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December 13, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Craig Custance

Craig Custance
  (2:00 PM)

Hey everyone! Just wrapped up a Blackhawks practice here in Chicago. Ready to chat. Fire away!

Dave (NJ)

Do the Rangers go after a player like Bobby Ryan - maybe giving up Dubinski and a couple of prospects? Good thing about the Rangers core is there is alot of youth.

Craig Custance
  (2:06 PM)

While the Rangers may have been interested in Ryan when he was available before Boudreau was hired, he's no longer on the market. I can't imagine the Rangers dealing anyone from their core in order to bolster their roster for a playoff run. Instead of a high-profile scorer like Ryan, the Rangers might be wise to look to add depth on defense. Injuries on D have been one of the biggest reasons playoff contenders have underachieved in the postseason the last couple years - look at Philly and Washington last spring. That's where I'd focus if I were Glen Sather.

Jack (Chicago)

How do you see the Hawks goalie situation playing out? Does Emery take over the reigns...only to lose them next year to the eventual back-up? Crazy how that works out...

Craig Custance
  (2:10 PM)

Joel Quenneville just got done addressing the media here in Chicago. He's going to ride the hot hand right now with Ray Emery, who will get the start against Minnesota. But ultimately this is Crawford's job. He got the big contract extension, he's still just 26 years old and the organization still believes in him. This just happens sometimes over the course of a long season.

Don (Philly)

Tough news with Giroux out indefinitely....how will the flyers hold up? can coutourier step up?

Craig Custance
  (2:13 PM)

That's a huge blow for the Flyers. Giroux has been one of the great stories in hockey this year and while I like Sean Couturier, it's a lot to ask him to even come close to replacing Giroux. Giroux was in the Hart Trophy hunt and you can't expect a team to keep their current pace when you lose a player of that caliber. Now would be a great time for Bryzgalov to find another gear.

Mason (LA)

Craig, it is inevitable that D. Sutter is going to be the coach of LA. Is he the right fit, or is this 2002-2003 San Jose Sharks all over again?

Craig Custance
  (2:16 PM)

I agree. I think it's just a matter of time until it becomes official. I spoke with a player today who said Sutter will immediately come in and identify which players have the character needed to win tough games and which ones don't. He said that's his strength as a coach. Personally, I'm not crazy about the hire but I don't blame Dean Lombardi for turning to someone he trusts.

Matt (Orlando, FL)

What the heck has happened to Tampa Bay? How much trouble are they in? They were fading fast even before they lost Martin St Louis. What do you see in their future?

Craig Custance
  (2:18 PM)

I may not be the best judge of Tampa. I had a long conversation a couple weeks ago with Guy Boucher and he had me convinced they were ready to turn the corner. But to be fair, he also pointed out that Tampa truly overachieved last year and maybe we're seeing a bit of a correction this year. The injury to St. Louis is a tough one but you're right, it's not like they were playing well when he was in the lineup. They need help on defense and goaltending. It'll be interesting to see which goalie Yzerman targets this summer.

Ken (Elkhorn, NE)

Who do you like in the Red Wings-Penguins game tonight?

Craig Custance
  (2:20 PM)

Penguins have been resilient over the last year while dealing with injuries, but with Crosby, Staal, Letang, Michalek and Malkin banged up, I think the Red Wings should win tonight. Detroit is clicking right now, and Jimmy Howard isn't getting enough credit for the season he's having.

Tom (Pitt.)

Sid, Savard, Pronger, Giroux, Letang, etc. etc.....Is there any possibility that the NHL is being overly-precautious with concussions now? I am not trying to downplay what i believe to be a serious injury...but i just never remember sports as a whole being like this...Are concussions happening more often? or is it that we just care more now?

Craig Custance
  (2:23 PM)

Tom - There's no doubt that people are being much, much more cautious with concussions now. I don't think you'll find anyone who will say, at least publicly, players are being overcautious. You're right though, the hockey climate has never been like this before. I think it's a mix of more concussions because of the size and speed (and equipment) of the current players (plus the new rules) and players are being more honest and open with doctors about their symptoms. As much as we'd all like to see these players on the ice, you don't mess with a head injury. Players realize that now.

Rob (Chicago)

Although Chicago keeps winning everyone would agree they have some major holes. Do you see them adding a 3/4 Defenseman or a 2nd line Center?

