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April 9, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Craig Custance

Craig Custance
  (12:59 PM)

Hey everyone! Dreary day here in the D, let's talk hockey and brighten the mood!

Mike H (DC)

Has there been any talk about looking again at the point system? I hate that teams are able to rack up points for games that they lost. Rewarding a team for winning in regulation seems like a great idea. Awarding 3 points for a game that goes into overtime but only 2 for a game that finishes in regulation as it is now seems so flawed to me. It makes it that much harder for a team to catch anyone in the standings. 3-2-1-0 sounds pretty good.

Craig Custance
  (1:01 PM)

Mike - Based on the feedback I receive from fans, there's a big appetite to give more of a reward to a regulation win. But I'm not sure there's the same drive at the league level. When Gary Bettman met with the media on Sunday, he mentioned the word parity a good five or six times when talking about the league's success. Part of that parity is driven by the current point system. Not sure they're eager to change that.

Will (Brooklyn, NY)

Who do you think is the best matchup for the Pens is the first round?

Craig Custance
  (1:03 PM)

From a pure competitive standpoint, as in, the team they're most likely to beat? I'd put them as pretty strong favorites against the Devils, Islanders or Jets if they get in somehow. I think the Rangers would be a bad draw for Pitt. And of course, all bets are off if Philly somehow sneaks in.

Shawn (MI)

The penguins went all in this year with hopes of bringing home the cup. Do you think they will be able to keep their core intact after this season? Will they be able to sign Malkin and Letang?

Craig Custance
  (1:06 PM)

Shawn - that's a fair question. I don't think there's any way they lose Malkin, although the new CBA makes it much harder to structure a long-term deal in a way that will keep the cap number down. You saw Getzlaf's deal, well if that's what he's worth, I can't imagine what Malkin is worth. I think they'll find a way to keep the core, it's the veterans like Cooke and Dupuis that you wonder whether or not they can continue to pay.

jay (dc)

caps finally playing up to their potential. do you see it continuing? maybe a deep playoff run now that expectations won't be so high?

Craig Custance
  (1:07 PM)

Jay - I still have some concerns defensively about the Capitals and it's hard to make a run in the playoffs when your PK is suspect. That gets exposed in the postseason. With the right matchup, I can see the Capitals winning a round but it's hard to expect much beyond that.

Jason (Chicago) [via mobile]

Jonathan Toews has had an amazing season thus far especially getting the puck past the net. He was always a great passer and leader but with the addition of Saad on his line, I see 40 goal potential for captain serious in the near future. Your thoughts?

Craig Custance
  (1:09 PM)

Jason - For sure. He's the kind of guy who does so many things well that he doesn't need to score 40 to be a great player. But he's been scoring at a .50 goals per game rate for about two seasons now. In a full schedule, that gets you to 40. He's on the very short list of guys I'd build a franchise around.

Dougie (Indiana)

I'm actually really impressed by the Leafs lately with their uncharacteristically consistent play during this time of year. Any chance of them going deep in the playoffs? Any chance of seeing Kostka or Gardiner play again considering their glut of D-men?

Craig Custance
  (1:11 PM)

Dougie - Hard not to be impressed with the Leafs and to be honest, I don't have a great feel for how this team will perform in the playoffs. There are just so many questions - how will Reimer perform? How will some of the young players like Kadri respond? But there are two indicators that suggest Toronto could be dangerous - they're a good team at even strength and on the PK. If they get goaltending...

Andrew (min)

Are the Wild one of the Cup favorites next season? Rookies are a year older and all the new players arent new anymore.

Craig Custance
  (1:13 PM)

Andrew - Yes. Absolutely. They're ahead of schedule in my opinion with how they've performed this season and I think that's why Chuck Fletcher was so aggressive at the deadline. But I still feel the best is yet to come in Minny. Great young players and they're only going to be better next year. The key was getting in the playoffs this year and gaining that experience. Anything beyond that is gravy, in my opinion. Next year should be the year.

Derek (minny)

What will the Conference finals look like in the West?

Craig Custance
  (1:15 PM)

Chicago vs. Vancouver - I know people aren't crazy about the Canucks, but I like that team. Getting Kesler back is huge for that group. I think things are coming together at just the right time for Vancouver which is exactly what you want this time of year. And the Blackhawks are the Blackhawks. Blues and Kings would be my other two in the elite category. Wild on the cusp.

Mike (hello)

Does Jonas Brodin have any shot at the Calder? Or do they mostly look at points? They should look at the points he hasnt allowed because of his amazing play.

Craig Custance
  (1:18 PM)

Mike - I was just talking to someone about how I thought Brodin should be getting more Calder love. I can tell you as a voting member of the PHWA he's going to get strong consideration from me. But you're right, his stats aren't going to blow you away. Brandon Saad is making a push right now and that late momentum may generate some votes there.

