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 (3:01 PM)
We're getting EJ right now!
Siobahn K (Riverdale, NY)
So the Flyers are out of it for Sundin now EJ? With the constant injuries to Briere, do you think they should have pushed harder or do you like where they are right now?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
No. I think the Flyers group right now is good as is, in particular forwards and centers. I think the Flyers certainly have a salary cap issue that they'll have to deal with if they acquire any new players. If anything, they would need help on defense much more than adding a new center.
Harry Crumb (Downing Estates)
EJ! Concerned about the Red Wings D, or lack thereof? Or do you think its just a bit of a Stanley Cup hangover and things will get better?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
No. Have the Red Wings been as tight or stingy as last year? No, not so far. As I've said before, I think that's an issue that probably concerns Mike Babcock some degress.. But this is pretty much the same group that won the Cup last year. I don't think they forgot how to play. I think it's somewhat human nature to have a little bit of a fall off after winning a championship. But despite any issues they might have, this team is still second in the Western Conference and have only lost six games in their first 30.
Brad - Boston
Do you anticipate Tim Thomas making the Eastern Conference All Star team in Montreal?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
I think his chances are excellent. I think it would be an injustice if he didn't make it. I don't really understand why he wasn't on the all-star ballot to begin with. Afterall, he played in the game last year.
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
He'll be there.
Bill (Tampa, FL)
EJ. Is Phil Kessel the real deal or is he just on one of those hot streaks?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
Phil Kessel has always had a lot of skill. That has never been an issue. Some have questioned his maturity level and his ability to play in the NHL. I think Kessel is answering those critics. He's a great fit on a line with center Marc Savard and winger Milan Lucic.
Ryan (Napa, CA)
Are all the Dean Lombardi critics starting to be silenced by the Kings solid play this season with them finally over playing over .500 hockey? What do they need to improve going forward?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I think a little bit. I think they're in a long term rebuilding project in LA. I think one of Dean's best moves has been the decision to change coaches, moving from Marc Crawford to Terry Murray. Murray is more of a fit with a young team. He strikes me as a better teacher and clearly the team is listening to his message. The Kings still have a long way to go to become a team that regularly competes for the playoffs and challenges for the Cup. But I feel they have moved forward during the first few months of the season. I have a better feeling for them now than I did before the season started.
Paul (New Jersey)
Do you see the Canadiens making a deal to help the roster out with all the injuries that has hit the team over the last week. Also where do you see the Canadiens finishing?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
I think most contending teams like Montreal are always going to do what they can to fill needs created by injury. Unfortunately, it's hard to find adequate replacements when you have a good team. But I'm pretty sure the Canadiens management will do what it can to keep the team moving forward. They have been a little bit of a disappointment so far. Maybe my expectations are a little higher than they should have been.
EJ - With Huet playing much better, do you see the Hawks restarting trade talks for Khabibulin?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I think it would be smart for the Hawks GM to consider all his options because of their salary cap situation. However, I think the market for goaltenders has proven to be a little tough. Even with so many guys injured, we haven't seen much movement. I like Khabibulin and he's a better goalie than Huet. I would not have made the effort to sign Huet in the offseason. They have put themselves in this situation. Maybe in the end, it's better to have both guys. Afterall it's the final year of Khabibulin's contract.
Any way my bruins can trade for a guy like Illya Kovulchuck?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
It's never enough is there? The Bruins have played great hockey. They're the surprise story of the league and now you want to get Kovulchuck. Sure you could get him, but you'd have to give up a lot of players, who have gotten you to where they are now.
jerry (san jose)
can the Stars turn it around and make the playoffs or are the done for the year?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I think they have a chance to do it. I think the key will be whether or not Marty Turco can turn his game around.
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
If I was a betting man, I wouldn't be betting on it.
When Briere gets back with Philly, does Carter get dropped back to the 3rd line?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
I think it's hard to drop a guy down in the lineup when he's second in goal scoring in the league. The Flyers would be wise to leave him right where he is. I don't think they'll have that problem for a little while, because it looks like Briere is going to be out and on long term injury for at least a bit.
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
Carter has been a big part of the Flyers success this season. I thikn you want to leave him right where he is.
