Scott Burnside will be by at 5 p.m. ET to chat! Get your best NHL questions ready!
We're getting Scott!
I'm in Chicago preparing for the Winter Classic, ready for your questions!
Scott, with Kane, Toews and Cambell likely to be voted in, will there be room for any other Hawks on the All Star team? I think Ducan Kieth has to be there.
Certainly he is worthy. It will be interesting to see what the NHL's hockey operations department, the group that fills out the rosters after the fans vote. Kieth has played well. The guy I am interested in is Patrick Sharp. If he played for any other team, he would be in the game. But playing in the shadow of Kane and Toews.
Is Boston for real or are they smoke and mirrors?
Well, I think when you get to the 30 or 35 game mark and you have clearly established yourself as the best in the East, I think the talk of smoke and mirrors goes by the boards. This is a team that lost Patrice Bergeron again. They've been without Sturm for most of the year and will be without him for the forseeable future. Yet they are still explosive offensively. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if the road to the Cup final went through Boston. Goaltending has been terrific and not just Tim Thomas. Fernandez has been a very pleasant surprise. The Bruins are for real.
Any updates on Roberto Luongo? I'm hoping the Canucks don't try to rush him back again.
I don't have anything concrete or new on his return. I think the Canucks are of a like mind, or share your philosophy that he won't be rushed. But the issue will be where they are in the standings when he returns. The standings in the West are extremely tight and the Canucks have stumbled somewhat without him in goal. The sooner the better, that goes without saying. The question will be how much of a hill they'll have to climb when he returns.
What are the chances that someone makes an offer to Phil Kessel this off-season? Seeing that he is an RFA.
I think the current economic situation will really negate the possibilities of offer sheets from other teams. We often talk about if so and so doesn't get a good offer will another team swoop in and try to get a young player. With the uncertainty of how the salary cap will be in the next few years, it's unlikely that Kessel will get an offer sheet. And it's 99.9% certain that the Bruins would match an offer. I see him in a Bruins uniform for the foreseeable future.
Scott, did they let you go into Wrigley to see the progress for the game?
Yes, I was there earlier this afternoon. By tomorrow at noon, if all goes according to plan, all of us in the media will be able to take some spins around the ice. I've got my skates with me.
Will the Penguins be able to sustain this high energy playing style through the All-Star break?
The Penguins are in an interesting position. They've had some stumbles. They've fallen close to the playoff bubble in the East. With Whitney returning the other night, that's a big help. Marc-Andre Fleury is starting to get back to the kind of form from the playoffs. The high energy, up tempo, call it what you want, that's Penguin hockey. I suspect they'll play it until the end.
So the Blackhawks are obviously playing great hockey right now, but they are still very young. How far do you think they can get in the playoffs (assuming they get the 4 seed)?
I think it's interesting. One of hte interesting things about this week is they play the Red Wings twice. If they happen to sweep those games, not that it's a likelihood, but if they do, they'd be tied with the Red Wings for first in the division. That would be huge, to get a No. 2 seed. It stands to reason that you're better off playing the seventh place team versus the 5th seed. The Hawks have very similar numbers to the Sharks and everyone knows that the Sharks are the cream of the crop in the West. Come playoff time, the pressures on young players, that can take a toll. I think it will be one of the most fascinating stories. Barring a huge collapse, this is a Blackhawks team that is playoff bound.
You think Claude lemieux has any shot at making the it up to the Sharks?
No. No, I don't. It's an interesting story. I'd put it more in the curiosity story, then in the real possibility. I don't have it in front of me, but I think he's 43 years old and this is a Sharks team that is deep, talented. They appear fit for the long haul. I know we say that every spring about the Sharks. I think Doug Wilson, the Sharks GM would be loathe to take away another players ice time to give it to Lemieux. THat's not how the Sharks operate.
Scott J. Quick has been playing great for the kings in goal and it seems that Ersberg could return to the lineup on Saturday, are Jason Labarbera's days in LA coming to an end? Also do you think Gaborik would sign in LA over the summer?
It's interesting because I think the one glaring hole in the Kings lineup longterm is a true NHL starter. With all due respect to LaBarbara, he has not shown that he can play consistently at the NHL level. Quick and Ersberg may give the Kings their best opportunity to win in terms of providing consistent goaltending. Teams rarely keep 3 goalies around. I would have to think that GM Dean Lombardi and coach Terry Murray would go with the best goalies they've got.
