Chat with EJ Hradek
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join Hradek in The Show on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:02 PM)
E.J. will be here soon, everyone!
EJ first off big fan, your a class act. Most of us here in Detroit believe its simply a matter of time before the defense starts dominating as it did last season. With Babcock switching up the pairings and lines what are your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
The Red Wings are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they are off to a good start this year. I'm sure there are issues that Mike Babcock and his staff have concern about, most noticeably that they are giving up more goals per average than last year. But the big picture is this: they have a great team, and it's the same if not better than last time. At this point I don't have any major concerns about what is going on with the Red Wings.
The Avs play the kings tonight, any chance their is retrobution for the hit that Zeiler put on Foote a couple weeks ago?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
The player was suspended for the hit, so I think there has been retribution or justice, or whatever you want to call it. I hope that's not the case. I think we saw a couple of years ago when a team insisted on going above and beyond to exact revenge, when Todd Berutzzi got involved with Steve Moore in an unnecessary and unfortunate incident. I don't expect anything further than hopefully a good, hard game.
Jonathan (Wellesley MA)
Nice piece on the Bruins, hopefully it won't spell a repeat of the Caps game last year. On the subject of Kessel, how significant do you think his benching during the first three games of last season's playoff series against Montreal was in terms of his maturation?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I think he took notice of it, certainly. I think coaches have to hold players accountable. I think he's still a young kid who has a lot of skill and is continuing to grow as a player. I think all different types of things have an impact on his growth, and I think that was certainly something that he responded to.
Figgs (Fairlawn, NJ)
EJ! Latest news on Sundin? As a big Rangers fan I'm thinking with the lack of scoring lately we need him. Do you think it can happen or is Vancouver the destination?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
Your logic and reasoning make sense. Sundin would likely be a good fit in the Rangers lineup. But there's a big issue of salary cap room and the Rangers don't have it to accommodate Sundin under the current conditions. It seems to me they would have to make a significant move to create the cap space necessary. I don't think that is out of the question, but it's very difficult to do.
Do you think the sharks need anything other than increased mental toughness to finally get through the second round this year?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
I think any team that will advance deep and win needs a lot of things. Not the least of which is the ability to stay healthy and have some good fortune along the way. I like the Sharks' additions, particularly Boyle and Rob Blake. The Sharks look terrific right now and I assume the goal there is to continue to play at a high level and be ready to push forward in the spring. I like the Sharks' chances now than I have for the last few seasons.
Bill Philp (Tampa, FL)
EJ. Is Phil Kessel for real? Is he finally reaching that next level?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I don't think there was every any doubt about his skill level. This guy has a lot of natural ability. I think we're seeing that at this level now. There are a lot of positive things happening in his games so far this year. It seems like he's on the right track in figuring out the things that go along with being a top player in the NHL. I'm rooting for him to do well.
The Blackhawks are 12-6-7. Are all the overtimes a sign of a young team, or a team that cannot finish? What will help resolve the issue?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I think it's a sign of a very competitive league where the games are not decided by a lot of goals often. It's close. I think Chicago has been moving forward, and I think the key for them over the rest of the season is to try to find ways to win a few more of those type games. That's kind of a learning process for a young team. I think that's what has been happening with them. I guess things have changed in Chicago when fans have complained about a 12-6-7 record. I guess that's pretty good.
The Man (Massapequa, NY)
Is it a bad sign for the Isles EJ that on a team that wants to stress youth and letting young players develop, that the only guys scoring are Weight and Guerin?
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
I think the Islanders are clearly, to me, a rebuilding team, and the veterans they have are there as kind of a bridge between the present and the future. I think it's good they've been getting production out of those guys, and I think that it has helped them be competitive game in and game out, and that helps the young players. It doesn't help young players to be in games where the team is not competitive, and so far this year, despite their record, the Islanders have been a pretty competitive group. Isles fans just have to hope the young guys like Okposo and Daley can develop into players that will eventually become leaders of their franchises.
Jim Garrison (New Orleans, LA)
EJ whats up with Kovalev this season? Age catching up? Trying to be too cute or do you think he'll eventually play like he did last year?
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
Kovalev has always been a mysterious player for me. He's got a world of skill, but yet some years, he seems a lot more productive than others. He's in a contract year with high expectations in Montreal. Perhaps he's trying to do too much.
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
If they're going to get where they want to go during their Centennial season, Kovalev is going to have to be more productive.
Mike (South Jersey)
I was at the Rangers game Sunday, and the problem seems to be shooting above anything else. I believe the Rangers dominated a majority of the game, just couldn't simply hit the net? What do you think?
EJ Hradek (3:38 PM)
The Rangers are not a team that scores a lot of goals. That's been the bottom line with them the past two years at least. They've been a team that relies on a sound two-way game and strong goaltending. If they could ever find a way to get some more offense into their game, they would be even more dangerous. Right now, they're a team that's going to be in a lot of close, low-scoring games. They'll have to find ways to win those.
Bill (Tampa, FL)
How scary are the Pens going to be when they get their MASH unit of players back? (Gonchar, Whitney, Gill, Kennedy etc.)
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
That'll certainly help. They are missing some key guys on their team and have been missing them for long stretches. The Penguins didn't get to the Cup finals by accident last year. That's a really talented group of players and will be as good as anyone in this league when healthy.
Whats your take on kyle Quincey, he has been a stud in LA so far? Also if the kings can keep playing well will Terry Murray get coach of the year consideration?
EJ Hradek (3:42 PM)
Quincey has been a great addition via waivers from Detroit. He's been a helpful addition for the Kings. They've been able to take advantage of a situation where the Red Wings ran out of cap space to keep him. He's been around winning and terrific role models, like Nick Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Chris Chelios. He brings some of that experience with him to a team that sorely needs it. As for Terry Murray, I think he's done a wonderful job through the first quarter. The Kings are playing a defined game. They've been very competitive and fun to watch. There's a lot of good coaches in this league, and I think Murray stands among them. We'll see if this young group can continue to move forward this year.
Bill (Tampa, FL)
EJ. Who is the most dissappointing team so far this year?
EJ Hradek (3:44 PM)
I would have to say the Stars. Really, I don't even think it's close. The Stars went to the Western Conference finals last year and seemed ready to make a step forward this year. Instead, they find themselves at the bottom of the list. They are uncharacteristically dreadful on defense. not to mention the terrible slide that Marty Turco has suffered through this year. The Stars are hands-down the most disappointing team.
Is there anyway the Flyers can make a trade for a defenseman? And if so who would they have to give up?
EJ Hradek (3:46 PM)
They are another team that is really limited on the salary cap situation. I think good defensemen are certainly hard to find and not easy to acquire. The Flyers do have a number of talented forwards, so perhaps they could sacrifice one of those players to get someone to help them on the back end. Something like that wouldn't be an easy deal to make, because trading partners would likely want players you don't want to give up.
Doug Tampa, FL
What is your take on players running out on the NHL and heading to Europe to play?
EJ Hradek (3:49 PM)
I think each individual player has his own individual situation to worry about. I don't think you're seeing the top players leave to go to Europe. I think the best players are still playing in the National Hockey League. There is the exception of a guy like Jagr, but in that case, it was more of his decision to do that than to pursue other possible options in the NHL. Also, he was offered a very lucrative contract to play in Russia, one which he probably would not have been able to get in the NHL. That's not considering his age and circumstances.
EJ Hradek (3:49 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I'll talk to you next week!