off a strong performance simply based on system, we've seen guys plug into good defensive systems that struggled. But that said, it certainly helps. Performance in goal often reflects the team play in front of the goalie and Scrivens is in a good place in LA. Based on his career numbers in the AHL and NHL, there were some who believed that the dropoff between Bernier and Scrivens wasn't as dramatic as you'd think. In 20 games, Scrivens was at .915 which isn't bad at all. Obviously he won't keep playing at a .955 clip but he's more than capable of keeping things going while Quick recovers.
Hey,With Harding playing great, is he on the radar for team Canada?
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
Mike - He may be on the radar but a team like Canada is also going to take body of work into the equation. Mike Babcock was talking about it this morning in reference to Jimmy Howard and USA. The guy's past resume counts and when you compare Harding's body of work to a guy like Luongo who he would be competing against, you still have to go with the experience. Harding has been great, but I still would put him at a longshot to make Team Canada. Price, Smith and Luongo are going to be tough to unseat.
If the Florida Panthers were to relocate, where should they go?
Craig Custance (1:07 PM)
Wow Mike, the ink is still drying on the Coyotes deal and we're talking relocation again? I haven't gotten any indication that the Panthers are going anywhere. There are similarities between Phoenix and Florida in that the arena is located poorly. That doesn't help the Panthers cause. I think expansion would probably come before relocation, with Seattle the heavy favorite.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, can you give your unbiased opinion on the recent play of Evgeni Malkin? Pens fans and media have been piling on him for his career-high goal drought and for staying too much on the perimeter. But guy does have 10 assists in his last 8 games (higher scoring pace than Crosby over that span)...and it seems like every goal the Pens have scored lately (and there have not been many) has resulted from a slick Geno pass for a tap-in on the other end. Yes Geno is not dominating with hat tricks and 4-point nights like we have seen in the past, but the bigger issue might be that the Pens entire offense has gone South. One radio host yesterday said that based on offensive performaces you could throw all 12 forwards in a burlap sack, hit it with a baseball bat, and whoever got injured would deserve it. Kind of crass...but makes sense.
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
Haha, really, it makes sense? Beating forwards in a burlap sack? My unbiased opinion is that Evgeni Malkin is one of the best players in the world, his points will come and the Penguins are perennially one of the two best teams in the East because they have two all-world centers. Not concerned at all with Malkin. I wouldn't put him in a burlap sack and hit him with a baseball bat.
In the LWS (life without Stamkos) for the Lightning, besides goaltending what do you think is the most important thing they need to do in order to stay in the playoff hunt? If they stay in the hunt then personally I think Stammer will be back in March to help with the final push.
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
John - THere are lots of Canadians hoping he's back before March. STeve Yzerman has to be careful here, because this is his franchise player. Stamkos is going to play in lots of Olympics, you'd hate to see him rushed for this one. And I'm not just saying that because, as an American, I don't want to face him. Jon Cooper has this team focused as a unit defensively, that's been a big reason for their success. That can't change because of the injury. Hockey is a funny sport, teams can survive without their best player for stretches. They just need to tread water for awhile here.
Terry Pegula (Buffalo, NY)
Craig, how much of my recent re-hirings of Ted Nolan and Pat *Rick Jeanerret voice* LA-LA-LA-LA-LAFONTAINE do you think has to do with just giving the fans something to latch on to as we continue down the road of tankapalooza in advance of the Connor McDavid draft lottery (which by the way is the right move)? LaFontaine might not have much management experience, but neither did Cam Neely and the Bruins fans love the sight of him doing fist pumps in the booth after big goals...even though nobody knows what he really does for the organization. And while we are at it, do you think I should bring back Dominik Hasek as goaltending coach and the trio of Ray/May/Barnaby as suspension advisors (god knows we need that).
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
Hello Terry, thanks for jumping in. At first, I was puzzled by the Regier firing. To me, if you were going to do that, do it after last season. Plus, his ability to maximize the value of the veterans he's dumping has been outstanding. You'll look back at some of those trades he made as key to the rebuild. But I think the fans deserved a fresh start. Even with the good trades, there was too many bad connections to the mediocrity of the past. The GM hire is huge for LaFontaine. There are some good, qualified people out there and let's hope he hires someone because of their qualifications and not their name.
