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 2 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
Hey guys - excited to do another weekly hockey chat. There's a lot to talk about, so let's dive right in.
Slightly frustrated Rangers fan. Tortarella has now been coach for 3- 4 years yet the power play has been terrible the entire time he's been there. Is it the lack of talent, lack of creativity or something else? The team for the most part- I know it's early - doesn't have the puck and is extremely boring to watch with their dump and chase style. Your thoughts on the Rangers so far?
Craig Custance (2:04 PM)
I just returned from a trip to New York where I witnessed the Rangers blow a 4-1 lead to the Senators on Saturday so my perspective might be skewed. But I think we need to hold off on evaluating the Rangers a little longer, here's why: They started the season with that crazy roadtrip and traveled thousands of miles. Then they lose their first game back home, which always happens to teams following a road trip. Saturday's game, their offense picked up but they blew it. Then Monday they won. Things need to settle down a little bit but Richards and Gaborik look like they're heating up which will help the power play. They could definitely use another scorer up front, they are a little grinder-heavy at forward. But I want to see how they settle into a more manageable schedule before I make conclusions.
Who you got tonight: Caps or Ducks?
Craig Custance (2:06 PM)
Caps - Can't see that team losing three straight.
Bryan (Middleburg, Florida)
Does the NHL need to look at replay for waived off goals? It seems goalies are coming out of the crease, hitting a guy in front of the net and the goal is waived off. If a player estaabishes his position outside the crease and then the goalie comes out to make contact, then the goal should count. Is the problem reputation of players or inconsistant officials?
Craig Custance (2:08 PM)
It's a tough call Bryan, I'm not one to criticize officiating because they have a really hard job. But from my perspective in Detroit, I think reputation certainly comes into play. I've seen Tomas Holmstrom get called for interference on plays that opposing teams likely wouldn't get called for. But it's understandable, it's hard to ignore a player's body of work.
Can you confirm that Avery successfully cleared waivers today at noon & is back with the club? Also, is there a live feed with updates of this nature? Kind of nerve racking waiting around for noon deadline + the additional 2 hrs or so before i can find a confirm article on ESPN or TSN. Thanks.
Craig Custance (2:12 PM)
Hey Mike - I can confirm the news that he cleared waivers although it's unclear whether or not he'll play next game. Katie Strang from ESPN New York has been all over the story, so make sure you're reading her stuff. Not sure Torts is too eager to change a winning lineup, so I don't know when we'll see Avery in action. As for a live feed for waivers, it doesn't exist. The fastest way to find info on waivers is to follow the right journalists on Twitter and keep checking ESPN.com's hockey page.
After watching the Predators-Hawks game last night, is there cause for concern about the Predators defense and/or goaltending (which is supposed to be their strength)? I can't imagine that they expect to keep up with anyone long-term if they let in 5 goals.
Craig Custance (2:16 PM)
Nashville is giving up 2.73 goals-against per game which puts them close to the bottom third of the league, which is out of character for them. You're right Andrew, they don't have the horses to keep up with teams if they're going to allow four or five goals per game, even if they gave Chicago a run last night. Pekka Rinne is one of the game's best goalies and Barry Trotz one of the game's best coaches. I believe those two will find a way to get things trending back in the right direction.
How good is Claude Giroux? Is he considered a "superstar" nationally like he is here in Philadelphia?
Craig Custance (2:20 PM)
Hey Tyler - It's funny, I asked Paul Holmgren a very similar question when I asked if it's time we call Giroux a superstar. He said "I'm not going to do it" - because there's no reason for the GM to put unnecessary pressure on one of the game's best young players. But he's certainly starting to rise to that level. It helps that Giroux has a respected national voice like Pierre LeBrun pumping him up at every given opportunity. The best thing Giroux can do to achieve that status is to play the way he's playing right now in the playoffs. That's where stars are made and he's shown in the past he's capable.
Are you as stoked as I am to see what Avery does for the HBO 24/7 coverage?
Craig Custance (2:22 PM)
Between Bryzgalov, Tortorella and Avery, there is the potential for 24/7 to reach new heights this year. I can't wait to watch.
Why are Kovy and Parise playing together? That makes no sense to me. Both players need the puck. They don't seem to fit well at all. I realize NJ is struggling to score right now, but I don't see how that's the fix. Kovy can play with you and I and still be the same player that can skate faster than everyone else, score 30-40 goals and make his teammates seem invisible.
Craig Custance (2:25 PM)
You know what Adam? That's the flaw in trading for and then signing a franchise left winger when you already have one. I understand trying to spark an offense but I'm with you. You're almost better off playing Kovalchuk with center who will keep an eye on the other side of the ice and another winger who will go in the corner and retrieve pucks. Then you let Kovalchuk do what he does best and try to make plays. But that's the risk in signing a player like Kovalchuk to that huge contract. There's no debating his talent and his desire to win, but does he make his teammates around him on the ice better? I'm not sure.
Matt (South Bend)
How do you feel about the different aspects of the proposed 4 division re-alignment plan?
Craig Custance (2:29 PM)
When I spoke with a very well informed source at the draft about realignment, it was strongly suggested that we'd see some form of the four division realignment being debated right now. But even now we're seeing pushback from the Penguins and Flyers and that's the biggest issue with realignment. In nearly every circumstance, somebody is going to be upset and you've got to pass this thing with a majority vote. It almost seems like to me, the most likely realignment is the one that affects the least amount of teams. This debate is only going to pick up in the next month heading into December's BOG meeting.
