Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

October 16, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Katie Strang

Katie Strang
  (12:00 PM)

Hey everyone! Welcome to another week of puck talk here at As usual, lots to talk about so let's not waste any time. Fire away with your questions, rants, etc!

Adam (Long Island)

Hi Katie! Thanks for the chat.Despite not putting up any numbers on the stat sheet, watching the games I see Zuccarello doing more of the 'little things' (no pun intended) right than guys like Pouliot, and Pyatt. With AV calling out his players and putting Miller in a position to possibly overtake a top-9 spot from one of these players - who do you think is most at risk of losing their spot on the Rangers between Zuccarello, Pouliot, and Pyatt?

Katie Strang
  (12:03 PM)

It's the top-six forwards -- particularly Pouliot, Brassard, Zuccarello -- that really need to be on notice with Miller's recall. The 20-year-old prospect went on a tear after being sent down to Hartford and he's not timid. Alain Vigneault sent a clear message yesterday when he said that Miller could quickly push one of his teammates out of a top-six spot if his play warrants it. That goes for the PP, too. He'll start on second unit but have an opportunity to move up if he plays well. The way things are going, no one's spot is safe. The only player right now that has been pretty consistent is Brad Richards

Mike (NYC)

What's going on with Claude Giroux? I get the feeling his wrists are not completely healthy.

Katie Strang
  (12:05 PM)

Mike- glad you asked. I'm writing a feature on just that; expect that to roll out on tomorrow. I think his wrist is just fine. If it wasn't he'd be struggling much worse from the faceoff circle. I think the pressure from the upheaval and disappointment in Philly are causing Giroux to press. He'll come around, though, and I think Craig Berube will get the most out of him. Talked to Danny Briere earlier this week and he said that it took only 20 minutes on the ice with "chief" before he was convinced he'd be an NHL coach. The change in message and direction will help Giroux, no doubt

Dan (NJ)

It seems the new ownership group the Devils fans are already not getting along. Most people think this is crazy but why did they change the goal song?

Katie Strang
  (12:07 PM)

Not sure why they changed it from the old standby, but you are right that the backlash was immediate and furious. Credit to whoever recognized that, because the Devils are apparently now soliciting suggestions for a change in song again.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who is the Best New York City Area NHL Team so far in the 2013-2014 Season?

Katie Strang
  (12:09 PM)

Easily the Islanders, though they have even shown some growing pains of late. Have coughed up some leads and that's something they want to make sure does not become a pattern. They made a big stride last year, but they can't revert back to that inconsistency if they want to continue to move forward

David (Cupertino)

Katie, What are your thoughts on the Sharks - Blues game last night, specifically the gutless hit by Lapierre on Dan Boyle. How many games will he get? What can be done to take these dangerous hits out of the game?

Katie Strang
  (12:11 PM)

Bad hit and an ugly, frightening scene. Never want to see a guy leave the ice on a stretcher and Dan Boyle is one of the most well-respected veterans in the game. Lapierre has a history, and the accounts from the Sharks that he was warning them he would come after them won't help his case. He'll receive a significant suspension. We know it will exceed five since he has been offered to have an in-person hearing. My guess is that he will get something similar to Kaleta -- 7 -10 games

Judeman5000 (Bakersfield, CA)

Are most rookies typically bad at faceoffs?

Katie Strang
  (12:13 PM)

Young center do typically struggle from the faceoff dot, yes. Takes some time to figure out technique/strategy vs. guys that have been in the league for a while. Veteran center told me once that it's more important to even learn the officials tendencies in dropping the puck. Takes some time, but part of the natural learning curve that comes with being a young player in this league.

Johnny (Denver)

Is the Avs start a flash in the pan, or are they a legit worst to first story?

