Chat with Scott Burnside
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside will stop by to chat about the NHL's latest news and events.
Before joining ESPN in 2005, he was a reporter for the Windsor Star and Toronto Sun. Burnside has won numerous awards, including the 1990 National Newspaper Award, and also co-authored the best-selling true crime book "Deadly Innocence" in the mid-1990s. He is based in Atlanta.
Send your questions now and join Burnside on Thursday at noon ET!
Scott Burnside (12:00 PM)
Hello all, so this is it, the final regular season chat of the season. Where did 82 games go? (Or in the case of the Leafs, Caps, etc. you can start by looking in the drain. But I digress.) Can't wait for next week. Now, where were we?
David (San Jose)
Hey Scott, should us shark fans be worried about Niemi vs LA? Also who wins that series?
Scott Burnside (12:01 PM)
David; Define worried? Yes, I think there are some general concerns about where Antti Niemi is at right now and he's going to have to be better to try and even out what is on paper a big edge in goal the Kings are going to have in this first-round series. Still, I think the Sharks prevail in part because of their offensive depth and I like their blue line. Still, tough, tough series (needless to say) and Niemi will have to be better.
Henry (US but so close Canada)
OK Scott, look quick and how do you see the 1st round matches being set? Who gets No. 1 in West, Central, and the east wild cards in order? Thanks!
Scott Burnside (12:04 PM)
Henry; Okay, quick one; Anaheim/Minny, St. Louis/Phoenix, Avs/Blackhawks, Sharks/Kings and in the east Boston/Detroit, Pittsburgh/Columbus, Habs with home ice and Lightning and Rangers with home ice and Flyers. Whew.
Hi Scott, I think this is the first year where I see every series in the East and West being extremely competitive and tough for every team. I dont see any team have a cake walk to the next round.
Scott Burnside (12:06 PM)
James; This is a good follow-up question. And I agree. With all due respect to Columbus I think a Boston/Columbus first-round matchup might be the closest thing to a sure thing but even then Columbus has a Boston-like work ethic and a goaltender who can stand on his head. The west with Minnesota getting better goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov and the Blues slumping etc. makes all four first-round series compelling. If Phoenix does make it they'll need Mike Smith to be in post-Olympic form if they're going to keep it close against whomever they draw. If it's Dallas, same goes for Kari Lehtonen. But both are possible.
Judeman5000, CPA (Thornton, CO)
How fun would it be for the Avalanche to win the division, maybe even the conference? Chicago v St. Louis in the first round? Just love it.
Scott Burnside (12:08 PM)
Judeman; This is why I think Patrick Roy wins the Jack Adams (with all due respect to Mike Babcock, Craig Berube and Jon Cooper) is that even without Matt Duchene, even with a playoff spot locked up the team continues to surge forward. And agreed, St. Louis/Chicago would be a treat. But so, too, would Avs/Blackhawks. Either way you cut it one real good team is going to be gone from the Central (at least).
I think it's a little unfair that Gillis was fired for the Canucks performance after having Torts forced upon him - he built a team with finesse and puck possession skills which didn't mesh with a coach who likes to chip and chase while playing physical. However, he did bungle the Luongo situation for two years, and the Kesler situation doesn't look much better. The question in - should Torts go too?
Scott Burnside (12:09 PM)
Lou; Agreed that it looks very much like ownership drove the decision to hire Tortorella still a lot of personnel miscues the last two or three years that fall at Gillis's feet. I'll be surprised if Tortorella stays but here's where Trevor Linden and whomever he hires as GM will have to be on the same page. What an embarrassment for ownership if they fire both coach and GM, though, having committed so much term/money to both Gillis and Tortorella.
Jon (Tampa, Fl)
How long will Ben Bishop be out? And given how bad Lindback has been does Kristers get a shot?
Scott Burnside (12:13 PM)
Jon; I don't think anyone really knows the extent of Bishop's injury and when he might be game-ready. And tough call for Jon Cooper because you're right Lindback has been a major disappointment. Does Cooper roll the dice and take a chance on Kristers Gudlevskis? He's proven with his play in Sochi that he can play on the big stage. Tough call. Might start with Lindback but use a very short leash.
