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

Craig Custance
  (12:59 PM)

Hey everyone! The stretch run is upon us, best time of the year! Let's jump right into the questions.

Matt (Arkansas)

Is it safe to say that the Ove and Crosby comparison/who's better talk has pretty much dissipated these days.... I agree that being able to have best player arguments is what the sport would rather have than not, however, Ove's skill was superseded a bit for a while by his immaturity which is why we've seen Crosby emerge as the "hands down better player" over the last few years, would you agree? who could take Ove over Crosby the last 2-3 years...

Craig Custance
  (1:02 PM)

Yeah, that's not a debate you hear too much anymore although I still love a good Penguins/Capitals tilt. They're still two great players and Ovechkin is a huge weapon for the Capitals. But Crosby has launched himself into his own stratosphere. He's going to run away with the Hart Trophy this year and he's also getting tougher assignments defensively this year from Dan Bylsma. He's really rounded out his game, especially compared to Ovechkin.

John (Boston)

Should the NHL change how teams are awarded points? Winning teams in regulation get 3 points, winning a overtime game nets you 2 points and losing it gets you 1 point?

Craig Custance
  (1:03 PM)

John - there are some GMs who are intrigued by the idea of moving to the international points model but if you just look at the races right now, it's hard to argue against the parity this system creates. Every night there are absolutely huge games with playoff implications. I think the international model is definitely more fair and I'd like to see teams trying to win in regulation but at the same time, the playoff race going on right now is pretty great.

Lisa [via mobile]

Where do NHL teams stay during road games?

Craig Custance
  (1:04 PM)

Really nice hotels.

Daniel (Minnesota )

What are Kane and Toews' injury status for the first round series against Colorado? With those injuries and the Duechene injury, who has the edge (assuming Colorado holds onto home ice advantage)?

Craig Custance
  (1:06 PM)

Unless something has changed from yesterday on Toews, Joel Quenneville sounded optimistic that the injury wasn't as bad as it looked. Until I hear otherwise, I'd expect both guys to be ready for the Colorado series. As well as the Avs have played this season, this Duchene injury is huge. I'd still give the Blackhawks an edge based on their playoff experience and that they're a better team defensively. It would take Varlamov stealing a couple games for Colorado to pull off an upset. If I had to pick right now, I'd say Chicago in 6. Maybe 7.

Steven (Reno)

So it looks like last night's miracle win all but sealed the Pacific for Anaheim. At what point do the sharks give their regulars some rest for what is bound to be a bruising battering series w/ the kings?

Craig Custance
  (1:07 PM)

Steven - It's not a bad thought although they need to fight until absolutely certain the Ducks have that division clinched. Winning the Pacific could be the difference between a long run and a first-round exit. If the division is decided, I might prefer to cut the minutes of the veterans significantly rather than just sit them completely.

Erik Caron (Boston)

if you could build your team around one center, one defenseman and one goalie who would you choose.

Craig Custance
  (1:10 PM)

Erik - Love these questions. I'd go Sidney Crosby, best player in the world. Still relatively young. You might be able to talk me into Toews though. My defenseman would be Drew Doughty because of his age and off-the-charts skill. He really does it all. The goalie is a tough one. Either Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Quick or Carey Price.

Ben (Pittsburgh)

is it just me or does mike milbury need to shut up. Always ripping on the pens. Brooks orpik is a hockey player. Jonathan Toews is a hockey player. regardless of who receives the hit that is a clean hockey hit. I wish Toews didnt get hurt, but there was nothing wrong with what Orpik did

Craig Custance
  (1:11 PM)

It's two days after the hit and you're still talking about Mike Milbury's comments. Isn't that what you want out of somebody in that role? Somebody who sparks debate? I think he knows what he's doing.

Andre (Los Angeles,CA)

Hi CraigWhat do you think of the Islanders ownership situation? Think they will be sold this offseason. Very nice holiday gift for Islander fans. Wang just completely lost interest in the team after his arena deal in Nassau County fell through. Thoughts?

Craig Custance
  (1:13 PM)

Andre - My thoughts are that anything is better than the current situation, I mean the COyotes were less dysfunctional when the league owned them than the Islanders are right now. I'm not sure whether or not the sale will be at the speed Islanders fans want but it looks like it's headed down that path. That's a good thing for Islanders fans.

Mike (Cali)

How do you see the Ducks matching up against the Kings or Coyotes in the first round? I fear the Kings they look legit right now.