Katie Strang
  (12:15 PM)

I'm confident they won't be a worst-to-first finisher by the end of the regular season, but they are playing like a dramatically different and improved team. Heck, they are one win away from tying a franchise record with seven straight victories to start the season (a feat that dates back to the days of the Quebec Nordiques). Hard to call it a fluke when they have received such great goaltending. Any team that has that can go far. Doesn't hurt that they boast a talented crop of young players and a fiery new coach, either

Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)

Katie, good article on Matt Moulson and his pending free agency. Who will blink first? Isles management giving him a perceived fair market contract with a yearly value equal if not higher than Tavares (seems preposterous). Or him taking a hometown discount possibly in exchange for more years to stay in his comfort zone and be a key face in the Brooklyn move. Is there a sense other teams woud really value himthe same without the luxery of having JT as his center? P.S. Is Tavares' contract officially the biggest bargain in the league? How many teams do you think would rather have him at 5.5M versus Clarkson or Brad Richards at 7M or even Getzlaf at 8.5M?

Katie Strang
  (12:18 PM)

I think it would be wise for the Islanders to try and lock him up soon and show him that he is valuable to him. I think he could command more than what he'll likely get on LI should he test free agency, and that would be an asset very difficult for the Islanders to replace. And yes, Tavares' deal is an absolute bargain. One of the best bang-for-buck contracts in the league. Makes it tough for Moulson because I bet the Isles will be reluctant to make any player on the team higher-paid than Tavares

Mike (NYC)

Maybe Tortorella's ulra-conservative style was the only way this Ranger team could really compete. Although it seems his personality is also part of the reason he was fired. Thoughts?

Katie Strang
  (12:20 PM)

His personality and coaching style really had guys beaten down by the end of last year. He had to go and I think the Rangers made the right decision. It is totally fair, however, to note that they did have a significant amount of success under Tortorella, whether they liked his fire-breathing or not. Time will tell whether that style of play is the most conducive for their personnel, but there is already concern about the way they are playing now. Defensive breakdowns and recklessness with the puck has been a major problem for the team early this year

Dara (Boca Raton, FL)

Hey Katie. Major hockey fan and yes a Florida Panthers fan. Been watching Jacob Markstrom for a few years and I'm not convinced at all he is the so-called "goalie of the future/present" for the Florida Panthers. What do you think?

Katie Strang
  (12:22 PM)

I think it will be a good thing to have a veteran like Tim Thomas push him. That will give the Panthers a good idea of what he's capable of handling.

Smitty (PhillyPa)

What?s up with the Flyers? Is it the ?Culture?? Is it the owner? Do they have too many former Flyers in the organization? Is it the crazy contracts (too long, no trade & too mush $$$)? Is it the GM? Do they have enough talent? Lots of questions, I know. But not enough Wins.

Katie Strang
  (12:23 PM)

I think culture was part of it, hence the coaching change. I think their defensive corps is probably their biggest weakness right now

Ed (Manhattan)

What do you think about the Rangers lineup regarding their lack of muscle? Asham clearly wasn't cutting it, Dorsett takes dumb penalties and Boyle is afraid of his own shadow so who comes in a makes big hits to strike some fear into their opponents? (Aside from Callahan)

Katie Strang
  (12:23 PM)

I'm not convinced that muscle is that necessary for a team to be successful. Look at Detroit. They never boast many bruisers and they do just fine

Paul (NYC)

Do you see Alain Vigneault on the hot seat if the Rangers don't start winning games soon? Especially with Peter Laviolette on the market, and, with Roy showing early success in Colorado, also the possibility of giving Messier a chance?

Katie Strang
  (12:24 PM)

The Messier ship has sailed. That will not be revisited

Jason (centre of the Universe)

Think it is possible for Giroux to play himself off the Canadian OLY team?

Katie Strang
  (12:25 PM)

I truly think he will recover relatively soon. I can't see him stumbling his way out of contention

ricky (Brewster)

When do the isles look for a trade for a goalie? What would you give up?

Katie Strang
  (12:27 PM)

I think that should've been something addressed this summer, but apparently they did not. I've gone on record saying that I think their goaltending should be a concern, but even if they eventually agree, I don't see a move coming soon. They'll want to see how Nabokov handles the workload of a compressed season, and how youngster Kevin Poulin fares as his back-up.

Frey (Hoboken)

Are you hearing any insider info on when Nash is expected to return?