The Rangers power play is awful. Where can they find an offensive denfenseman to quarterback the PP and give them some punch. They need a Gonchar type of guy on that team.
Well, I think they thought they had it when they signed Wade Redden to that monster goal in the offseason. I think they thought they had Plan B in Rozsival. But neither player has provided consistency on either side of the puck. But the Rangers cap problems are well known. It is the main reason that Sundin is not in New York. So bringing in someone to QB the PP is likewise going to be a problem.
Save us Leafs fans Scott! What does Burke need to do to get this franchise turned around? I can't take much more Toskala.
As you well know, when you wait 41+ years between Cups, you don't get to change things overnight. There are a host of challenges facing Burke. I think you will see in coming weeks, the imprint of Burke on this team. I would be surprised to see Tomas Kaberle last beyond the deadline. Jason Blake, it will be difficult to find a taker for his salary, but could be a candidate for a buyout in the offseason. Those are things you could see coming down the pike. Burke wants a team that's fast, skilled and physical. It's easy to say those things, but more difficult to assemble them. I think it will be interesting to see if Bouwmeester hits the free agent market or is available by the deadline, whether Burke mades a move for him. But rest assured, things are coming in Toronto.
Do you think Gaborik is bound for Vancouver?
I think Gaborik is headed somewhere. I think it's where he lands. Vancouver is a convenient potential landing place, with Pavel Demitra, a fellow Slovak. Will he be traded within the conference? Maybe, maybe not. I think it will be interesting to see what position the Penguins are in come the deadline. Adding a winger like they did a year ago in Hossa added a lot. But a lot will depend on Gaborik's durability. Can he stay healthy for more than a week at a time? That above all else will determine where he goes. One of the interesting things to follow the second half.
Why has Lundquist been struggling so much lately?
I think it's natural for all goaltenders that carry the kind of heavy load that Lundqvist carries to struggle. This is a Rangers team that has a number of severe defensive shortcomings. I think it's understandable. I think it's also a thing that will very quickly be rectified. He's too good of a goalie to go into a month long swoon.
With Burke gone in Anaheim, is a coaching move possibe if the Ducks continue struggling? Is it Carlyle's fault or just lack of discipline from the players?
In some ways, you can't have it both ways. It's the old adage about living and dying by the sword. THe Ducks weren't a particularly disciplined team when they won the Cup. That was just part of the price they were willing to pay to play that style of hockey. They miss Andy McDonald, whom they had to trade last year because of salary cap issues. They do not have the scoring depth they had when they won the Cup. Players are older. Selanne is now out with injury. Niedermayer is another year older and another year closer to retirement. It's so difficult to stay on top in the NHL. I don't see this as an issue with Carlyle. This is a coach that less than two years ago guided his team to the Cup, the year before brought them to the conference finals.
Will the league shelve the 2010 Winter Classic with the Olympics only 6 weeks later in Vancouver?
It will be interesting to see how it goes here in Chicago over the next three days. What the NHL decides to do about making this an annual event or a sometimes annual event or every couple of years. I think there's a danger in having it every rain -- eventually it will be a disaster. It will rain or have too much snow or someone will get hurt because of inferior ice. I like them but am gaurdidly enthusiastic. Do you have a game with the two Pennsylvania teams? Do you have one in Minnesota? With respect to our Canadian friends, these games are probably more important to the teams in the States, due to marketing the game.
Who do you think is the NHL Rookie of the year thus far in the season?
That's a good question. I think right now it would have to be STeve Mason, the young goaltender in Columbus, who has done a terrific job supplanting Pascal Leclair as the starter in Columbus. I like him. I know Kris Versteeg has come out of nowhere to be at the top of the rookie scoring lists. But it looks like this year's rookie of the year race will include a lot of names that people expected at the beginning of the year: Stamkos, Dogosian.
Versteeg has 29 points in 32 games.
Whats wrong with Avery Why is he always starting problem with everyone?
I'm not sure we have enough time to go through what problems afflict Sean Avery. I don't know how it's going to shake down with him. He needs to get through whatever counseling or program that he's going to end up in and try to make sense of where he's at emotionally, psychologically. I'm not sure we can expect that to get done between now and the end of the year. As we get closer to the deadline, if he emerges from counseling and proves fit to return to hockey, is there an NHL team that will take a chance on him? If the Stars send him to the minors and recall him, another team can claim him for half his salary. But he may also be attractive to a team that is looking for some grit. I would be surprised to see him back with a team this season, but stranger things have happened.
