ESPN: SportsNation

February 26, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Craig Custance

#### Craig Custance  (1:17 PM)

Hey guys - Sorry I'm late. Realignment stuff a huge distraction! Let's dive right in.

#### Dara (Boca Raton, Fl)

I'm NOT a fan of this realignment talk. It absolutely stinks for the 2 teams in florida with travel but per usual no one thinks about those 2 teams. It makes no sense to fly to canada so many times when Carolina is right about the state.

#### Craig Custance  (1:19 PM)

Dara - That's a fair concern. But there's also a benefit for the Florida teams. The home-and-home schedule brings a lot of stars that Florida hasn't had a chance to see much. And being in a division with Canadian teams and teams like Detroit, Boston, etc. will be a great draw for attendance. Lots of transplants down there. It's not ideal but there are benefits.

#### Brandon (Burbank, CA)

What is the biggest weakness for the Blackhawks right now?

#### Craig Custance  (1:20 PM)

Brandon - Well, they haven't lost yet in regulation so it's hard to nitpick at this point. I love the way Stan Bowman has rebuilt this team. They're deep on defense which is huge when injuries kick in and they can roll four lines. Special teams have greatly improved so there's not much to complain about there. Goaltending has been great too. Honestly, there's a lot to like. I'd maybe add another forward, maybe a center but that would just be icing.

#### John (New Mexico)

I asked you a couple of weeks ago if Johnny Oduya was an underrated pickup last winter......Did that prompt you to write the article about him? I need to know so I can take credit amongst my friends.

#### Craig Custance  (1:21 PM)

Haha. Maybe that sparked the idea. I was also given the stat with him in the lineup which iced it. But by all means keep the ideas coming John, you'd make a good editor.

#### Mike (NY)

Don't you think it's a little ridiculous that Philly has played 21 games while Boston has only played 15. I know that they had one cancelled due to weather but still. It must be a lot easier to have the record that they do when they're getting twice as much rest as all the other teams.

#### Craig Custance  (1:23 PM)

Yes, I know scheduling this condensed season was a challenge but I do think some teams have had advantages in the way things have played out. The bonus for teams who have played traveled heavy early or crammed in a lot early is that it will ease up in time for the playoffs. So if they can tread water now, there's a chance to get things going at the right time of year. But yeah, definite imbalance.

#### Kris (Detroit)

What do you think a fair deal for Damian Brunner would be at this point? Obviously the Wings need to get him locked up but to a fair term deal

#### Craig Custance  (1:24 PM)

Kris - Great question Kris. I touched base with his camp and it sounds like they want to avoid any distraction that a contract negotiation might create right now. THings are going really well, not sure you want to mess with that. But at the same time, he keeps producing like this and his price will go up. He's still working things out defensively but that will be an interesting negotiation when it gets going.

#### Larry (Illinois)

If the Blackhawks make it to the Cup Finals, who from the Eastern Conference poises a big threat.

#### Craig Custance  (1:24 PM)

To me, it would be the Boston Bruins. Experienced playoff team that is clicking. A Boston/Chicago final would be fantastic. Tough to pick a winner.

#### Rick Dipietro (Bridgeport, CT)

Craig, wait, so you are saying nobody picked me up on waivers? Seriously?

#### Craig Custance  (1:25 PM)

Sorry Rick. That contract is a little prohibitive.

#### Joe (Wilmington DE)

Any sign of Ryan O'Reilly getting traded anytime soon?

#### Craig Custance  (1:26 PM)

I don't think Colorado is especially eager to deal him and is trying to hit a home run with any deal. That's a tough spot all around because team's that trade with him still have to deal with signing him to a contract. That makes teams a little more cautious.

Will Anderson, Lehner and Bishop still be on the Sens roster after the trade deadline?

#### Craig Custance  (1:27 PM)

I'm going to say no. Ben Bishop is proving that he's a capable NHL goalie so if everybody is healthy when the deadline gets here, I think he gets dealt. That'd be a nice pickup to for a team looking to solidify their goaltending.

#### Imre (Missoula, MT)

Gotta do it, sorry, but another Hawks question/comment. Among the many things that make this streak impressive is that they've not EVER lost in regular OT, only in the shootout! I haven't hard anyone mention that yet...Holy cow!!!

#### Craig Custance  (1:28 PM)

Any way you slice it, it's impressive. The shootout is a bit of a cointoss but at this point, you can't help but be very impressed with the Blackhawks.

#### Anthony (Brooklyn)

Craig - on one hand the Rangers have played awful hockey (for them) and are just outside the playoffs - on the other hand, they have played awful hockey! Should I be looking at the glass half full or half empty?

#### Craig Custance  (1:29 PM)

Half full. They'll get it ironed out there as long as the injuries don't get too burdensome.

#### Matt R. (Pittsburgh,PA)

Pardon the analogy but isn't it about time to give the Coyotes the "Old Yeller" treatment once and for all? This nonsense has to stop at some point, right?