Brian Gibbons (Pittsburgh, PA)
Craig, did you see my NHL debut last night versus the Ducks? First game, first shot, first goal. That was easy. Somebody else in Pittsburgh once did that too.....
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
Unsustainable! (but congrats, love that)
I am a foreign exchange student living in Sarasota FL this year, I love the Tre Kronor. NHL Hockey is so great. I have seen Tampa vs Chicago and Edmonton, I now love the arena and smaller rink more then my swedish league rinks much more physical game. The Canada and US players are built for the smaller rink they are so big and strong so how do you see them competing in the Olympics this year on larger rink? By the way they are settling for silver to the Tre Kronor!!!
Craig Custance (1:18 PM)
Bjorn - Welcome to the States, hope you're enjoying it. I'm a fan of the North American game, although I think the Olympics will be fun to see guys adjust. The big ice is a huge advantage for the European teams, so that's why I'm inclined to pick a team like Russians, Sweden or Finland to win gold.
Fenwick McCorsi (MIT Lab)
Craig, the aforementioned Brian Gibbons of the Penguins has one goal on one career shot, for a career shooting percentage of 100% Based on my calculations, he is the greatest player of all time. Or he is the worst player of all time but just has exceptionally good luck. I can't tell.
Craig Custance (1:18 PM)
Haha. It's early.
Nathan Loves the Blues (St. Louis)
Hello Craig. Could tonight's game against the Blues be a tryout for Ryan Miller coming to St. Louis if Halak continues to struggle? It seems the ship has sailed for Miller to St. Louis.
Craig Custance (1:20 PM)
Nathan - I tell you what, Doug Armstrong isn't afraid to make the bold move. I'm with you, if I had to list a favorite in the Ryan Miller sweepstakes, I'd put it at St. Louis. This is a team right in the middle of their Cup window. They have contract flexibility after this season with their goalies pending UFAs. You just don't want to overpay if you're Armstrong because the goalie market it's a strong one. Plus, you can't get in the habit of sending your No. 1 pick away every year, even though you're trying to win a Cup. But boy, Miller would be great for the Blues.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, the burlap sack analogy was meant to show that the Pens offensive woes are everyone's fault, not just one guy. Obviously nobody is puting anybody in burlap sack...unless of course Ed Snider turns over control of the Flyers to the Philly fans.
Craig Custance (1:21 PM)
Haha, okay, thanks for explaining Jesse.
and to answer the question of the Panthers relocating...they have a lease with the arena till the year 2028 and would cost about 300 million to get out of it. The panthers aren't going anywhere
Craig Custance (1:21 PM)
Hey, can somebody tell me how Bobrovsky and his huge cap hit are doing for Columbus this year? Seems like the Flyers got Mason and Stolarz, along with a lot of cap space for a guy who was hot for 2 months of his career and the rest of the time is a near 3.00 GAA goalie.
Craig Custance (1:23 PM)
I give Jarmo Kekalainen credit though Matt. He could have been tempted to give Bob a huge contract after winning the Vezina but managed to keep that to a two-year deal. That may end up looking very wise, although I'd still prefer Bobrovsky over Mason long-term, despite the difference in performance this year.
Marc (Malden, MA)
If Canada was allowed to send 2 teams to the Olympics, could they win Gold and Silver (I'm guessing only the goaltending is an issue)? Would you have Team B be the guys who didn't make Team A or would you make them more even? For example, would a healthy Stamkos be Team A winger or Team B center? Would Bergeron be Team A 4th center or Team B 1st/2nd center?
Craig Custance (1:26 PM)
I love these debates Marc. First of all, in this fictitious scenario, I still don't think Steve Yzerman would weaken Team A to help Team B. So if he thinks healthy Stamkos helps Team A win gold, he's putting him on Team A. Bergeron too. And you'd still put your three best goalies on Team A, so you're talking Harding, Fleury and Crawford as your Team B goalies. Not bad, but not great. And if they played for a gold medal, which team would Canadians root for?