How well do the flyers matchup against the rangers if they should play each other in the first round?
Scott Burnside (12:14 PM)
Jon; Depends on Steve Mason. If Mason can even the table against Henrik Lundqvist I think the Flyers have a shot. Should be a great series. But if Mason wobbles look for the Rangers to exploit that and win the series.
Scott, What do you think of the Blues recent downturn? I understand 3 games is just 3 games, but the lack of effort they have been putting forward is frustrating. Do you think it is just a consequence of having clinched so long ago?
Scott Burnside (12:16 PM)
Ethan; It is a curious stretch for the Blues. I was in town for a couple of games and they looked good in beating Minnesota and not bad in a loss to Dallas. But Ryan Miller looks a little ordinary and the offense has gone south. Maybe a function of having sown up a playoff spot a long time ago and having a big cushion atop the Central. Of course that cushion is gone and the Blues are in danger of falling into a first-round matchup with Chicago they would do well to avoid (see Sharks in the Pacific). Tonight will say a lot about where the Blues are at as they're in Minnesota where John Curry will get the start for the Wild who are locked into the top wild card spot.
If I said to you before the season started the future looked brighter in Calgary than Vancouver & Edmonton you're reaction would have been what?
Scott Burnside (12:19 PM)
ryan; I would have suggested you had been over-served. And of course right now it's hard not to like the way the Flames are playing and the impact of guys like Sean Monahan and Karri Ramo. Does it necessarily hold that the Flames build on this next season and jump back into a playoff spot? Doesn't work that way but I do hope Bob Hartley gets a shot to see if that's a possibility. Edmonton? Vancouver? Lots more to work with but both digging out of mighty deep organizational holes.
Greg (Bay Area)
How much importance do you think the top contenders place on the President's Trophy and as a quick follow up, who wins it this year?
Scott Burnside (12:21 PM)
Greg; I thought Ken Hitchcock had the best answer for that question recently saying they (the Blues) wanted to win the Presidents' Trophy because, why not? But if they ended up missing top spot he figured they'd be over the disappointment in minutes. History tells us it isn't all that important but if you're Boston or St. Louis or Anaheim or the Avs why not have home ice advantage as long as you're at the dance? And look for the Bruins to earn that honor.
I've often wondered this, but how often are the regular season series between teams indicators of postseason results? For example, in the Boston/Detroit, Montreal/Tampa Bay, and Chicago/Colorado matchups, I would pick Boston, Montreal, and Chicago to win. Yet it's interesting that Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Colorado lead the regular season series against those teams by quite a bit (3-1-0, 3-0-1, and 4-1-0 respectively). How much weight does this carry?
Scott Burnside (12:23 PM)
Matt; Great question. Not sure there's a blanket answer. For instance if Boston and Montreal meet in the second round I think you have to factor in the Habs' fearlessness when it comes to the Bruins. To use the cliche they seem to be in the Bruins' kitchen and it's reflected in the season series. Other factors, like the Wings' surging into the post-season, health or lack thereof, I think are more important factors especially in the first round.
Hatrick Swayze (NY area)
Props to J Gibson winning his 1st 2 NHL starts, and looking pretty good in doing so. Surely, though, the Ducks go back to Hiller to close out the season and get him in a playoff groove...right?
Scott Burnside (12:25 PM)
Hatrick; Great story of the final week as John Gibson goes 2-0-0 in his first two starts with a shutout. And the problem with Jonas Hiller is that he's been less than ordinary since the Olympics and attempts to get him into a groove have as yet failed. Tough call now for Bruce Boudreau with two games left. Does he throw caution to the wind and go with the kid and go back to Hiller if Gibson falters? Or vise versa? The safe route is to go to Hiller the next couple of games and have him start Game 1. But as John Tortorella once opined; safe is death.
Gabornik really has these Kings looking scary. Why dont you rank the west teams from best to worst based on how tough they are to play right now and not their overall record.
Scott Burnside (12:27 PM)
BK; Current level of play? Anaheim, Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Dallas.
What was worse? Wilson's 18-wheeler off a cliff or Carlyle's?
