Chat with EJ Hradek
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Buzzmaster (3:00 PM)
We're getting EJ right now!
Keith (Hamilton, MA)
E.J. Over/Under 3 years Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I think it's hard to put a time table on anything like that. Injuries and the salary cap era. Things can change for the better or for worse. Clearly the Blackhawks are headed in a much better direction now than they have in recent years. They have good young cornerstones in Towes and Kane to build around. I'll just say that they're on the right track and that's good for Blackhawks fans.
Jeff, Denver CO
How long do you think the Avs wait before making a trade for a goalie. Would Lehtonen be worth pursuing instead of Khabibulin from a cap perspective and long term answer?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
It's been kind of up and down for them so far this year. They started out bad, then they got better and now it's leveled out again. If they feel that they need to make a change, I think they'll do it sooner rather than later. It's up to management to decide if they need to make a change. BUt if things don't get better soon, they'll get there.
Why do the coyotes never get any credit? Yes they are a young team but they have shown they can compete with the best. They have shut down Pittsburgh,Washington,calgary, and now San Jose on Sunday. Who else do we need to beat before someone says hey maybe these guys are legit?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I think Phoenix gets attention. They get attention just because of the situation there with Gretzky as their coach. They have a lot of young players on their team and people just haven't gotten to know them yet. I think that some fans just haven't gotten to know them. The Coyotes are getting some attention nationally and from what I've seen, they've been better offensively. If they can increase their production offensively, and not hurt themselves on the other end, they can be a competitive bunch.
Is Brent Johnson the new #1 goalie in Washington?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I don't know if he's the new No. 1 there, but he's hot right now and he's taking advantage of the opportunity to play. As of today, I think his save percentage is around .930. That's pretty good. If he continues to play well, he'll have a chance to play some more. I don't know if he's a new No. 1, but he'll have a chance.
Will this Flyers team ever find consistency?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
I think they have a chance to at some point. They've scored 45 and allowed 47. They have to be better in their own end. Their goaltenders have to be better. They have to tighten up their game. It's clear they're going to be a team that can score, but it's hard when you're giving up too many goals. They proved last year that they can put together those kinds of runs in the season.
Keith (Hamilton, MA)
Is Shanahan a perfect fit as a veteran scorer and leader in a youthful Boston offense?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
Well, Boston has gotten off to a pretty good start. They've been scoring at a pretty good rate. I guess the feeling is that maybe a veteran like Shanahan can help them on the PP. It will be interesting to see where he goes. I'd be careful to make any moves that limit my salary cap moves later in the season.
How good would Blake Wheeler be if he was a physical player?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I think Blake is early in the game. He's only played a handful of games in the NHL. He was a four year guy in Minnesota. I think he's still finding his way a little bit. He's picked up 8 points in 14 games. I think he has the potential to be a little more physical. But it takes time for guys to find their way. I think he'll be a guy that has a little more physical game.
I know Crosby is the face of the NHL, but what are the chances that Malkin is a better, more dynamic player when they both mature physically?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Malkin definitely proved last year that he's not somebody to be overlooked in any situation. He's in the handful of guys that you can consider one of the best in the league. He's a guy you'd certainly want to start your team with. They're both terrific young players. The Penguins are fortunate to have them both on their team. I'd be comfortable with either one. They're different players, but they're both dynamic young centermen.
Bill in Tampa, FL
Is Sundin bound for the Ducks? What's the latest?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I have tried not to speculate as to what Sundin will or won't do. I don't think any of us would make too much money speculating on his future. I think in the end Mats will have to decide where's best for him and how much money he'd need. If the Ducks are going to do anything with him, they're going to have to find a way to make it happen financially, but that will be tough because they're already at the salary cap limit.
