Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season<./p>
Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join EJ to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
More EJ Hradek: Chat Archive
Buzzmaster (3:00 PM)
We're getting EJ right now!
Your thoughts on the Sharks wild start?
EJ Hradek (3:03 PM)
I don't know if it's so wild. They had some games and they had 40 shots in their loss to Colorado and got beat by a good goaltending performance. They play the Kings tonight and they'll be in a bad mood because they have high expectations and had a bad loss. My feeling hasn't changed for the Sharks. They have a really good team, but I don't know if they've improved it enough to get over that playoff hump that they've been so focused on.
caleb (the lounge)
luongo has been off to a shaky start how long do you see this lump lasting?
EJ Hradek (3:04 PM)
Roberto has been known to be kind of a slow starter. He has to be a lot better than he was in the game the other night. The track record is that he'll get his act together. It's early, but when you put yourself into a hole early, it's that much harder later one. How long will it last? It's hard to say. I'm sure he wants it to end by the next start and I think the Canucks would like that as well. They're not going very far if he's not at his best. If you remember last year, the Canucks went through some wild mood swings throughout the season and they still had a pretty nice year.
Larry (New York)
E.J.,if Emery can play this well, the Flyers are the favorites to win it all, right?...I see no other weaknesses.....VanRiemsdyk rookie of the year
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I don't know about the absolute favorites, but the Flyers are already in a group of four teams that sit above everyone else in the East. Pittsburgh, Philly, Washington, Boston are the best four teams. If Emery plays well, he'll give the team the best chance to come out of that group. Goaltending is vital. Philly fans know that more than anyone, they've been on the short end of that for a while. They have a good group of defensemen, so if Emery continues to give them solid goaltending, the Flyers will be a contender, no question.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
Canes turn it around tonight and put some points up there?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
Well, I think they have to have a much better effort tonight. They open up the season with a shutout loss at home and then a blowout loss in Boston. With a couple of days to lick their wounds, I think they come out with a better effort tonight. It's a division game against Tampa. Both teams will be a little bit cranky tonight, but Carolina with home ice, I think they have a good chance at a bounce back game tonight.
Eric (Los Angeles, CA)
Is this the year the Kings make the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
They are hoping so. I know in talking to some of the people around the team, they are hoping so. They didn't get off to a great start, losing to the Coyotes at home. I think the Kings are trending in the right direction, but I think it's hard for them to get into the playoffs this year, with all of the competition. If they were in the East, they'd have a good shot. All of these points will be critical in the West and losing to the Coyotes is not good.
Marc (Malden, MA)
When will players finally learn NOT to pick fights with Milan Lucic?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I don't think it will take too much longer. In my experience in watching hockey in the NHL for 40 years or so, it doesn't take long for people to figure it out with tough players. With that said, there's always someone looking to make a mark. These are tough guys who can handle themselves. I think we'll see less and less players trying to go at Lucic, but there will still be some and it will be up to him to send a message to the other competitors around the league.
Tom (Lansing, MI)
Who is the main man going to be in net for Anaheim?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
That's a great question. It's hard for me to say. With the fact that Hiller is younger and less expensive. J.S. Giguere has had a lot of success. If there's any chance for him to regain a foothold, which there will be, he'll have a chance to regain his spot. It's tough, because Giguere is tough to trade because of his contract. And Hiller is younger and inexpensive. That's going to be one of those battles that goes on internally all year. They'll play the hot hand, so it will be up to each guy to play well when they're in goal.
Mark (Charlotte, NC)
Colorado, Phoenix and St. Louis all off to great starts, do you see any of these teams dropping off soon?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
I think St. Louis has proven that they have, after last year's run and making the playoffs, become a team that will be competing through the season for a playoff spot. As for Colorado and Phoenix, it's hard to say. Colorado has been good early, with the enthusiasm and the goaltending of Anderson, which they lacked last year. If they continue to play well, Colorado will stay in the playoff race. Phoenix, there has been so much happen off the ice. They have a good veteran group. In the Western Conference, I think it will be hard to see Colorado and Phoenix get to the playoffs.
