Chat with EJ Hradek
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Buzzmaster (3:01 PM)
We have EJ!
Do you see the Caps going with the hot hand golie system for the remainder of the year or do you think they'll settle on one?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
I think Bruce Boudreau has shown in his short time in the NHL that he is willing to go with the hot guy. I think if Jose Thodore, who was brought there to be the No. 1 guy, wants to mantain that role, he is going to have to play well. I think Boudreau has already shown that he has confidence in Brent Johnson and Johnson has responded pretty well thus far in early season starts.
How concerned do you think the Islanders are with the constant injuries that DiPietro keeps suffering? His 15 year contract and injuries have to make them worried-no?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
Yeah I think they would have some private concern. I think when they signed him to that contract they were obviously hoping he would stay healthy. He has had some problems over the last few years and that must be a concern. That said, I think they are acting cautiously in this case, and I do not think they are going to rush him back. I think they want to make sure that his knee, hip and whatever else is 100% beofre he starts playing again. I think it is wise for them proceed with caution. In the meantime Joey MacDonald has played well and good for him.
Do you think the Bruins have a chance to be Stanley Cup contenders?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
Well the way they are playing now, they certainly look like they do. 11-3-4 is pretty darn good. I guess we will see over the course of 82 games where things go, but they seem to have good chemistry and they are getting great goaltending from Thomas and Fernadez. I'd say if the Bruins keep playing like this, I do not think they will be a team anyone will look forward to playing in the playoffs.
At 8-8 are the Coyotes headed for another .500 season and no playoffs, or can they turn it around?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
It is early, but the Coyotes are in a very tough conference. What worries me is the fact that their special teams are among the worst in the league and they are the worst face off team in the league. Those are little parts of the game that end up being important; if they do not improve in those areas, it will be pretty hard for them to make the postseason. They are a young team, however, and I think management is taking them in the right direction. It may be a matter of just being patient and it may take another year for them to get over the hump.
Rob: New Castle, Pa.
With the addition of Boucher and the eventual return of Whitney and Gonchar there seems to be a glut of defenseman for the Pens. Do you see Gonchars age and salary making him the most likely to be traded durning the trading deadline( assuming he is healthy by then)?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
No, I would absolutely disgaree. 1) I do not know if he will be healthy by then and 2) he was a critical part of their run to the Cup final last season. The addition of Boucher is a depth move and it is a right-hand shot, and someone who can help on the power play. But I do not think in anyway Gioncher is the odd man out. The question for him is when will he be healthy enough to really make a difference when he gets back in the lineup.
Ronnie, Los Angeles
What do you think about the rising star in San Jose, Devin Setoguchi? He looks like the best finisher on a great Sharks team.
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I think Devin Setoguchi is a talented young kid. He was a first-round pick, so it is no surprise that he is playing well. I think he has benifited from playing on a line with two great players, Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. He has been smart enough to realize that he is in a good spot and he has been doing little things, like looking for the open area in the offensive zone, and stopping in front of the net to look for loose pucks. He is a good, young player, working is a very good situation right now.
Michael (Tustin, CA)
With Francois Beauchemin lost for the season, will the Ducks make a move for another defenseman? And what are the chances of them landing Mats Sundin now that Brian Burke has left?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
Well they already added Bret Hedican as a vet to play on the backline. They do not have a lot of cap space to make many more moves. They will get a long-term innjury exemption on Beauchemin, but still it is hard to find players of that caliber. His loss will have to be made up by the group, including their high end guys, Niedermayer and Pronger. As for Sundin, I really do not think he will make his final decision based solely on Brian Burke. He is his own man and I think his decision to go to the Ducks or not will be based on his own feelings and the club's ability to find cap space to make it work.
EJ, do you think that the Canucks can maintain their good start throughout the whole season? Nobody thought they would score any goals, yet they are averaging 3 goals a game and with Luongo in net that may be enough. Also, any chance they are still in the running for Sundin? Does that make them much of a threat?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I thinks Vancouver's biggest challenege coming in was staying heathy. I thought that if their defense, which I think is one of the league's strongest, had stayed heaslthy last year they would have been a playoff team. But they had a lot of injuries and just missed out. I think they are surprisingly socring more than expected. They are tough with that defense and Luongo. I do think they need another top 6 type forward and certainly Sundin would be a great fit, but I do not know if Mats is going to commit to go there. Afterall he sis turn down a 2 year $20 million offseason offer from there. With or without Sundin, I think they can be a dangerous team in the playoffs because of their goaltending and defense.
Zach (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Considering the start that the sharks are off to, what, if any, trades might they be looking for to fill any holes they might have?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I think we are really nitpicking when we talk about the Sharks and trades right now. I think as with any team looking to make a title run, players with experience and depth on defense that can step in if there is an injury are always helpful. Also if those players have championship experience, that cannot hurt either.
IF staal has a huge year will the pens have enough money to keep him too?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
I think that is the plan, to keep Jordan Staal. They are getting ready to go into a new building, which should help the revenue situation. But I think at the end of the day it will really depend on the player and how much he is looking for down the road and how much he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. It seems like he likes being there, but it is hard to tell on November 18 how someone is going to feel after a long season. I do think there are some financial challenges to having that many high-salary players on one roster. But I do think the plan is to try to keep him.