Why do the Thrashers insist on playing Lehtonen in goal, when it's clear that Pavelic, although still unseasoned, has a much bigger upside, and the team plays better and actually wins with him?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I don't know about a much bigger upside. They have a lot invested in Lehtonen. But clearly they like Pavelic and he played well in his short stint last week. I think it puts them in a good position to have a goaltending asset that they can move at some point and address some of their other needs. Maybe it would be wise to keep Pavelic and start to shop Lehtonen, but that's a decision that they'll have to make. It will depend on what kind of value they can get for any of their goaltenders.
What are the chances the rangers can land J. Bouwmeester, im not that impressed with their D
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
Impressed or not, the Rangers defense and goaltender have done a terrific job keeping the puck out of the net. The Rangers have been one of the best teams in the league so far.
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
I do think Bouwmeester will be traded before the deadline. He can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. He's a terrific skater. But to keep him long term, he's going to want big money and a long term. Having spoken to him in the past, he's kind of a quiet guy from Western Canada who might prefer playing somewhere other than New York.
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
In the short term, as a trade deadline acquisition to help a team on this year's playoff run, he would be a help if he would make a deal that would make sense to them and would keep them under the cap. The Rangers don't have a lot of cap space to deal with.
Bill in Tampa, FL
Is there any team that can afford Khabi...a 6 million dollar, one year hit?
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
There aren't a lot of teams that can afford to add that kind of payroll. Clearly it is a problem and it's one of the reasons the Blackhawks have had a hard time moving him. That said, he has been playing well for them. If he continues to play well and they want to move him, they'll have a better chance of doing so.
Wil you be watching the Pens-Wings game tonight?
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
I will be trying to watch that game. It will be a great chance to watch the rematch of the Cup Finals from last year. Hossa will be playing against his former mates. Clearly it's one of those games you want to see.
What are your thoughts on the Tampa Bay Lightning and goalie Mike Smith?
EJ Hradek (3:38 PM)
I think Mike Smith has been terrific so far for the Lightning. He's been a big part of why they've been able to stay competitive. In the games he's played, he's kept them in the game. I've always liked Mike Smith dating back to his days in Dallas, I'm confident he'll be a good goalie. The Lightning will need him to be as strong as he's been in the first part of the season.
What is wrong with Eric Staal? He is doing OK, but he has more talent than to play just OK????
EJ Hradek (3:39 PM)
Yeah, I think Eric Staal has a lot of talent. As of the other day, he's leading the league in shots on goal. But for whatever reason there has been a little bit of a struggle so far. Clearly, he's one of their top guys and he's already helped them win a Cup and the expectations are high. I like him a lot and he's a good player. When it's all said and done, he'll be productive and help Carolina win.
Bill in Tampa
Should we be worried about the Red Wings growing GAA, is it age creeping in, or is this just a blip on the radar?
EJ Hradek (3:41 PM)
I notice that myself and clearly the numbers indicate that they're giving up more shots per game and their goals against are going up. They're struggling a little defensively. But they're still first in their division. But I do think Mike Babcock is aware of those things. They played late into June. I think their game is not as tight as it should be. But, they are 9-2-2, which is the good news. I think they have the ability to tighten up their game when necessary.
Speaking of Staals, how much offensive upside do you see in Jordan Staal? It's surprising what he did his rookie year since he hasn't come close since.
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
I think it's really hard to determine what the offensive upside is for Staal. He's playing on a team where his main position is center and he's playing behind two of the best young centers in the league. He hasn't been asked to be the No. 1 center on the team. He's a big body, talented kid. But projecting him out for offensive numbers is tough because he hasn't been in those situations on a nightly basis. I'm always curious as to what the Penguins longterm plans are. Staal could be a guy that could be moved and get a significant return for the Penguins. Great question, but I don't know if I have a great answer.
How do you grade Bergeron's return so far? He has had a bunch of chances to score, not sure if it's rust or not being confident. Your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:44 PM)
I haven't seen the Bruins night in and night out so from that standpoint, it's hard to be certain. The numbers have been below expectations, but he did miss a large part of last year. They have to realize that they've gotten off to a good start without him being at his best. They have to hope that he gets back to a high level like he was before. But he's a good player and if I'm the Bruins I like having him on the team.