Hook (Southern Maryland)
WHo wins the Caps/Flyers game tonight?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
It is a big game. I'm going down there tonight to see it. I'm excited to see two of the four top teams in the East. Both have gotten off to really good starts. Ovechkin has been lights out with 6 points in two games. Philly has had good road wins. This will be a real fun game tonight. I will be looking to watch the impact of Chris Pronger on defense. It will be a real good test for Ray Emery. The Capitals can score goals and it will be good to see how Emery holds up at home. It will be an interesting week for the Flyers, Washington tonight, then the Penguins coming in and then Anaheim. If I had to pick, I think I probably favor the home team.
Steve (Lake Tahoe, CA)
Do you think the LA Kings might try to get Gretzky to come back to Los Angeles to give the Kings credibility as an organization again and generate more area interest in the team? It has never been the same since he left.
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I think they have a pretty credible group running that team now. That group has gone about the rebuilding process in the right way. It's only a matter of time before the Kings are a contending team with the prospects they have in the system. But they're probalby a year or two away. There has been some talk about Wayne coming back to the Kings in some function. I don't know what that will be. If Wayne could find the right role, maybe that would be a good thing. But it might be time for Wayne to back off for now and figure out what role he wants to have and what he wants to do moving forward. Don't forget, tonight 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN's 30 for 30, Kings Ransom on the Gretzky trade.
With Lidstrom turning 40, do you think he has played his last season opener?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
No. I'm not sure what he's going to do, but if you're looking at his play, his play hasn't deteriorated at all. I asked him that very thing last year at the Cup finals and he said he'd take it year by year. I'm sure the Red Wings will do everything they can to keep him as a part of the team.
Is the Rangers salary cap issues with Redden and Rozsival contracts a blessing for Gilroy and Del Zotto, who are getting a chance to play because of their low salary instead of signing vets if they had more money?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
The Rangers plan is to work some of these young players into their group. That's how they want to do things. Gilroy was going to play no matter what this year. He singed as a free agent and he's 25. Del Zotto was impressive in camp and they had a need to fill a role that he can fill in playing the point on the power play. He has a bright future. It's a little early in his career, but he's off to a good start. It might be a little bit of a blessing for them.
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I like Del Zotto a lot. He has a bright future ahead of him.
Schmittle (Greenville, NC)
With Ron Artest and Lebron James popping up at hockey games do you see hockey becoming the new "in" sport in the US and become one of the US's big sports?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I think there's a lot of celebrities that go to hockey games through the course of a season. It's great for those guys to take an interest and come by. It's great for the NHL. A lot of celebrities are hockey fans. Whether it's an "in" sport, I think a lot of that depends on whether the Rangers or Kings are a hot team. There are more people in those areas that can pop their heads into games.
Do the Pens have the D to hold up? After losing an entire D pairing to free agency, can they possibly hold up against the high powered offenses of Washington and Philly?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
That's going to be a real challenge for them, no question. Having their shutdown guys on defense gone, I think you're on to something there. The challenge for the Penguins going forward is having guys steop up. They needs guys to be really good against the opponents' top players. In a salary cap league, these things happen. It can be overcome, but it will have an impact on how they play.
Jon (Haslett, MI)
Is Marty Turco going to have a comeback season, or are the Stars too weak on D to allow that to happen?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I think the Stars defense is probably not as good as it's been in years past. It's a group in transition and relying on younger guys. It's not to say those guys aren't going to get better. Turco got off to a good start. I wish I could predict what kind of year Marty will have. He's going to have to play well on the nights that he's in there. There's a little bit less pressure because they have Alex Auld as the backup. But Marty's going to have to be strong for them to make a playoff push.
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Thanks for the questions. Let's do it again next week!