I think getting Nash back is what the Rangers need, but they could use another offensive threat. Do you think they'll be any big offensive players available (Giroux) for Del Zotto and others?
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
I think some Rangers fans tend to overvalue MDZ's trade value. Teams around the league know his liabilities and a deal built around him doesn't fetch a top end forward. Certainly not Giroux, who the Flyers would be crazy to trade. I'd like to see what they look like with Rick Nash back in the lineup for an extended period, that may be enough.
Kid A (LA)
As of today with most teams at or past the quarter pole no team in the East would qualify for the playoffs in the West...but the East will still get all the MVP noms and 2/3rds of the other award noms, right? What a crock that was last year.
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
The East is more of a conference built around stars which tends to show up at awards voting. The MVP vote last year was impossible, I voted for Alex Ovechkin but the Crosby injury screwed things up as did the schedule. I thought Suter deserved the Norris and Brodin the Calder. But I don't think the results were because of any geographical bias. The voting is purposefully spread out over East/West among PHWA members. Playing in the West didn't hurt Corey Perry a couple years ago or Henrik Sedin. It's just a subjective debate that will always lead to disagreements.
Hi Craig - let's take a leap of faith and assume Rick Nash comes back and he's Rick Nash, which is to say he's a beast - can he provide enough to bump the rangers from a mid-tier East team to a top 3 or 4 team?
Craig Custance (1:34 PM)
Yup. I think they're most definitely a top four team with Nash. I like the Rangers. Brutal start but that schedule was ridiculous. They just need to stay healthy.
I know it sounds crazy but shouldn't the Rangers atleast consider letting Lundqvist walk and let Talbot take over starting next season? It would give the team big time cap relief to keep their younger players long-term and add a player or 2 that could get them over the "hump".
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
Rob - That's such a tough call. I'm as leery as anyone about giving goalie any term in contracts but there's a small number of elite goalies in this league and Lundqvist is in that group. If Lundqvist would go for it, I'd much rather max out the salary and go shorter term like four or five years but I'm guessing his camp doesn't want to hear that. Talbot has looked good but how many times have we seen young goalies like good for short stretches only to fizzle out? You know what you're getting with Lundqvist.
Brandon Pirri has really played well....why has the coaching staff been reluctant to label him as the answer when it comes to 2nd line center?
Craig Custance (1:38 PM)
I think that's just the nature of Joel Quenneville. For one, you don't want to put too much pressure on a kid by labeling him the answer at a long-time hole in Chicago. And two, you want to keep him motivated. Q knows what he's doing.
The Chicago Blackhawks are still the best team in the NHL. Nothing to see here. Carry on.
Craig Custance (1:40 PM)
I'm with you Adam but as I've said many times, my concern is what this team is going to look like in the spring. It was a short summer. Condensed schedule. Half the team will be playing in the Olympics. At some point you run out of gas and that extra reserve of motivation to win those tough postseason games.
By located poorly, are you referring to any and all pro sports teams in Florida? They rarely show suppport, even for some Miami Heat games!
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
Lots to do in south Florida, that's for sure.
What would be your first three moves to fix the Edmonton Oilers?
Craig Custance (1:43 PM)
Here's my problem with the Oilers. They have great young talent but even their best star forwards are undersized compared to some of those real contenders in the West. Let's say they rally to make the playoffs, can you imagine RNH going toe-to-toe with a guy like Getzlaf or Joe Thornton or some of the other big centers in the West? Then factor in their questionable goaltending and defense and there's lots of concerns there. I'm not sure three moves would do it.
Craig, with his play of late do you think Marty Brodeur can make a run at the Canadian Olympic team? I'm not suggesting a starting role but maybe a #3? The guy has been solid this season, his resume is arguably the best of all time, and let's be honest...#3's rarely play meaningful Olympic games so this would not be taking time away from someone else.