Scott Burnside (12:29 PM)
TML; I believe the Carlyle carnage was worse. A month ago we were debating whether Leafs could wrap up home-ice advantage and whether the Habs could hang on and force the first Toronto/Montreal playoff series since 1979. Then, chaos. It remains more than a little shocking and suggests yet another off-season of hand-wringing and recriminations in Toronto.
St. Louis had his best game as a Ranger on Tuesday, do you feel he can get back to being the St. Louis of "old" in the playoffs? So far, he has been a major disappointment, what are the reasons for his lack of goal scoring as a Ranger?
Scott Burnside (12:31 PM)
Jeff; I think if you look at his play in the last three weeks Martin St. Louis has been much more engaged and dangerous. I believe the goals will come and really, the Rangers brought him on board not to score a bunch of goals in March but light it up in April. He's a gamer and I expect he will continue to become more and more dangerous. As for why it's taken so long I think the mental toll of all of what happened in Tampa, the trade and the move to New York likely took more of a toll than anyone could have imagined.
Mike (Mission Viejo, CA)
You don't seem to be as high on the Kings as others are. Is there something you don't like about this team or do you just like San Jose better?
Scott Burnside (12:34 PM)
Mike; Like most people I believe the Kings are a formidable playoff opponent. And Jonathan Quick gives them an edge over virtually every other team in the NHL but I do wonder about veterans like Mike Richards and Dustin Brown who have had disappointing offensive seasons and whether that puts too much pressure on guys like Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson if the offense continues to be an issue. And, yes, hard not to respect the Sharks and their ability to come up with a win over the Kings in what should be another epic tilt.
Mike, as Kings fans we want Burnside picking against the Kings in every round. He did it in 2012 now lets hope he does it in 2014!!!
Scott Burnside (12:35 PM)
Jason; And there is that, too.
As of right now, Miller hasn't been an upgrade over Halak. Should I be concerned?
Scott Burnside (12:36 PM)
Chris; As with Martin St. Louis in New York the Blues didn't acquire Ryan Miller to pile up wins in March. Agreed this latest swoon is a bit puzzling/troubling but he is a guy, in theory at least, who should have no problem elevating his game starting next Thursday. And as for Halak, at least Miller appears to want to start all the games on the Blues' schedule.
Who are your picks for coach of the year. Some great stories with Roy in Colorado and Hitch in St. Louis. However, Babcock has rallied his kids into the playoffs yet again.
Scott Burnside (12:38 PM)
DRW; Mike Babcock has made the voting for the national broadcasters very, very difficult. My guess on the final three; Patrick Roy, Babcock and Jon Cooper. I still think Roy wins it based on the team's play from start to finish although if it ends up Babcock I would have no problem with that. Wings remain one of the great stories of this regular season. Now, let's see what kind of playoff story they have in them.
What goaltender are the Isles most likely to go after and get through FA/trade in the offseason?
Scott Burnside (12:41 PM)
Doug; Oh, I think the Isles goaltending is fine. Sorry, that was me doing my best Garth Snow impersonation. Lots of interesting possibilities. What happens to Jonas Hiller in Anaheim? My guess is he goes to the market on July 1. What do the Leafs do with James Reimer? He's shown he can do the job, just not in Toronto. The Ducks also have Frederik Andersen in the fold and with Gibson going nowhere maybe he becomes an asset Anaheim would move. Jaroslav Halak will also be a UFA.
do you think the hawks match up better with St. Louis or Colorado?? thanks
Scott Burnside (12:44 PM)
jerry; I'm not sure it's a match-up thing for Chicago so much as what kind of team are they going to be able to put on the ice? All indications are that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be ready to roll next week. That changes everything obviously. And Patrick Sharp looks like he's getting back into a groove after a post-Olympic letdown. The Avs are a more dangerous team offensively even without Matt Duchene and Semyon Varlamov has the goods to make up for what are perceived defensive deficiencies. The Blues would make the Blackhawks pay a physical price that presents a very different challenge. Bottom line no easing into the playoffs like Chicago did last year where they were only okay in beating Minnesota in five games. That means being healthy and it means shaking off rust, fatigue etc. all the things that afflict all defending champs especially in an Olympic year.