Craig Custance
  (1:16 PM)

I would fear the Kings right now too. I love that team. They're my Cup pick, although they would have an absolutely brutal road to the final. It would be a great series but I'd still pick the Kings in 7. Kings have edge in goal and on defense. They might not have the top end of a Getzlaf/Perry line but I love the balance of the Kings forwards too. It would be huge for the Ducks to win the division and get a wildcard team.

Hannah (Florida)

Whats the latest on Callahan's contract issue, we here in Tampa want to see him resigned, do you think he might do that?

Craig Custance
  (1:18 PM)

Tampa really likes him. Had a good chat with Jon Cooper about Callahan and what he brings to the Lightning. Loves his attitude and the presence he brings off the ice and he a provides a skillset that the team didn't have and doesn't have coming. When I last checked in with his agent, they were leaving all options open. Right now isn't the time to get a deal done, it's been a crazy season for him. And typically when a guy like Callahan gets close to free agency, they at least test it and there's going to be a strong market for him. I think he's open to Tampa but might want to see what else is out there first.

Casey (Salt Lake City)

Craig, with all due respect, you might be alone in thinking Mike Milbury knows what he is doing. Just ask an Islanders fan!

Craig Custance
  (1:19 PM)

Casey - Haha, I didn't say I'd hire him to manage my team. But if your goal as a network is to get people talking about the person giving their opinion on TV, mission accomplished.

Matt (Detroit)

Datsyuk back either Wednesday or Friday for the Wings. Watch out world.

Craig Custance
  (1:20 PM)

Sounded today like he has some conditioning concerns so you'll want to manage expectations for him when he gets back in the lineup. But yeah, that's a nice boost for the Red Wings.

Woody (Washington, DC)

The Washington Capitals have been woeful on defense this season. Know they have been bad but am curious as to why. Is it a lack of talent on the blueline? In goal? Lack of a commitment to team defense? What are coaches, scouts and front office personnel from other teams saying?

Craig Custance
  (1:22 PM)

I found Troy Brouwer's quotes in the Washington Post very interesting in that they're continuing to search for an identity. This team doesn't know what it is. In my opinion, it hasn't since Bruce Boudreau left. They're not good defensively because they don't have the horses on defense, nor do the most important players seem too interested in committing to a full team defense. If you don't have that, you need a high end goaltender to cover up mistakes. If they miss the playoffs, it will make for an interesting off-season in Washington D.C.

Mike Milbury (Not a GMs office)

Hey...take my question or I'll fight you! Why is my opinion important to people? If anything, my track record has proven I shouldn't be consulted on anything loosely related to hockey if you want a knowledgeable answer!

Craig Custance
  (1:23 PM)

I can't believe how many Mike Milbury questions there are in this mailbag. He wins.

wit (illinois)

best line in the league right now?

Craig Custance
  (1:26 PM)

I'm going to do something on this for my Insider blog on Wednesday, and I don't know if they're the best but I was really impressed with the Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Thomas Vanek line when I saw them live the other day. Not sure they're the best in the league but there's a lot of potential there for the playoffs. From start to finish, hard to argue the production from Boston's line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla.

Chris (Denver)

Craig, I think the Orpik hit brings a new classification into the discussion; There aren't just clean vs dirty hits, but necessary vs unnecessary ones as well. Brooks was making no attempt to hit Toews and play the puck, nor could he, since the puck was already gone. When players are hurt by unnecessary hits, then you have to bring into question 'the intent' of the hit. And I think that's when players need to be prepared to fight, even over 'clean' hits.

Craig Custance
  (1:27 PM)

Chris - The problem is that under the current system, that was a legal hit. You know what I would do? Make any hit that impacts the head illegal.

Person with disabilities can't see (Boston)

Is there anything the league can do to make sure that individuals in wheelchairs do not have rows of people standing up in front of them? My Bruins ticket prices have gone up but I can't see the game in the balcony! Need someone to take notice.

Craig Custance
  (1:28 PM)

I'm sincerely sorry to hear that. This isn't a topic that I've ever dove into but hopefully someone from the Bruins organization sees this and can come up with a solution.

Greg (Bay Area)

Do you think the Leaf's game 7 collapse last year has any effect on why they are in free fall right now?