Craig Custance
  (2:25 PM)

Chicago has the money to spend and the cap space and you've identified the two biggest areas of need for the Blackhawks. To me, their bigger need is the second-line center but I wouldn't be surprised if Stan Bowman takes care of both issues. It won't happen anytime soon though, these are moves the Blackhawks will make closer to the trade deadline.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Patrice Bergeron got his concussion October 2007, sat out the rest of the 2007-2008 season, but even though he came back for the 08-09 season, he was never really right until the start of the 09 season. It's possible Crosby isn't right until the start of next year.

Craig Custance
  (2:26 PM)

Marc - It's possible he's never right again. That's the thing with concussions, it's completely unpredictable. I was stunned when Keith Primeau said he still has concussion symptoms. This issue isn't going anywhere.

JD (DC)

Craig, do you also notice the rising number of head shots that have occured since the NHL has changed their rules to a more fast, high-scoring, wide open style of play? Any chance the NHL might look at bringing back some of the old rules (such as the two line pass) to reduce speed and help drop the number of serious injuries we are seeing?

Craig Custance
  (2:29 PM)

You're spot on JD. The new rules opened up the game, but they have come with a serious price. I think one rule change that might get some momentum when the GMs meet next would be the elimination of the trapezoid. There are some GMs who think that allowing the goalie to handle the puck more frequently might save some big hits on their defensemen who currently have to go back and retrieve the puck when it's dumped in. I'd be in favor of that rule change.

Keith (Tagliavia)

Concussions seem more frequent in the NHL than in other major sports, including football. Does the equipment need to be reduced or perhaps we need better helmets?

Craig Custance
  (2:31 PM)

Keith - It seems counter-intuitive but I think smaller equipment might cut down on the concussions. Especially the shoulder pads. Players might be less inclined to launch themselves into opposing players if they had smaller equipment.

Keith (NYC)

They should also add the no-touch icing rule.

Craig Custance
  (2:31 PM)

Yup.

ThoosinX (Toronto)

i dont know who you are but whats up

Craig Custance
  (2:32 PM)

Hey Thoosin. Thanks for stopping by.

Matt (Toronto)

Next coach to go? Surely Wilson is running out of rope... your thoughts? Thanks for the chat

Craig Custance
  (2:34 PM)

It's amazing how Ron Wilson is teetering between demands for him to get a contract extension to those calling for his job. That just shows you how much pressure there is on Toronto to make the playoffs this season. Randy Carlyle's availability doesn't help the cause. But as long as Ron Wilson has the Leafs in a playoff spot (they're currently No. 6 in the East) I'd say he's safe. I'd look to Colorado as a place where we could see a change if things don't pick up soon.

JD (DC)

Big night for Parise last night. Burnside was asked this yesterday, but if the Devils do move him what can they net in return? A package around a young goalie seems ideal, but outside of LA who can put a serious package together for him?

Craig Custance
  (2:35 PM)

What was Scott's answer?

Marc (Malden, MA)

No-Touch Icing: does the defenseman still have to get back and get close to the puck or is it once the puck crosses the goalline, it's icing? If it's the latter, I don't like it, teams often send long passes from behind the redline when a winger is streaking up the boards.

Craig Custance
  (2:37 PM)

I should clarify. I'm in favor of hybrid icing as is currently the rule in the USHL. I think that's ideal and I'd be surprised if the NHL doesn't implement it soon.

Denny (Minny)

Just got my Cal Clutterbuck jersey! I love how that guy plays the game...thoughs on him breaking out offensively this year? Its all about opportunity in my opinion...

Craig Custance
  (2:41 PM)

He's an easy player to root for. I give Mike Yeo a lot of credit for the success, not only Clutterbuck, but of the whole team. There has been a complete buy in from all the players there. As for Clutterbuck, he's seen offensive growth every season since he broke in and is on pace for 25 goals this year, which would be a career best. I think we're witnessing the natural progression of a 24-year-old who is constantly improving.

Tommi (Helsinki)

Who is the best Finnish player in the NHL right now?

Craig Custance
  (2:44 PM)

Sticking with the Wild theme, I would say Mikko Koivu. I love how he plays. He's a great leader, plays a complete game and after a slow start offensively is contributing everywhere on the ice. Heck of a start for Filppula in Detroit too. He's finally having the kind of season that matches his talent. I wouldn't put him at the level of Koivu or Selanne but he's suddenly in the conversation.