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
I love Martin Brodeur but I still say no. Who do you take off? Carey Price and Mike Smith have earned spots so far. Maybe Luongo, but Marty lost his job to Roberto last time. And four years have passed. I'm just going to enjoy this final portion of his career and be happy that I got to cover one of the best to ever play the game.
Neal (Menlo Park (CA))
Craig, are you buying the "Seguin needed a change of scenery" storyline or do you expect some of his off ice issues to reappear in Dallas?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
I honestly don't expect issues. I mean, who knows for sure, he could end up going on a bender tomorrow or something. But it's a different dynamic in Dallas. Boston was a veteran team. In Dallas he's with young teammates, growing together. He's hanging with Jamie Benn, who drives him everywhere. He's immediately been a part of that team which helps in that regard. And look, people grow up and mature. I was a complete idiot at 21. I'm glad there weren't camera phones at State.
Alexei Kasatonov (Sochi, RU)
Craig, in case you didn't know, I am the GM of the Russian oympic team. Let's just say my personnel decisions for Sochi might be the most scrutinized decision in Russian history...especially after we were criticized for having half a team of unknown KHL guys on the NHL ice in Vancouver. Obviously the superstars like Ovechkin, Malkin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk are locks...but should I round out the rest of the roster with experienced but declining vets like Sergei Gonchar or roll the dice with some young guys like Kulikov, Nikushkin, Tarasenko, etc. And what do I do in goal? Our two young guns Varlamov and Bobrovsky are fading and/or have legal troubles and our veterans Nabokov and Bryzgalov are either injured or afraid of bears.
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
The bears line made me laugh. I'm getting funny looks in the Joe Louis Arena media room. We saw the benefits of going young with energy and skating with what Brian Burke did with Team USA in 2010. Perhaps Russia takes a page from that. If I had to pick right now, I'm starting Varlamov in goal. But the beauty with that is you can go with the one who is hot when the Olympics arrive.
On that Seguin thing Craig, I thought it was crazy for Boston to give up on him so soon. I mean, they just watched a guy with similar problems at Seguin's age win a Conn Smythe and his 2nd Cup across the ice in last year's Finals... Seguin looks good and will mature. Most all 20-year-olds mature.
Craig Custance (1:54 PM)
Mike - NOt to sit on the fence, I liked that deal for everyone involved. It might not have worked out as well for Seguin in Boston. I think he needed the wake-up call and change of environment. And in my opinion, Loui Eriksson was created to play in the Bruins system. He's perfect there. No issues with what Peter Chiarelli did.
Andrew Raycroft (Toronto, ON)
Craig, I take offense with your statement that young goalies sometimes look good and then fizzle out for the long-term! That NEVER happens. And they certainly never get traded for "throw-in" prospect goalies that 8 years later become the best goalie in the league. Unheard of.
Craig Custance (1:54 PM)
Jim Carey (Washington, DC)
Craig, what are you talking about, young goalies NEVER look good for stretches only to fizzle out long term!
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Patrick Lalime (Ottawa. ON)
Craig, did somebody say something about young goalies looking good for short stretches only to fizzle out? I started my career 16-0!
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Kid A (LA)
"The East is more of a conference built around stars which tends to show up at awards voting." By stars do you mean guys who stat pad vs terrible teams with no depth in terrible divisions with no depth? Y know kinda like Ovi last year?
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Kid - I know you have an ax to grind here, but look at Ovechkin's goal production in the last 40 games. It's ridiculous. Nobody is close. I don't care who you're playing it's not easy to score goals at that pace.
Are you saying that Crawford doesn't deserve a spot on Team Canada?
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
I'm saying I wouldn't put him in my top three right now.
Phil Herbut (MN)
Are the Wild legitamite contentors
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Yes with a caveat. Any team that makes the playoffs in the West will be capable of winning the Cup but I'd still put the Wild in that second tier a shade below the Kings, Blackhawks, Sharks and Blues.
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Alright everyone, great chat today. You guys were on fire. Thanks for stopping by!