Do the Hawks have enough toughness to advance in the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
People said that about the Red Wings last year. They questioned their so-called toughness. I think the Blackhawks are an interesting team right now. There's a lot of excitement around the team. They've got some good young skilled guys there. I think this is a team that's evolving with each game. I'm not a big fan of getting guys just to go beat somebody up. I think you want to have a team that's tough and players who are going to be competitive in all situations. I think the Blackhawks first challenge is to qualify for the playoffs. If they can do that, I think they'll be a team that will be hard to deal with, whoever they play.
Bernie Lomax (Hamptons)
EJ have you ever seen a more wackier game than the one I witnessed Friday night in Jersey between the Devs and Rangers. 13 goals, numerous chances, good fights...a great night all around
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I was at the game too. It was a crazy game. The goals were coming fast a furious. Neither goaltender was particularly good on that night. It was a very entertaining game to watch and I couldn't help thinking, what if this was the first game someone was seeing? Afterwards, I asked the players in the lockerroom if they had ever experienced anything like that and most of them said no. It was a fun night at the rink.
Bill (Tampa, FL)
EJ. It looks like the Ducks are back after a dismal start. Can they challenge the Sharks?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
When you say challenge, if that means can they beat them in a playoff series? I think the answer to that is yes. I don't think they would be the favorite if that were to happen, but Anaheim is good enough to do that. Will they be able to get back into the division race and overtake the Sharks for the division title? I think the answer to that is no. It will be tough to do that because they are already down 15 points. I think that will be too big of a gap to close without something dramatic changing the current course of this season.
King (Howell, NJ)
Do you think the Devils should move Rolston to Zajac and Parise's line to try and spark his offense?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I would say no. I think Rolston has missed a lot of time with the high ankle sprain. He's just getting back to the lineup. I think he just needs to get several games under his belt to get his conditioning and timing up to speed. I would think you make a move like that only if you think it helps all of the lines, your overall attack, not just to get one guy going, who is coming back from injury. Watching the other night, it looked like Brent Sutter was trying to use Rolston in different situations and spot him a little bit to help him regain that conditioning that he lost when he was out for 6-7 weeks.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
We've all heard the Kovalchuk and Gaborik names thrown around as guys that are likely to be moved, but who are some of the lesser-known guys that could move near the deadline and be a big help to a club?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I think the guy that will be the most interesting one aside from the two you mentioned is Jay Bouwmeester in Florida. Teams always need help on defense and it's really hard to find a guy that can come in and be a real puck moving presence and play 25-30 minutes a game. Those guys are very rare. He doesn't appear to want to stay there past his contract in July. You can't lose an asset like that and get nothing in return. He figures to be a very helpful pickup for some team. For example, I'm sure the Flyers would love to get him in Philly.
Patricia (Arby's on my laptop)
When is the next time I'm going to see a winning season from the Isles?
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
I would say that it's going to be a couple of years. The Islanders finally seem committed to a rebuilding job. That takes time. But if they stay that course, that should result in a long term benefit. At this time all I can say is keep the faith.
Who's the favorite in the East right now?
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
Boy, that is a good question. I don't know if there is a favorite in the East right now. Teams have key injuries that make it a little more muddled. When everyone is healthy, I probably rate the Penguins ahead of the rest. But the Flyers, Capitals, Bruins, those three teams have been playing really well.
with the economy as it is, do you see the cap staying where it is for next season?
EJ Hradek (3:38 PM)
The way this works, the salary cap for next year likely won't be impacted dramatically. The formula that goes into coming up with the salary cap number is based on revenue from the previous season. In this case, a lot of the revenue was already created through sponsorships, season ticket packages, TV, etc. prior to the downturn in the economy. So, the revenues for this season won't show a dramatic downturn, the cap number likely will stay the same, if not increase, depending on a final tabulation of revenue. However, there is a possibility that the cap could go down more significantly for the 2010-11 sesaon, because that number would be drawn off the revenue accumulated in the 2009-10 season.
EJ Hradek (3:38 PM)
I know this all sounds confusing, but the thing to take from it is this: the salary cap number almost certainly won't be dramatically changed next season.