As a Blackhawks fan, I've been underwhellemed by Huet. He just gets into the butterly and doesn't react to shots or controll rebounds. Are the Hawks going to regret giving him 4 years at that price.
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I've always been underwhelmed as well, to be honest. At the time, I thought it was an odd move. I liked the fact that they had a compitent goaltender in Nikolai Khabibulin going into the last year of his contract, which motivated him to play, and I did not think there was a need to make a big pitch for Huet. At this point that is water under the bridge. The silver lining, I guess, is that they still have Khabibulin and he is playing very well when he has been asked to go in. I do think the decision to sign Huet has put the Blackhawks in an odd spot with their golatenders, but it seems like they could get through the year with both guys especially is Khabibulin keeps playing well. If they were to trade him, as has been the speculation, and Huet continues to be just average that might not sit so well with all concerned in Chicago.
Jake (Tampa Bay)
What do you make the Tampa Bay situation? Did they really expect to win with no defense and an entirly new forward group. Didn't the Rangers prove a few years ago that you can not buy a championship.
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
When you think about where Tampa Bay have gone, from Cup champs in 2004 to where they are today, it really has been a sad dropoff. You have new ownership trying to make a splash and really showing many signs of their own inexperience and lack of understanding. Simply, they would have been so much wiser to keep a defenseman like Dan Boyle and not waste their time signing uneeded forwards like Radim Vrbata, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, etc. It's really kind of embarassing. As you say, it is silly to think you can win in the NHL without a credible defense. Tamnpa Bay is allowing the most shots in the league per game and that is no accident.
Andrew (South Side, PA)
After Gonchar and Whitney went down, many predicted the Penguins would collapse defensively and in the transition game. Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski have really eaten up a lot of minutes and funneled the puck through the neutral zone well. How good can those two be?
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
I think that both guys have potential to be good, puck-moving defensemen. I do not think they will be elite, but I guess in a new NHL, where there is a new premium on defenders who can move the puck quickly by means of skating in and out of traffic areas or by making a good first pass, these two young guys have potential to be good player in those roles. I think in Pittsburgh they benefit from their very defined roles and good support from the players around them. Both guys are getting chances now and they are taking advatage of it. Good for them.
Greg - Portland, Ore.
EJ - You're Ken Holland at the end of the season, who do you sign, Hossa or Franzen?
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
Oh boy. That is going to be a tough decision for Holland because we do not know exactly where the cap will be and that makes a difference. I think it really depends on what each guys is looking for. I think that Hossa is a better player than Franzen; I think Franzen can still get better and seems to be getting better each game. I think it comes down to their internal feeling about both guys and what kind of money those players are seeking. If I had to choose between the two, and I could afford both, I would probably take Hossa, but that is no knock on Franzen, who like I said, has been a guy that keeps getting better and looks like he will be another great player to come though Detroit. I get the sense that the Wings will end up keeping Franzen and not be able to keep Hossa, unless he is willing to take less money.
A little down the road but why is the NHL considering not sending their players to the olympic games? Isn't that the perfect opportunity for the NHL to market their product to casual fans.
EJ Hradek (3:48 PM)
I think that the NHL is commited to playing in the Olympics in 2010, I think the question is the years after that. I think the players, particulalrly the high-end guys, who would be the ones who would participate, would like to continue to play in the Olympics. From a management perspective, there is a lot of downside in terms of scheduling, and possible injury and also, in my opinion, the league does not benefit from the Olympics when the games are held in a non-North American venue. The time difference prohibits North American fans from easily watching and I think there is a little disconnect when the games are on another continent. I think the discussion will continue, and I will add that the NHL's participation in 2014 at the games held in Russia, may be used as a barganing chip to get the Russian Hokcey Federation to sign off agreements with the NHL.
Jarrett ( New Jersey)
Is this the year Henrik Lundqvist finally wins the vezina? Where do you see the rangers finishing the season?
EJ Hradek (3:50 PM)
I see the Rangers finshing the season in Philly on April 12th, and they will qualify for the playoffs. I think Lundqvist is a top candidated for the Vezina and has a great shot at winning the award. I think the Rangers, are going to play close, tight defensive games and they are going to have to win those 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 type games. So far they have been very good at it, but we will see how they do in the spring.
Craig (Norwich, CT)
What is your take on the fans of the Canadiens stuffing the All-Star ballots?
EJ Hradek (3:55 PM)
My take is that fans in general have passion and fans in Montreal are ultra-passionate. This is a big year for the franchise, in the 100th season celebration that has stretched out over two years, so that shows you it is important to them. The All-Star game is in Montreal and the Canadiens have a good team, with plenty of canddiates, and the fans are a little overexuberant. I think when you give fans the chance to vote, which is a good thing, you leave yourself open to a lot of different scenarios...this is one of them.
EJ Hradek (3:55 PM)
Thanks for the great questions as always, and enjoy the hockey!