Dontarius (Washington)

Saw an article on Bleacher report that ranked the Wild as the team with the brightest future, is that true? They are pretty close to the top but are they number 1? Koivu, Parise, and Suter all locked up for a long time and a bunch of good young players.

Craig Custance
  (1:20 PM)

Dontarius - I'll answer this and I won't even make a smart comment about Bleacher Report because in this case there's a strong case to make there. But Chicago and Pittsburgh's core is still young enough to contend for a long time. Blues are in a good place with talent and youth. Kings should contend for awhile. And in about two years we'll all be talking about the young talent in Florida.

Steve (lost in Norway)

What happened to my Canes? From a decent lead in the division to in serious contention for the #1 pick in the draft in a matter of three weeks...AARGH!!! And does this put both Kirk Muller and Jim Rutherford in the hot seat (I hope so)?

Craig Custance
  (1:22 PM)

Steve in Norway - Sorry about your Canes but injuries got the better of them. I'm not sure there are too many teams that could lose their best defenseman and starting goalie without a significant dropoff in wins. Getting Faulk back will help them, but it's too late. On the bright side, great year to be in the draft lottery!

Constance O'Houlihan (Tacoma)

Why does Sporting News editor Sean Gentille hate you so much?

Craig Custance
  (1:22 PM)

Jealousy.

Garrett (Long Island)

Hey Craig! How does the Rangers season/playoffs end?

Craig Custance
  (1:24 PM)

Hey Garrett! This, to me, is one of the great questions of this season. Before the deadline, colleague Katie Strang, who knows this team better than anyone, viewed this as a team that could at best win one playoff round. Don't know if their moves changed her mind. I'm more in the camp that if they get in the playoffs, they're built in a way that they could go on a run. If they're healthy. Losing Staal hurts and they lean on their top d-men. I would have liked to see them address that at the deadline.

Pete (Tampa)

With defenders at a premium demand, and a weak UFA market, do you anticipate more offer sheets and trades this summer?

Craig Custance
  (1:26 PM)

Pete - No and yes. The last two offer sheets - Shea Weber and Ryan O'Reilly - didn't work out. I think, more than ever, there's a belief that GMs will just match any offer sheet and you're just driving up the price of players by making one. But I think we're going to see a lot of trades this summer as teams restructure to get under the dropping salary cap. The other thing I know GMs are watching is the potential of good players being bought out.

Brian (East Lansing)

Craig, do the Devils have a shot at making the playoffs? Currently on their longest losing streak since 1986 can they turn it around in time?

Craig Custance
  (1:27 PM)

Brian - I'm a Pete DeBoer fan and he's done a great job guiding that team to where they are now. I still think they can get in, this is a rough patch for them. Getting Ilya Kovalchuk back is crucial for them, sounds like he won't be waiting until he's perfectly healthy before getting back in the lineup. You can never count out the Devils, that's one thing I know for sure.

Ice Ace (Alabama)

Where do you believe Luongo will be next year since Schneider has been playing well for the Canucks lately?

Craig Custance
  (1:28 PM)

IT's going to be a fun summer for goalie movement with the potential that we could see some musical chairs going on. I still think Toronto and Florida are the most likely destination although I think at some point Vancouver might have to pay part of that salary to make it happen.

Noah (Sonoma)

What do the avs do now? Fire the coach? Get the management to care about the team? Get the players to care about the team? Or just keep on tanking and get another top pick

Craig Custance
  (1:30 PM)

Noah - At some point you need to stop accumulating young talent and start winning some games. Avs are at that point. I think they have to look hard at a coaching change and probably GM too. I wonder if there will be a point where they turn to Joe Sakic to play a more prominent role in running the team on a daily basis.

Judeman5000, CPA (Bakersfield, CA)

How about that Jiggy ripping last night? Why can't the AVs just win? It's getting quite annoying.

Craig Custance
  (1:32 PM)

Hey Judeman - I didn't mind Giguere's comments at all. He's a guy who cares and wants to win and if players are truly more concerned about planning a Vegas trip than winning hockey games, they deserve to be called out. I've planned a few Vegas trips in my day and that can be all-consuming.

Craig Custance
  (1:32 PM)

Hey Judeman - I didn't mind Giguere's comments at all. He's a guy who cares and wants to win and if players are truly more concerned about planning a Vegas trip than winning hockey games, they deserve to be called out. I've planned a few Vegas trips in my day and that can be all-consuming.

Andrew (Chicago)

At the end of the playoffs, which trade deadline (or near the deadline) deal do you think will prove to have been the most valuable?