Thoughts on the Isles 3-headed goalie system so far? .925save%and 2.22gaa.
Craig Custance (2:32 PM)
The best thing for Garth Snow is that Evgeni Nabokov has looked good with a 2.23 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. IT was impossible to predict what we were going to see from him and the longer he produces like that the higher his trade value gets. It might be worth striking while the iron is hot if he can find a team desperate for goaltending.
Sergei (Madison, WI)
Four straight bad losses.....Why hasn't Babcock been fired? I know he has a Cup ring and a gold medal, but those were very talented teams and even Burnside could have coached them to the title.
Craig Custance (2:35 PM)
Mike Babcock is one of the most well-respected coaches in the game and has an impeccable resume. Four losses in October won't change that. He's not going anywhere for a long time. As for Scott, I bet he'd make a fantastic NHL head coach. I'd play for him in a heartbeat.
do you like the additions of Havlat and Burns for the Sharks?
Craig Custance (2:37 PM)
I like the addition of Burns a lot. He brings an element to the Sharks defense they needed with his puck retrieval skills and offensive flair. Without being overly critical of Dany Heatley, I liked the Havlat trade very much for the Sharks.
Kevin, MD [via mobile]
Kudos to ESPN for finally giving BizNasty a blog! Great idea and I love that he's teamed up with DArcy Maine for it. Have you been reading it?
Craig Custance (2:38 PM)
Great call Kevin. I have read it and couldn't agree more with Biz's advice on Twitter. Everybody with a Twitter account should have it taped to the wall. Anybody not readying Paul's blog needs to check it out. After this chat, of course.
What are your thoughts on what's going on in Columbus?
Craig Custance (2:40 PM)
Injuries have taken their toll on the Blue Jackets and I give Scott Howson credit for not using it as an excuse. But they need results, injuries or not. If the losing continues, we'll see some sweeping changes there.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Someone remind Sergei that October ended yesterday. If the Wings get dominated in the postseason, then starting talking about changing coaches...
Matt (South Bend)
Did this guy really just ask why Babcock hasn't been fired? SERIOUSLY?
Craig Custance (2:41 PM)
Wow Sergei, you really riled everybody up.
Craig, have you watched Erik Johnson play this year? is he turning into that number 1 defenceman?
Craig Custance (2:45 PM)
Erik was one of the more motivated players entering this season and he had a three-game stretch in mid-October where he put up five points. He leads the Avs in icetime so he's certainly their No. 1 d-man. I'd still like to see more consistency from him though.
nic (los angeles)
What are the chances of Penner being moved in yhe near future? Any chance the Kings could get a top 6 forward in return if they maybe throw in a prospect?
Craig Custance (2:48 PM)
I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Dean Lombardi move Dustin Penner. He wasn't exactly enthralled with what he saw from Penner after making that deadline deal last season. The problem is, Penner is unproductive and every other GM has seen what you're seeing Nic. With his salary, he wouldn't fetch much in return. If I'm Dean Lombardi, I'm hoping Penner finds his game, puts up some points and then I'm dealing him. It hasn't been a fit in LA.
Word has it that Penner is available. Any thoughts as to whether the Rangers should try to get him?
Craig Custance (2:48 PM)
I think he'd drive Tortorella crazy.
1 month into the season, Matt Cooke only has 4pims. Is it time to believe hes a reformed man?
Craig Custance (2:50 PM)
We've seen a big enough sample size to make me a believer. Cooke knows he's on thin ice and that the league is watching his every move. I think he's reformed and I don't think he's had much of a choice. Could he prove us wrong with a dirty hit next game? Yup, but he'd pay a severe price and he has to know it isn't worth it.
realignment issue solved: swap Winnipeg and Nashville.... isn't that a no-brainer?
Craig Custance (2:52 PM)
The problem with that Toby is that you have two Eastern Standard time teams in Detroit and Columbus working hard to get in the East. Detroit owner Mike Ilitch has said he was promised as much. So I don't think it's that simple.
Cody (Mankato, MN)
Hello Craig, I noticed on Saturday while Detroit was in town that Datsyuk wasn't dawning an "A" on his jersey, yet he is listed as an assistant captain still. Has he been given a lesser role in leadership in Detroit or was there a jersey malfunction?
Craig Custance (2:53 PM)
Detroit has three alternates under Lidstrom - Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall. They rotate who gets the A.
Would the league consider expansion of two additional teams to make 32 and then have two conferences with 4 four-team divisions?
Craig Custance (2:56 PM)
Keith - Expansion would be a really tough sell considering you have markets that are bleeding money. It definitely makes sense on paper, and I know it's been suggested at pretty high levels while spitballing. But how could you justify adding two more franchises when you can't find an owner in Phoenix? They might want to get the current 30 in order before adding any more.
Are the Oilers for real? Do you think they'll contend for a playoff spot this year?
Craig Custance (2:58 PM)
We had a good Oilers talk on the Hockey Today podcast (give it a listen!). They're about to embark on a portion of their schedule where they play 10 of their next 12 games on the road. That's a heck of a test for the Oilers. I say if they go .500 on this trip, they'll be in playoff contention all season.
Do you think Wolski deserved supplementary discipline for the elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson? I would hate to see the disciplinary inconsistency rear its ugly head again.
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
Yes, I thought that was worth a suspension in the two or three game range. I was surprised to see that there wasn't one.
Craig Custance (3:01 PM)
Alright everybody, great questions as always. These are a lot of fun because of you guys. I'll grab some of the best ones I missed and put them in the Friday mailbag on the blog. Have a great week!