Pete (Long Island)
Is the NHL/Board of Governors happy with the unbalanced conferences? Everyone seems to agree adding Seattle is a no brainer but whats the best way to get even conferences after that?
Scott Burnside (12:48 PM)
Pete; I don't think anyone is all that pleased with 16 teams in the east and 14 in the west. And agreed, Seattle is poised to be Team 31 but what else to do to restore balance? Is there really enough interest/corporate support for a team in Las Vegas or a place like Portland? Can you put a team in Quebec City and make them a Western Conference team? Same with a second team in Toronto? Lots of issues for Gary Bettman and the owners although obviously preferable to which teams are going bankrupt or going to have to relocate.
Neal (Menlo Park, CA)
Any chance the Ducks get upset in the first round by either Minny, Dallas or your Desert Dogs?
Scott Burnside (12:50 PM)
Neal; Of course. Two things would have to happen in my view. The Ducks' goaltending would have to fall apart and if you recall the end of last year's loss to Detroit Jimmy Howard simply was better than Jonas Hiller. Secondly the Ducks would have to run into an opposing goalie on a rainbow. Could Kari Lehtonen, Mike Smith or Ilya Bryzgalov pull off that kind of run? We've seen Smith do it. Less likely Lehtonen or Bryzgalov could carry it off. I still like the Ducks to roll through the first round.
Do you think Nonis could get Lombardi to entertain a Doughty for Kessel and Gardiner deal? I think it would help both sides and sew up their weaknesses.
Scott Burnside (12:51 PM)
Brian; Dean Lombardi loves Drew Doughty too much to ever make that move. And well he should (love Doughty that much).
Bill (Doylestown, PA)
If Wings beat Penguins in the first round, who do they play in the second round? Do the remaining teams get reseeded or do they play the winner of Rangers-Flyers series?
Scott Burnside (12:52 PM)
Bill; If Wings are the top wild card and play Pittsburgh and defeat the Pens they stay in the Metropolitan Division and would play the winner of Philly/New York Rangers assuming that's the 2/3 matchup.
Scott - Is Shanny going to Toronto? Any players in Vancouver and Toronto going on the market?
Scott Burnside (12:54 PM)
Vince; I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Brendan Shanahan come to Toronto but in what capacity and with guys like Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle already ensconced in the heart of hockey not sure how he fits or more to the point who he displaces. And I still think Vancouver will be moving Ryan Kesler and that Philly, Pittsburgh and Anaheim will be hot in pursuit at the draft. Pretty sure teams could have David Clarkson, too, if they called the Leafs.
Casey [via mobile]
Scott, is this the year Fleury shakes his demons and returns to Cup form? For the first time since winning it all, the Pens are seen as a long shot at best and the pressure should be much less. Or more, if you're a believer that his performance this postseason well determine his future in Pittsburgh.
Scott Burnside (12:55 PM)
Casey; I wouldn't be surprised to see Fleury return to form. Of course I thought that last year. And might have half-believed it the year before. No question he has to be on top of his game to stay a Penguin. But he's not the only one in Pittsburgh that can say that.
Better chance for 1st round upset...Wings over Bruins or Wings over Pens?
Scott Burnside (12:56 PM)
Mitch; I think the injury issues and the aforementioned issues in goal make Pittsburgh a team, on paper, that would be more ripe to be knocked off by Detroit. That said you know a Bruins/Red Wings series would be epic.
Scott, for a team like Buffalo, what lessons can they learn from the disaster of a rebuild in Edmonton?
Scott Burnside (12:59 PM)
kurt; I think it has to be about more than simply accumulating as much high-end skill as you can. Look at Pittsburgh and what Jordan Staal brought to the table along with Malkin and Crosby. The Oilers have no such player in spite of their high picks the last four years. Not yet anyway. And there has to be a plan in place starting in goal and working your way out. Oilers haven't had that either. But in order to select the right players you have to have the right staff scouting them and then the right people in management who can slot those assets into the right place and help develop them properly. Lots of moving parts. Sabres will get there, I think, but have to believe in a plan and have patience to let it unfold.
Scott Burnside (1:01 PM)
Okay folks. Thanks as always for dropping by. Always a pleasure. Next week we'll know all the matchups and maybe the relative help of key personnel. Until then, be well.