Alex (Anaheim)

Do the Ducks have any shot at Yakupov, or are they too talented to play quite this badly the whole season?

Craig Custance
  (2:47 PM)

Can you imagine Yakupov on that team? There would be a ton of firepower up front in Anaheim, it would be really fun to watch. But I think Bruce Boudreau will get that franchise out of the hunt for him. You're right, there's too much talent in Anaheim to finish dead last. My three favorites for the No. 1 pick are Columbus, Carolina and the Islanders.

tom (hackensack)

Craig, see Scott's parise response below...i also believe another guy asked him about a Cory Schneider package later in the chat to which he said they wont trade Cory mid-season...Thanks for the chat!Jon; The dilemma,I think, will be whether a team is looking to rent Parise who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 or is looking at trying to acquire him at the deadline with a view to signing him long-term. Risk for the team doing the acquiring and it makes the job more challenging for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello in terms of what he's asking for. That said, I am guessing he'll go for the moon. No doubt he'd like a top goaltending prospect or asset. What about Jonathan Bernier from L.A. for instance? Top draft picks and a top prospect or some variation of the above.

Craig Custance
  (2:50 PM)

Thanks Tom. I agree with Scott. An ideal move would be to acquire a franchise goalie in a Parise trade and the Kings could certainly use a player like Zach. What about Minnesota? If Parise reaches free agency this summer, I think they'd be the front-runner to land him. Minnesota has a strong stable of goaltenders in the system if Chuck Fletcher decides he wants a head start on the Parise sweepstakes.

Allen (Dallas)

Do you think the Kings end up turning it around this season, or is this going to become another "wait till next year" situation?

Craig Custance
  (2:53 PM)

This can't be a wait-till-next-year season in Los Angeles. This is next year. Dean Lombardi is under pressure to get this team poised to make a playoff run so I don't think his moves improving this team stop at the head coach. They need another high-end forward (Parise? Iginla?) and the Kings still have the organizational depth to pull off a major deal. Especially if they decide to part ways with Bernier. The key is Mike Richards. If he's not out an extended time, I think the Kings get back on track.

Jon (Mason City, IA)

Nice of the chatter to re-post my question to Scott yesterday. I love the Wild, and Craig, you just gave me optimism that Parise will be wearing a Wild sweater next season!!! Give us the home state discount!!!! It might just be me, but I think ESPN's NHL chats are much better than most other sports in that there are much better questions asked/answered.

Craig Custance
  (2:54 PM)

I may be biased, but I love doing these chats. The range of questions are awesome. The hockey fans on here bring a ton of knowledge. As for Parise, I don't know how much of a discount he'll provide, but being the home state certainly doesn't hurt.

Mike (NY)

Raycroft has had a rough go of late, while Lehtonen has been out with his groin injury. Bachman has emerged strongly in his limited time in the crease. If he keeps it up is there any chance he sticks with the club when Kari gets healthy? Or is the smarter play to send him down and let him continue to play more games in the AHL & develop.

Craig Custance
  (2:57 PM)

Once Kari Lehtonen returns, I don't think there's any reason to keep Bachman around. You want him getting experience and playing time and Lehtonen is the clear No. 1 in Dallas. But it's good to have a safety valve in goal because, as we know, Kari has a hard time staying on the ice.

John (Lakewood, CO)

Sacco getting sacked seems like forgone conclusion in Denver. Frankly who cares who replaces him. The bigger problem is upstairs. WHEN they dump Sherman, who do you think would be a good fit for GM

Craig Custance
  (2:58 PM)

I think you'd have to immediately look to Patrick Roy, wouldn't you? He'd be a natural for that position.

Mike ((DC))

Whenever people talk about trade options for the Capitals, Alex Semin's name is always in that mix. Does he really have that much trade value considering how streaky he has been and how many penalties he has taken this year (including all the non-sense diving penalites he is called for)?

Craig Custance
  (3:00 PM)

I think Semin's trade value has plummeted. Not only has he been inconsistent, he's expensive. That's not a good combo. Still, it still might make sense for GM George McPhee to move him if he decides the dressing room needs a chemistry shakeup or he could use that salary cap space more effectively elsewhere at the trade deadline. If that's the case, the return is almost moot.

Craig Custance
  (3:01 PM)

Well, everyone time for me to make the drive down I-94 back to Detroit. Thanks, as always, for the questions!