Craig Custance
  (1:34 PM)

I wrote about him today, but I think it'll end up being the Jay Bouwmeester deal with the Blues. Love that top pair of Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo, there might not be a better one in the conference. That was a huge need for St. Louis and, like the Jeff Carter last year, slots guys in the right spot in their lineup. Great trade for Doug Armstrong.

Timmy G. (Clovis, CA)

So what are your thoughts on the Sharks? You think they surprise some teams in the playoffs? Will they try to trade big ticket players at the draft to continue retooling?

Craig Custance
  (1:35 PM)

Timmy - I'll see them live on Thursday and look forward to getting a feel for how fast they're playing. When they're not playing well, they look so slow in the past. Those deadline deals should help them play a more north/south game. If they lose in the first round again, all bets are off this summer. I think, at a minimum, Boyle is moved if that happens.

max (craig-ville)

Hey Craig. Theres been a lot of knocking on the Caps for their light schedule in these last 12 games. Is it the schedule or the caps finally getting the system? You could see they played pitt hard a few weeks ago in their 2-1 loss to the pens. Also, if the caps take the SE... who is the better matchup? ottowa or toronto?

Craig Custance
  (1:37 PM)

Hey Max - How's Craigville this time of year? I'm don't know Washington for winning against a weak schedule. There are plenty of teams that didn't capitalize on golden opportunities in the schedule. You still have to win the games. Of the two teams, I'd rather face Toronto. Ottawa is getting healthy and I just think they'd be miserable to play against in the playoffs. And what if Karlsson makes a triumphant return for the postseason? That changes things pretty considerably.

Julian (Vancouver)

With Kesler finally healthy and the acquisition of Derek Roy, will the Canucks be able to win the Northwest and contend for the Stanley Cup?

Craig Custance
  (1:38 PM)

Yes. Not to mention a full playoff for Cory Schneider. Looking forward to watching him seize the opportunity he's been given in Vancouver. Kesler is the key, if he stays on the ice, they make a long run.

Tanner (Fort Worth, TX)

I'm a Stars and a Preds fan... I've basically given up on thinking Nashville has a chance at making the playoffs this year but I'm not giving up on Dallas just yet (call me an optimist). Do you see St. Louis or Detroit faltering enough to allow a bubble team to sneak in? How many games do you think the Stars need to win to have a real shot at it?

Craig Custance
  (1:40 PM)

Stars and Preds fan, eh? Definitely not Nashville's year but that's okay, David Poile did well to land Forsberg at the deadline. They'll be back. I appreciate your optimism for Dallas but of the four teams truly competing for the final two spots, I like St. Louis way more, Detroit next , then Phoenix and then Dallas.

Stu (Newport Beach)

Craig, any chance the Ducks catch the Hawks? Emerson Etem looks to be the real deal, I know he does not have the numbers yet but he is a pretty exciting player to watch.

Craig Custance
  (1:41 PM)

Stu - I'd bet against the Ducks catching Chicago. I like the Blackhawks slightly better as team, plus they have a three point lead with two games in hand. And yeah, Etem is a good young player. That was a good draft for Bob Murray and his staff.

Terrence (NYC)

Craig- who do you see being the bottom 3 seeds out of Ottawa, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, etc....

Craig Custance
  (1:44 PM)

No. 6 Rangers, No. 7 Senators, No. 8 Devils. Can totally see the Islanders getting in, I'm just betting on track record and experience when picking between Islanders and Devils. Would love to see Islanders get in though, those fans deserve it and Tavares is ready for the big stage.

Pete (Tampa)

In Philadelphia the goalie carousel never stops. Do you think they buy out Bryzgalov this summer and go back to a true tandem with Mason and someone like Emery? The team has many other problems that need to be addressed that a Bryzgalov buyout can give them cap flexibility to do.

Craig Custance
  (1:46 PM)

Pete - That's a ton of money for the Flyers buy out and it's not like Bryz has been horrible this year. But I think they have to clear the deck there. It's easy to say because it's not my money, but I'd do the buyout just for the roster flexibility. The question become, who do you replace him with? I'd want more certainty than Mason and Emery. I'd definitely make a call to Buffalo about Miller or even kick the tires on Luongo. Would anyone be really shocked if the Flyers ended up with Luongo?

Michael (Baltimore)

How frustrating is it as a hockey writer that no matter how much research you do and how much everyone thinks they know what's going to happen that the Stanley Cup Playoffs always have a way of saying "not so fast"? I'm sure it's exciting know that every year is full of surprises but I'm sure it's a pain to really be up to speed on the Presidents' Trophy winner and have them knocked out in the first round.