Katie Strang
  (12:29 PM)

Nope, but the fact that he is not yet skating is a good indication that he is not close to a return. Alain Vigneault said he was still feeling symptoms almost a week later. That's not good, especially when you consider that he has a concussion history. Missed time with one last year as well

Dean (NY)

Any truth to the twitter rumors about the Rangers looking at the space cadet goaltender formerly of the Flyers?

Katie Strang
  (12:30 PM)

Don't trust the Twitter rumors. They called up Cam Talbot, who has apparently made significant strides since last season. He'll get a chance to back up Lundqvist and prove what he can do

Sean (New York)

I agree that Kreider should be kept down in Hartford unless he can crack our top 6. He's not suited to be playing with the likes of Boyle or Dorsett. My point is that I think he IS in fact a top 6 guy for us but we still keep him down. Why is that?

Katie Strang
  (12:32 PM)

Kreider is indeed a puzzling case. He has the speed and skill of a top-six forward, but he has struggled to maintain consistency. Given the way things are going, however, he may be back with the Rangers soon. Especially with the absence of Carl Hagelin, the Rangers could really use his speed

Mike (Manasquan, NJ)

What do you think the Devils need to do? They need to start winning games. -Mike

Katie Strang
  (12:33 PM)

An astute analysis. The Devils are in bad shape. They just don't have enough scoring threats, players that can finish. This is going to be a tough year for them, methinks

Jason (LA)

i've told my NYR friends that we have to wait till Thanksgiving before we start panicking. your thoughts?

Katie Strang
  (12:36 PM)

Not sure if you read Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts column this week (this should be a weekly staple for all puck-heads out there) but he had a great stat in there. Only 3 teams from 2005-06 to 2011-12 who were four points out of a playoff spot on November 1 went on to secure a playoff spot. The Rangers are three back right now. You have two weeks. Then, I think it's only fair to panic

Nick (Minneapolis)

Hey Katie! Thanks for chatting! What's wrong with Dany Heatley? He's been dreadful so far this season. I mean, there were signs that he lost a step last couple seasons, but the drop-off this season has really been something. He's essentially untradeable and the Wild wouldn't be able hide his cap hit in the minors anymore. What to do?

Katie Strang
  (12:38 PM)

Yeesh, I don't know. Have to wonder if he's still feeling the effects of the shoulder surgery that ended his season last year. His lack of productivity will only fuel the Vanek-to-Minny fire even more...

Cullen (Tucson)

I know it's still really early, but how about ~140 points from Sidney Crosby this season if he plays a full season? Too optimistic?

Katie Strang
  (12:39 PM)

Cullen- I think that is a bit optimistic. But if No. 87 stays healthy, there's no reason he can't smash the 100-point threshold for the third time in his career

James (Atlanta)

What is up with the Sabres? Are they this bad?

Katie Strang
  (12:40 PM)

Yup, they sure are. If I'm Darcy Regier I'm feeling pretty nervous right now. Surprised he was not let go when Ruff was fired last season

Andrew (Long Island)

What's your thoughts on Marc Staal? Though he has a goal and has looked OK on the PP, he has missed coverages and generally looked a bit off. Do you think his eye injury could be a more permanent problem?

Katie Strang
  (12:41 PM)

I don't think it's the eye. Pretty much every Rangers defenseman has been bad this season. They seem to be struggling with the change in style and/or system

Suburban Rhythm (Pittsburgh)

What do the Pens do with Olli Maatta? He's easily one of the 6 best D in Pittsburgh, even when Letang returns. Would they carry 8 D all year - nobody is waiver eligible. Niskanen seems like the odd man out...should they trade him while his value's at it's peak?

Katie Strang
  (12:42 PM)

With the depth they have on D once Letang returns, I think they will eventually make a deal, yes. Shero is never shy about pulling the trigger when he feels the time is right

Andrew (San Jose)

Katie, what are your top 5 teams as of this moment?

Katie Strang
  (12:44 PM)

1. San Jose Sharks (and no, I'm not trying to pander. I picked them to win the Cup this year2. Colorado3. Pittsburgh4. Toronto5. Detroit/ St. Louis

Katie Strang
  (12:44 PM)

Ok all, we're going to end there today. Thanks for all the great questions! Enjoy the rest of the week and what is hopefully a great weekend of hockey :)