Craig Custance
  (1:29 PM)

I really don't. Maybe it's a sign or indication of the makeup of the team or something but to me it's more about the way this team plays and is built. They're not good defensively, depend too much on goaltending and are top-heavy. Really, it was amazing they won as many games as they did before the bottom fell out.

Travis (Minny)

Good Afternoon Craig...What do you think of the Wild's win in LA last night? Does this bode well for them to potentially upset a top team in the first round of the playoffs? I feel like they are a sneaky good team...

Craig Custance
  (1:32 PM)

Travis - I know internally they are a team that thinks they can do some damage. I have concerns about the goaltending though. Maybe Bryz ends up being the guy to stabilize things there but that's going to be a disadvantage against every team they play against. The caliber of goaltending is so high in the West - Miller, Quick, Niemi, Crawford - that's a big disadvantage for the Wild. But that win was a good sign for them.

Craig Custance
  (1:32 PM)

Hey Trevor from Baltimore - I loved your question and am going to save it for my Friday mailbag so I can spend more time on it.

David (Myrtle Beach)

Craig, how would you rebuild the Buffalo Sabres if you were GM?

Craig Custance
  (1:35 PM)

They're off to a good start. I loved the Tim Murray hire, especially because of his track record identifying young talent. ANd he did well for himself at the trade deadline. There's going to be a ton of good young talent coming, but the challenge is finding the right veterans in which to surround that talent. I'd make a hard push for Ryan Callahan if I could. I'd overpay him to come to Buffalo and be that veteran presence on the team. I wouldn't rush the young talent and give my team the best shot possible at McDavid for next year. Then when things start coming together, I'd try and find a veteran goalie to help stabilize things and steal games as the young team learns how to win.

AJ (Delaware)

If the Maples Leafs make the playoffs, how far will they go?

Craig Custance
  (1:36 PM)

Not far. Realize anything is possible but can't see them winning a round.

Nick (St. Paul)

Craig, what can you tell me about Christian Folin and the deal he signed with the Wild. It sounds like he was trying to get a year on his entry level deal paid this season, if I read that correctly? Does this mean we see him on the ice this season?

Craig Custance
  (1:40 PM)

Nick - Yeah, so part of the deal with these college free agents is that you bring them in immediately to burn that first year on the entry level deal. Whether or not he plays should be up to Mike Yeo considering the high stakes right now. Since he signed a contract for this season, the clock is ticking regardless if he plays or not. So basically, that makes next season the last year of this deal. And I'd expect that he plays in the NHL next season. There were some teams in on him who suggested that was the expectation when you signed him. He's a good player, with an NHL build right now. Considering they got him for nothing other than his contract, it's a great addition for the Wild.

Ken Hitchcock (STL)

Can you give my team some bleeping love? I heard you on the podcast yesterday.....

Craig Custance
  (1:42 PM)

I love the Blues. Was I a negative about them on the podcast? I don't remember. If anything, I just pointed out that the Kings, Sharks and Blackhawks are just as good and capable of winning as they are. Not a slight on them.

Matt (Philly)

Can we just talk about how good Giroux is?

Craig Custance
  (1:43 PM)

He's really good. I'll save the rest of the Giroux praise for the LeBrun chat.

Mya [via mobile]

How come your answers are so much longer than LeBrune's?

Craig Custance
  (1:44 PM)

Great question. It's because I care about hockey fans and readers and value each question dearly. While Pierre only cares about his questions answered per chat ratio.

Bill (College Station)

Craig, how have the Hawks managed to win 2 cups in 4 years, yet are still added talented young players like Smith, Saad, and Teravinen?

Craig Custance
  (1:46 PM)

Don't forget Andrew Shaw. Just an absolute steal in the 5th round. On some level, part of it is luck. Saad and Teravainen both slipped their draft year for various reasons. But you also have to give a lot of credit to their director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley along with Stan Bowman. They know how to draft and develop and realize that you have to a steady flow of young talent coming to compete in a cap system. That's such a great organization.

Trevor (Baltimore)

Thanks Craig, I will look forward to it!!

Craig Custance
  (1:47 PM)

You got it.

Derwood (Atlanta)

Do the Rangers have the defense and goaltending to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?

Craig Custance
  (1:49 PM)

The Bruins are the heavy favorite in the East but as we know the favorites don't always survive. If Boston doesn't win the East, than the Rangers are part of a group of teams that includes the Penguins, Flyers and Canadiens capable of taking advantage and coming out of the East. I like the Rangers as a sneaky Eastern Conference pick.