Craig Custance
  (1:48 PM)

Michael - It's such a tough game to predict. So many of us were picking teams like the Rangers and Blues to win the Cup. Now they're fighting to get in the playoffs. And the Kings won it all as a No. 8 seed. It comes down to teams playing the best when the playoffs begin, teams being healthy and then getting the bounces at the right moment. Look at the Devils - they could have been bounced by an average Florida team in the first round and they ended up playing for a Cup. It's wild.

John (Tennesee )

I don't think choosing Emery is the guy for the Hawks. Yes, Crawford has been shaky but If the Hawks make a deep run it going to be because they outshoot their opponents 2-1. Crawford has to be the guy.

Craig Custance
  (1:49 PM)

Yeah, I joined the guys on ESPN Chicago radio yesterday and we were talking about that. To me, you have to give Crawford the nod to start. He's your guy signed after this season. He was so good against Vancouver a couple years ago. I just wouldn't have a real long leash. Like, if he struggles in the first game, I'm going to Emery.

Mark (NYC)

What is the probability that the Rangers use their amnesty buyout on Brad Richards next year? 100% or is it closer to 150%?

Craig Custance
  (1:53 PM)

Haha - split the difference? The Gaborik trade gives them more roster flexibility for the summer and it's crazy to think they'd buy him out already after just signing him. It seems like just yesterday, teams were lined up at Newport to sign him. But in a cap system, you can't keep your mistakes around very long and if they don't think he's worth the number he's at, and can afford to do it, they have to look hard at a buyout. He's got five points in five games this month, and can still contribute. But ultimately, it may come down to having future flexibility. Tough, tough call.

Garrett (Long Island)

What do you think of the Gaborik trade? I think that the Rangers thought they were getting the most they would for him. They probably expect to be in a better position at the trade deadline next year and wouldn't trade him going into a playoff run. They then would be left with nothing when he becomes a free agent and they wouldn't be able to afford to keep him and resign Lundqvist and Callahan. Also, I think by trading him is a clear statement that they are not getting rid of Tortorella no matter how this season ends. What do you think?

Craig Custance
  (1:55 PM)

Garrett - Your last point is a very good one. This trade, to me, shows they're doubling down on Tortorella. Bringing in a gritty guy like Clowe and then grading Gaborik is a sign that they want to remain in that Tortorella identity. I think Rangers fans are going to like John Moore too eventually.

John (Boston)

Hi Craig - where do the Bruins stand as a team with a bright future? Young in goal with some strong young forwards and D-men. They have to have a pretty bright future too, right? Thanks

Craig Custance
  (1:57 PM)

John - Yup. A couple nice young pieces in Dougie Hamilton and Seguin too. They've got to get Tuukka Rask signed long term but Bill Zito and Peter Chiarelli have a really good working relationship. I don't see that being a problem. I also think Chiarelli is one of the smartest and analytical GMs in the league. He always seems to be one step ahead, that's a big part why I like Boston's future too.

Sean (SoCal)

Chicago? Vancouver? St. Louis? L.A.? Man, Craig, you really don't like the Ducks, do you? Even without Getzlaf, they found a way to beat L.A. the other night. This is just a team that gets it done. Apparently the refs share your anti-Ducks bias, since we've had two concussions on bad hits (Stoll on Fowler, Torres on Palmieri) and several high sticks drawing blood (Cogliano by a Blackhawks 4th liner, lost several teeth; Allen, Ryan): Nothing ever seems to get called. The on-ice officials seem to have been told to swallow their whistles when the Ducks are playing, and Shanahan's staff in Toronto is equally resistant to going after players that injure Duck players. Not all teams are Original Six teams with bandwagon fans that benefit the league. Regardless, we deserve respect and we deserve justice when we're abused by other teams. It's a joke what we put up with - No team has it worse. Period.

Craig Custance
  (2:01 PM)

Sean - Not trying to be disrespectful to the Ducks, and I wouldn't be surprised if they went on a run. Just not crazy about that team defensively. I hear from a lot of Ducks fans who share your point of view about calls but not sure there's a league-wide conspiracy theory against the Ducks.

Matt (Cleveland)

What will the Conference finals look like in the East?

Craig Custance
  (2:01 PM)

Pittsburgh vs. Boston

Eric (Chicago)

Andrew in MIN, good luck getting past the Blackhawks! You'll need it!

Craig Custance
  (2:04 PM)

Alright everyone, wish I could get to more. Love talking playoffs after weeks and weeks and weeks of trade deadline stuff. Can't wait for it to begin. If I missed you, drop me a line on Twitter (@CraigCustance) or in the mailbag (http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/mailbag/_/id/40243/craig-custance). Have a great week! See you guys tomorrow during our weekly chat w/Burnside, LeBrun, Strang and company.