Bobby (New York, NY -from Pittsburgh though)
EJ: Are you ever coming back to NHL Live? What is your take on the Penguins lack of being able to close out games?
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
I don't have that opinion. I think maybe they've had some issues this year, but you have to remember, they're missing two key guys on their defense with Gonchar and Whitney being out. Their goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has also been out. That's a big part of building leads, having guys like that in place. I think the Penguins under those circumstances have done fine.
Mr. Sitar (Gaelic Park)
Tell me about my Sabres EJ? Will they continue to make me pull my hair out or are better days ahead? Can't say enough about the emergence of Vanek though
EJ Hradek (3:41 PM)
That's a good question too. I think the Sabres have been a very much up and down team this year. I probably don't need to tell you that. You probably already know that. I do think the Sabres can be better and make the playoffs. They just have to be better on defense and Ryan Miller has to be consistently good in goal. To me, those are the two things that are most important for the Sabres to be the good Sabres and not the bad Sabres. We've seen both.
Lars from Sweden
EJ, How good is capitals Nicklas Backstrom? He gets overlooked a lot, but lately he has played like a man possessed. And if anyone actually watch the caps you know that he is not only a product of Ovechkin.
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
He's an excellent player. He was the fourth overall pick in the draft a year ago. He's a terrific player. He has a lot of skill. Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt to have the chance to play on a line with guys like Ovechkin and Semin. But Backstrom is a real good player.
EJ- Do you think that the Sharks can keep up this torrid pace...are they for real or just another second round knockout?
EJ Hradek (3:44 PM)
You guys like to ask questions that no one can answer. I think the Sharks have a different bite this year, pardon the pun. I like the additions they made and they have some young guys ready to make contributions in the spring. With every passing game, I'm more convinced that these Sharks are a different group.
What would it take to get the Rangers over the top and into Cup-contender status?
EJ Hradek (3:46 PM)
I think whenever you have a goalie as talented as Henrik Lundqvist, you have to be considered a dangerous team. I think the Rangers need to find some way to get more production on offense. That would be the biggest thing to push them forward. They can rarely put separation between themselves and an opponent in a game, because they can't score goals. A big improvement on the power play wouldn't hurt either.
What do you make of Patrick Marleau's amazing turn around this season?
EJ Hradek (3:47 PM)
I think he was dinged up last year. I think he had some injury problems that nagged him. I get the sense that there was an issue of some sort between him and former coach Ron Wilson that was never resolved. Under new coach Tom McLellan he's getting more minutes per game and I think he's embraced that opportunity.
Are you going to check out the game at the Icy-Confines at Wrigley? What should we expect from an outdoors game like that?
EJ Hradek (3:49 PM)
I am planning on being there. I think it has the potential to be a great event for the NHL. I think the league is doing all the right things in preparation. Unfortunately there's no way to make a deal to secure the weather. If the weather is right, and to me that means 20 degrees, no wind and maybe a light snow flurry, it's going to be a great, great day for hockey. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Do you have any insight on how the Bertuzzi - Moore meeting went?
EJ Hradek (3:50 PM)
No, I don't. I do hope that the sides can find some common ground. This remains, to me, one of the most unfortunate incidents in league history. I hope from a legal standpoint that there can be some sort of resolution.
Denver papers are reporting a Forsberg return. Should anyone care?
EJ Hradek (3:52 PM)
I hate to say no when you're talking about a player that has been as terrific in his career as Peter Forsberg. But I think we've seen this movie before. I think this is one of those situations where you're better off waiting to see if it happens and not waste too much time worrying about the lead up to that. At this point, sadly, I don't think Forsberg can be the player that he once was. I guess that happens to all the great ones at some point.
Bill (Tampa, FL)
It doesn't look like Tocchet is the answer in Tampa. Any words on who might be a good coaching fit for the Frightning?
EJ Hradek (3:54 PM)
I think the Lightning are committed to Rick Tocchet. I think when they hired him as an assistant coach, they did so with an eye toward him being the guy that could take over at some point down the road. I think he's relatively safe there. Also, the Lightning are already paying two guys not to coach. I don't think they want to make it a hat trick.
EJ Hradek (3:55 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions. We'll talk to you next week.