We had a good HOF class this year. What other announcers do you see going into the Hall?
EJ Hradek (3:45 PM)
Hmmm. That's a good question. Off the top of my head, there are a lot of guys that do terrific work. It would be hard to single out one guy. I think we have a number of good candidates in that respect. I'm sure whomever is selected would be a deserving candidate.
Are you sold as Bryzgalov being a #1 goaltender? There is a lot of speculation that phoenix might trade derek morris before the trade deadline due to him being a UFA at the end of this year. Do you see that happening?
EJ Hradek (3:47 PM)
I'll tell you what, Bryzgalov is a guy that played well for the Ducks in the playoffs. He made an immediate impact last year. This year, he's gotten off to a good start and the team has done well in keeping the pucks out of the net. I think he's shown that he can play at a high level. Is he a top 5 guy in the league? No, but he can play. Based on what I've seen the last couple of years, he's a legit starting goalie in this league.
Chris, South Pasadena, CA
Rangers, San Jose, Chicago, all look so pretty with their open ice passing, but c'mon one month in, who has the grit to go post-season deep?
EJ Hradek (3:48 PM)
If you're just talking about those three teams, I really like San Jose so far. It's no surprise, they've done well the last couple of years, without being able to get to the second round. A lot of that is that they've run into strong competition in the West. I think it will be a real motivated group come playoffs. Then it's the Rangers and Chicago, three.
Can you see the rangers trading for marian gaborik?
EJ Hradek (3:50 PM)
The Rangers have no cap space so any deal they make for him would be a significant trade with many assets. Gaborik is in a tough situation, because he's been hurt and hasn't played. When he's healthy, he's one of the most dynamic wingers in the game. I don't think he'll re-sign with Minnesota. In that event, he'll likely be traded by the deadline. If you want to pick him up in the short term, that's one thing, beyond that it's something different.
Are we relevant yet? I know we have a few young promising players, but it seems like we may be in worse shape than Atlanta and the Isles. Thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:51 PM)
Going into last season, I thought it was a chance for them to really push forward and get out of the playoff drought. But they had a tough start. To me, they're a wait and see proposition. They're powerplay has been dreadful. They haven't had any consistency. A team like that needs a good start, but they haven't been quick out of the gate.
Mike (Boston, MA)
Who's the best rookie so far this year?
EJ Hradek (3:52 PM)
I think Drew Goudy with the LA Kings. This is an 18 year old kid who's coming in and playing defense in a rebuilding team. He leads the team in time on ice. That's a lot of responsibility for a kid that age. there are a lot of good rookies, but that's one I'd pick out.
Kory, Toledo, Oh
Have you watched a Blue Jackets game this year? Do you see the CBJ making it into the playoffs? Do you see the character of this team?
EJ Hradek (3:54 PM)
I spoke to Ken Hitchcock today. He seems very excited about where this team is progressing. The new addition to the team, guys like Mike Commodore in defense, have really helped provide strong leadership for the young players in the team. I think it's still going to be a battle to get into the playoffs, because the conference is so competitive. But they've had a couple of good wins in the last week or two. Their rookies goalie has come in and played well. The Blue Jackets are the kind of team that will have to play with an urgency every night. I like their young players, and I think they're moving in the right direction.
What do you think of Auld this year? Is he as good as his numbers?
EJ Hradek (3:55 PM)
I think Alex has been good. He's one of these goalies that doesn't seem to get a lot of respect. He's bounced around. He's getting an opportunity to play and he's taking advantage of it. I think he's a pretty good goalie who will have to take the next step in his game to really be a guy that we can consider a steady No. 1. But he's getting an opportunity in Ottawa.
EJ Hradek (3:56 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions. We'll do it again soon.