Scott, the Red Wings do not look like the usual powerhouse, do you think this is because of goalie troubles, or do they still have some Stanley Cup hangover?
Well, I'm not sure you call it a Cup hangover. It's a team that continues to have the second most points in the West. But I agree, they don't look as dynamic as earlier in the year. THey have given up 22 goals more than the Sharks. That's a lot. Defensively, they're probalby not as tight as Babcock would like them to be. Part is the goaltending, part is they're a defensive group that hasn't played as well as in the playoffs. Lidstrom is hobbled and that won't help matters either. No matter what, a championship coach or the players say, the season after is always difficult. The fatigue factor, the mental fatigue, all of those things come into play. right now, it's difficult to see them repeating as Cup champions, but they don't hand out the Cup in January, they do that in June.
Will the Blackhawks make some moves or stand pat??
If they Hawks continue on their arc -- if they're solidly in the playoff picture. I wouldn't be surprised to see them try to bring in a veteran center. There's much discussion about the return of Nylander. But I think adding depth down the middle is an obvious area for the Blackhawks. This is a good young team that right now doesn't look like it's missing much.
The players remain "mixed" on the current mandatory wearing of helmets during shootouts. What are your thoughts on this situation?
I guess I understand the safety issue. I don't think it would hurt to have the players take their helmets off. I think whatever benefit in terms of fan interest, it would negligible. I doubt you'd see the players take off their helmets any time soon.
I've been so impressed with the Bruins this season. So many of their young players have exceeded expectations. How far do you think they can go in the playoffs?
What I like about the Bruins vis a vie the playoffs, they're very physical. They have players who will go to high traffic areas. They have an underappreciated blue line core. Combined with that they have great scoring depth. They are definitely a three-line team, which is why they were able to ride out injuries that we talked about earlier. You ask yourself is Tim Thomas a goalie that can take you to a Cup final? He's defied skeptics throughout his career. He, like the team, has proven to be the real deal.
What do you think the Avalanche have to do to their roster to get back to the contender level that they were back in the pre-cap NHL days?
Back in the day, they would just write a bunch of checks and bring in a bunch of players. Andrechuck, Borque, the list went on and on. The Avs are still paying the price for giving up prospects and talent for those kinds of players a number of years ago. Losing Stastny is a huge blow. THere is no doubt about that. This is a team that will probably need a few years of good drafting and signing of good players to get back to that status. And they need to find a solid goalie. Easier said then done.
with the addition of paul maurice do you see the Canes making the playoffs?
I think it's an uphill struggle. they've had some injury problems. They haven't been able to replicate the kind of offensive threat they had during their Cup winning season in 2005-2006. The problem for the Canes is that if they make the playoffs, it's likely as a 7-8 seed and I don't see them being strong enough to knock off a team like Boston or Pittsburgh. They're a bubble team, that's their lot in life right now.
Why does everyone say that Sidney Crosby is the best player in the league when he isn't even the best player on his team?
That's a valid point. There is no question that right now Malkin is the best player on the Penguins. I think it would be hard to argue that Ovechkin isn't the best player in the NHL right now. But it is always a game to talk about who's the best and greatest. You have to remember what Crosby did in the playoffs last year. He was their best player by a long shot. That's a sign of greatness, he played the best in the playoffs.
Are the Rangers looking to trade F Scott Gomez to Vancouver?
You hear a lot of rumors about the Rangers. Most have focused on moving one of their high paid defensemen, Redden or Rozsival. It would seem to be a bit of a stretch that the Rangers would trade one of the two top free agents they signed before last season. Gomez has not produced at a level either he or the Rangers thought he would. But he remains their most dynamic offensive player. Iw ould be more than a bit surprised to see him dealt.
After a horrible start to the year for the Stars, is it me, or are things starting to come around and do you think they will make a strong run at the cup come playoff time
I spent a few days in Dallas last week. I agree with you. I think the team has started to play better. Their problems extended far beyond Avery. But there is no mistaken the change in demeanor since Avery was banished a month ago. Marty Turco has played much more like the Turco we saw in the playoffs last year. The problem for the Stars is they will have to overcome not just AVery, but crucial parts to their lineup, Morrow and Zubov. But this is a team that played without top players for much of last year as well. I still think a playoff finish is possible. I do wonder whether without Morrow or Zubov if they would have much hope of getting out of the first round.
Thanks again for taking the time to send in the questions. We'll check out the ice surface at Wrigley tomorrow.