Chat with EJ Hradek
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Do you see the Penguins making any personel changes, or do you think that Shero thinks they will just bounce back on their own?
EJ Hradek (3:01 PM)
I do see Ray Shero trying to work out some kind of deal between now and the trade deadline, barring a dramatic turnaround in the team's play. I think they absolutely have a need when it comes to getting one or more quality wingers to work with the terrific centers they have. I do expect him to investigate any and all avenues in regards to making an upgrade in that position.
EJ, what are the most important factors come playoff time (depth, toughness, goaltending, etc.) and which teams currently are displaying they have the tools for a deep Lord Stanley run?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
I think there's a lot of things that go into play in the postseason. It's like we're seeing in the NFL--teams that play well during the regular season can fall in the postseason. You have to consider how teams play down the stretch. Goaltending is always a critical element, good fortune in terms of injury is something you can't predict, and something that goes in to winning a Cup. Physical and mental toughness are important when it comes to a two-month grind. Chemistry is important, because teams that have a number of outstanding individual playoffs can get beaten out by teams that work together better.
Michael Rego Park NY
Who what do you think the Rangers need to make a big push in the playoffs and finally get out of the 2nd round
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I think it's gonna be tough for them to do that based on their current roster. They'll need better-than-good goaltending--they need to be near-perfect with that. They need good fortune in their matchups--having the good luck of being matched with teams in the first or second round who they can handle. And they need guys to overachieve. But I just think they're a team that needs to have a lot of things go right to make that kind of move in the playoffs. They also have cap limitations that limit them from making any significant changes, unless they spend a lot of money in another direction.
David (South Brunswick, NJ)
Any updates of rehab/return on Paul Stansey?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I don't have anything more recent than what has been coming out of Denver on Stastny. I'm surprised that the Avalanche have been able to remain competitive in the West despite significant injuries like the one to Stastny and with their inconsistent goaltending situation. Somehow they are staying afloat. I think it makes sense to figure that the sooner he gets back in the lineup, the better they will be.
Who's your mid-season MVP? Hard to argue against Big Al right now with the Caps playing so well.
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I think there are so many good choices. I think that Ovechkin is an obvious choice and not one I would argue. But a guy who has had so much impact on his team is Zdeno Chara in Boston. I just feel that, while it's not always pretty, he has such a profound impact on the game. He literally takes away one side of the ice. With the Bruins playing so well, and him being such a big part of it, I would have to give him serious consideration for the Hart Trophy at this time.
David (Downingtown, PA)
How long until Ray Whitney is playing 100 percent again, what can we expected from him rest of season/playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I don't know if a player like Ray Whitney is ever 100 percent. He's a smaller forward who has played in the league for a number of years now, has battled injuries, and has learned to play through a lot of different things. He will definitely, in a situation like the Hurricanes are in, where they will be battling for one of the final playoff spots, it's all hands on deck, and they will need contributions from everybody, including a proven offensive player like Whitney.
dcshark (washington dc)
Any ideas on an available d-man that the sharks can pickup at the trade deadline? They need a little more depth/talent in the 5/6 d-man.
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I think what GM Doug Wilson will do is, as they close in on the trade deadline, he will look at teams that are out of the playoff picture and will be sellers at the deadline. He will certainly look at the type of depth you're asking about. One guy that could draw their attention is Madhieu Schneider in Atlanta.
NY Post is reporting the Rangers and Zherdev are in discussions for a contract extension. Your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
The Rangers are protecting an asset. Unless they want him to be subject to an offer sheet, or perhaps to leave and play in Russia, they would be wise to try to investigate what kind of contract it would take to keep him in their organization. I've never been really a big fan of Zherdev when it comes to him being a lead guy on a winning team, but he certainly has skills, and in the right situation, he's probably a valuable commodity. The Rangers are protecting their interests in this case, and I don't sense it's an absolute sure sign of their desire to have him as part of their group on a long-term basis, but more a sign of them protecting themselves against his departure without getting compensation in return.
David (South Brunswick, NJ)
How many outdoor games do you see next year?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
A hundred and ten. No, I'll be bold and say two. I had some arguments with some hockey people on both sides of the border, and I'm pretty sure there will be a Winter Classic on New Year's Day, 2010, but I also think there's a good chance for an All-Canada Game, a Calgary-Edmonton or a Montreal-Toronto type of game. Just a hunch on my part. I think NBC, which I expect will be back to broadcast it next year, will want to keep that event between two U.S.-based teams to maximize ratings.
Who do you think got snubbed from the all-star game?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
A lot of guys! I think because of the fan voting, especially in the East, where we had four Canadiens elected to the starting lineup, you had a lot of deserving guys left out. One that jumps out is Mike Green, defenseman for the Caps. He's such a dynamic skater. It's a shame he won't be able to show off that skill in Montreal.
I am so happy that Briere is ready to come back. Do you think he will still be as effective as he was before the groin injury?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I think it's going to take Briere some time. He's going to take some time to regain his speed and touch, which is natural with that type of injury. I think the Flyers, because of their depth, have the luxury of working him in slowly, and I think that will help them.
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
He's a good guy, and I hope that his injury issues are behind him. I always want to see the best players playing. It's no fun when they're on the sideline.
Is Steve Mason the best rookie in the NHL?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Yup! Right now, he is. His numbers, to me, have been incredibly so far, especially for a rookie goaltender playing behind an average team. As much as I like a lot of the rookies playing in the league this year, particularly Doughty in L.A., Mason is just off the charts right now.
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)