David (Corona)

If your Bruce Boudreau do you go with Hiller or Andersen in the playoffs?

Craig Custance
  (1:50 PM)

I'd start Hiller in Game 1 because of his experience. He was pretty good in the playoffs last year for the Ducks in a series I covered from start to finish. But at the first sign of trouble, I'd pull the hook. Boudreau has been there before, he's not afraid to do it.

Marc (Providence)

Ooh...hockey scribe beef....Craig, now that you've caught Pierre with his head down and blasted him into the boards verbally, do you accept if he gets up and drops the gloves or do you pull an Orpik?

Craig Custance
  (1:51 PM)

Haha, Pierre has a couple inches on me. I'd probably turtle then offer to buy him a beer to make up for it.

Bob (Eugene)

Are Hossa and Ovechkin overpaid?

Craig Custance
  (1:53 PM)

No on Hossa. That's been a great deal for the Blackhawks, they got their value regardless of what happens down the road. The jury is still out on that Ovechkin contract but it's about supply and demand. If Ovechkin hit the open market tomorrow he'd probably get something close to that if he wanted. So I'd say it's probably close to market price and the cap is going up which helps the cause on both.

Gage (Warsaw) [via mobile]

Do yo think the Blue Jackets will make the playoffs

Craig Custance
  (1:53 PM)

Yes. I love the Blue Jackets and the way they play the game. I realize it's a tough schedule down the stretch for Columbus but I believe they'll get in.

Derwood (Atlanta)

Craig - Lebrun looks like a man who can pass wind with the best of them. Is this true?

Craig Custance
  (1:54 PM)

Hahahaha. No comment. I'll say this about Pierre - he's as generous and kind as any co-worker I've ever worked with. I love the hockey team at ESPN.

Pat [via mobile]

Game 7. Who would you go with, Brodeur or Schneider?

Craig Custance
  (1:55 PM)

Schneider and I wouldn't think twice at this point in their careers.

Jurgen [via mobile]

Who will make the playoffs in the east? Detroit and...?

Craig Custance
  (1:55 PM)

Columbus.

Eric (Georgia )

City to most likely get a re-location or expansion team in the next 5 years?

Craig Custance
  (1:55 PM)

Seattle.

Craig Custance
  (1:56 PM)

Also, I'm going into full LeBrun speed mode in the final five minutes.

BJ (NY)

Who is the biggest threat to Boston in the East? Has to be Montreal, no?

Craig Custance
  (1:56 PM)

Agree. They're not afraid of Boston. Not afraid to push back. Would love to see that series.

Ren (Boise)

This hot Kings team you all speak of has lost 4 of its last 7 home games and have been beaten by the ducks all year. Its time to stop talking about the past and give Anaheim some credit, they are the better team this year!!!

Craig Custance
  (1:56 PM)

Better in the regular season doesn't necessarily mean a better playoff team.

Mya [via mobile]

Your answers are getting shorter. What's you favourite city in the world and why?

Craig Custance
  (1:57 PM)

Tough one. I'd say Montreal.

Marc (NY)

Respond to this non-question quickly!

Craig Custance
  (1:57 PM)

Got it.

Casey (Salt Lake City)

Craig, two related questions: which top team is prime for a first round upset and why is it Pittsburgh?

Craig Custance
  (1:58 PM)

Hahaha.

Andrew (Philly)

Cheesesteak: with or without fried onions?

Craig Custance
  (1:58 PM)

With.

Ben (SJ)

Sharks or Kings advance in the first round?

Craig Custance
  (1:59 PM)

I need to see the matchups first.

JD (PA)

Craig, I know there is talk about Marty playing elsewhere next season, but wouldn't it just be better for him to retire? I'm not sure if there is a full-time gig available, and if there is it surely wouldn't be for a contender. Plus, as a Devils fan, I never want to see him in a different sweater.

Craig Custance
  (1:59 PM)

I'm with you, I can't imagine seeing him in anything but a Devils sweater. That would be a great legacy to leave.

Alex (Ny)

Flyers or Rangers?

Craig Custance
  (1:59 PM)

Rangers

Mike Milbury (hades)

Glad to know your such a fan of me Craigers! I won't have to beat you with my shoe now!

Craig Custance
  (2:00 PM)

And we're out! Great questions everybody. You're the best.

Craig Custance
  (2:00 PM)

And we're out! Great questions everybody. You're the best.