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)
E.J. will be here shortly, everyone!
Jason: (hackettstown, nj) [via mobile]
If the penguins make the playoffs how far do you see them going?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
I think the Penguins are going to make the playoffs. If they can continue as they are now, they have a whole lineup, really, for the first time all year, I think they will be a dangerous team. They have the experience of getting to the Finals last year and are more balanced with their trades. I don't think they are a team other rivals will be eager to see.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
Of the 5 or 6 teams in the East fighting for the last 4 spots, are there any that have particularly favorable or unfavorable schedules remaining?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
The Penguins and Canadiens both have favorable schedules remaining. Montreal will be playing 9 of 10 at home, and the Penguins will have an eight-game homestand. Both of those teams are in position to make the playoffs, and oddly enough, they've both changed coaches. They could make a push on home ice.
Sammy lake forest, ca [via mobile]
Detroit had their share of struggles last year leading up to the playoffs, but bounced back. Do you think detroit finds their game?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I'm not really worried about them at this point. Clearly, the last few weekends haven't been good. Giving up eight goals is not something the coaching staff are excited about. But this is a veteran group that understands the calendar. They have shown up and played very well in big games this year. It's hard to repeat in general, so they face that obstacle--you have to stay healthy and get good matchups. They are one of the handful of teams that could win the Stanley Cup this year.
Jeremy (NC) [via mobile]
How do you think the Canes will finish, they're on fire as of late.
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I'll tell you, I thought they were going to be one of the odd teams out. They are playing very well. Their offense has geared up, and the addition of Cole seems to have something to do with that. They had a big win over the Rangers on Monday night and will be in it to the end.
Answer my question it's my birthday! Is the Rangers recent turnaround all due to Tortorella?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
First of all, happy birthday! I don't know if I'm ready to say it's a turnaround. they won three games in a row, two of which are against teams that will miss the playoffs, and another against a backup goalie. I think, with the moves they made, they are more interesting to watch right now. They have more confidence in their game and bring a different challenge. They are more aggressive and harder to play against right now. That loss on Monday night was tough for them--it's a team they need to beat.
bob darnestown maryland [via mobile]
Who is your cinderella team this playoff season?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I would say maybe the Vancouver Canucks. It's going to be a tough road for anybody in the West. It will be a tough road in the West with San Jose and Detroit, but the addition of Mats Sundin has given them a second scoring line, or at least to have a chance to produce more offense. They have a more balanced lineup now. Their goaltender is one of the best in the league. I think the Canucks will be the team people talk about the least that will still have a chance to do some damage, especially if Luongo plays well for them.
Ole (Ely, MN) [via mobile]
How are my North Stars doing this year? Playoff bound?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
If you're talking about the Dallas Stars, I'd say maybe, tending towards no. They've had a number of critical losses on home ice. With the number of injuries they've had, it's really been a struggle. I've been back and forth on them, but they have to find a way to win their games at home. They've been bad on home ice in the last few weeks.
Will the caps break their slump tonight?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
They're in a tough spot. There might be a little bit of a natural letdown from playing the Penguins, as they are now playing Nashville after a few days off. Down the stretch last year, Nashville beat them in a must-win game. They haven't lost this many games in a row in Boudreau's tenure, so it's a slide for them. They will have their hands full with the Predators tonight.
bob darnestown, md [via mobile]
Looks like the refs are slowly letting interference infractions go. Is the league taking note?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I don't know that that is the case. The officials are still calling a lot of those penalties. The players have a little bit better understanding of what will be called, and they have learned to not put themselves in those positions, and they do a good job of making it look like they are not doing anything. I think they're adjusting.
Patrick S. (Chicago, IL) [via mobile]
Is Bobby Ryan the front runner for rookie of the year so far?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I think Ryan is in the conversation, but Steve Mason in Columbus and Pekka Renne in Nashville have really moved to the front of that list. Drew Doughty is there as well.
William (Salinas, CA)
What's befallen the top teams in the league (BOS, DET, SJ)? Is it more of them taking these games lightly because they know they're in the playoffs or that the bubble teams are playing harder?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
It's so close in the league, between winning and losing. The teams pushing to the playoffs are in a life-or-death situation. Detroit's position is secured in the playoffs, so their motivation is not as strong as a Columbus. Those teams have a higher urgency level. It does play a big part in it.
Ron from Columbus [via mobile]
Do the Blue Jackets break the playoff drought or do we season ticket holders get our hears broken in the end? Thanks
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
I hope they make it. You like to see all the fans have the opportunity to experience the playoffs. The goaltending has been terrific, which is why they have been able to make this run. Ken Hitchcock is an experienced coach, and they have been finding ways to score goals. With about 17 games left, they have a good chance to get in.
Reuben, England [via mobile]
EJ, look into your crystal ball and predict the teams that make the playoffs in the East.
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
Boston, Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Florida, New York Rangers, and Carolina. Let's leave off Buffalo and Montreal (happy 100th anniversary). I guess I won't be allowed there anytime soon!
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
But if you ask me tomorrow, I could have a different answer.
Jason: (hackettstown, nj) [via mobile]
Ive heard rumors that las vegas could one day have a team. Do you see vegas as a good location for a team?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
It's an interesting spot. Both owners and the league have interest in it. The league is having its awards ceremony there this year, an interesting departure from what they've done in the past. The changing economy has changed the forecast for expansion and relocation, but it's still an interesting spot.
You're named GM of the Atlanta Thrashers. What's your 3-year plan for bringing actual NHL hockey back to Atlanta?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I'd have to tear it down and build it up again. I'd look to trade Kovalchuk for prospects and picks, and I'd concentrate on building my team up the middle at center, on defense, and in goal. That would be the starting point. I'd have to identify what the identity of the team was. With the Thrashers, they have no identity. Detroit is a skill team, Anaheim likes to play rugged. You have to go out and find the players who fit in that description. Unfortunately, I think they have a lot of work to do there.
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
Thanks for the questions, and we'll talk to you next week!