#### Craig Custance  (1:30 PM)

Haha. Yeah, I think it's time to put us all out of our misery and make a decision there.

#### Matt R. (Pittsburgh,PA)

Does the uncertainty of realignment put a damper on potential trades since it's hard to know who will be a rival next year?

#### Craig Custance  (1:31 PM)

The memo went out today to the teams that outlines realignment so it'll be settled here with in the next week or two. But yeah, I think there were some GMs that were hesitant to make deals until they knew for sure where they were playing next year. I know that's the case. Good point Matt.

Is it fair to say that you guys completely over-rated the Minnesota Wild this year?

#### Craig Custance  (1:32 PM)

Rob - I've consistently felt like Minnesota's best chance at contention isn't until next season when some of their young talent has a chance to get comfortable and contribute. But I thought and still think they can compete for a playoff spot. I forget which one of us picked the Wild to win it all, but I'm pretty sure it's the former coach with a mullet.

#### Marc (Malden, MA)

If the referees aren't going to call a penalty, when Lucic got CLEARLY boarded the other night, why even have them out there?

#### Craig Custance  (1:33 PM)

Lots of people unhappy with how games are being called right now. I'm not going to pile on but yeah there are concerns.

#### Doug R (Milwaukee)

If the Wild miss the playoffs, do you see Mike Yeo, or Chuck Fletcher on the chopping block. Fletcher would have hired two rookie head coaches. Seems to me that the Wild are fighting for not only the playoffs, but to save some jobs as well. What do you think?

#### Craig Custance  (1:34 PM)

I like Mike Yeo but i think it's fair to say he's on the hot seat. That's the reality of being a coach on a team that spends big to improve itself. The GM probably has more time. Fletcher got an extension in the spring and has done a great job accumulating young talent, not to mention landing Suter and Parise. If they continue to struggle I think Yeo is in trouble first.

#### Eric (Chicago)

Craig, you mentioned the Blackhawks should pick up another forward or center...my question is who/what do they trade? I'm assuming draft picks or minors talent and not anyone from the current roster? Or is there someone on the current roster not being used that could fetch a haul for them?

#### Craig Custance  (1:35 PM)

I wouldn't touch any of their NHL roster or depth. They're going to need it. Strictly prospects or draft picks.

#### sp (wny)

Craig, Sabres fans have got to be the most disappointed fan base in the NHL this season, yes? In your opinion, do they need a complete rebuild, or can they make some moves and stick with much of the existing core?

#### Craig Custance  (1:35 PM)

I think it's time for a massive overhaul in Buffalo.

#### Don (Smithtown)

Craig, you don't answer real hockey questions from the 70's and 80's, do you?

#### Craig Custance  (1:36 PM)

It's tough to give honest analysis of players or games that were played when I wasn't born or still learning to walk. Sorry Don.

#### Ben (SJ)

Is anybody NOT on the chopping block in SJ? First few games, they looked alright but now they can't even make simple passes (I compare to watching the Hawks whose passes are 90% of the time crisp and right on the tape)! I'm skeptical they're making the playoffs, and even IF they do they won't make it past the first round. \end rant

#### Craig Custance  (1:38 PM)

Ben - Yeah, it's been a rough go for the Sharks. It's a tough one because they had so much roster turnover last year and never seemed to click so you almost want to give this group a chance to work it out. But at the same time, I don't blame Doug Wilson for working the phones.

#### Pat (Chicago)

I think people need to pump the brakes on anointing the Blackhawks the greatest thing since sliced bread. Keep in mind this is essentially the same team that lost 9 in a row at one point last year.

#### Craig Custance  (1:39 PM)

Alright Pat, you're on the record.

#### Max (MI)

Do you see the Wings dealing to improve their defense, which hasn't been all that great?

#### Craig Custance  (1:40 PM)

I know they'd like to, it's just that there are a lot of teams that would like to improve their defense. It doesn't do the Red Wings any good to bring in another 5th or 6th defenseman. The key would be adding a top four guy who could ease some of the pressure on Kronwall. I'm not sure that guy is available right now.

#### ASN (NY)

Shanahan has been inconsistent with penalizing players, going back to the playoffs last season. There has to be a better system than what is currently being used, doesn't there?

#### Craig Custance  (1:41 PM)

He has the toughest job in hockey. No matter what he rules, he's going to make half of the fan bases involved upset. I've seen how he operates and how closely he analyzes each decision and there's a reason for everything. He's also extremely transparent, the explanation videos have been great. I think people already take them for granted. I wouldn't want his job and I think he's done well considering the circumstances.

#### Craig Custance  (1:44 PM)

Alright everyone. I hate to cut this short but we're sitting down to record a podcast with Pierre and Scott. So I've got to run. Thanks for the participation as always. IF I missed your question, shoot it on over to the mailbag and I'll get it: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/mailbag/_/id/40243/craig-custance