Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season.
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!
Buzzmaster (3:03 PM)
We've got EJ!
Can Satan provide the scoring punch the Bruins so desperatly need?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
He was available. He was affordable and he'll provide a little bit of help for a team that desperately, as you say, needs some scoring. He's not the answer, but he's a guy that can play in some offensive situation for you. He's shown in the past that he can score and for the price, it was a wise acquisition.
If Patrice Bergeron is out for 6 weeks, does Team Canada replace him. Who do you think would replace him? I would like to see them take Stamkos to bat the yarn with the rest of Team Canada's litter. How was you EJ?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
Any time in the next couple of weeks, any time a guy gets hurt that's selected for the Olympic team, that will be monitored by the team. Patrice will do everything he can to play for the Olympic team. He's a versatile player. I think they'd look for somebody of that ilk. Personally, I'm a big Jordan Staal fan, in a similar role. But Bergeron being a right handed shot, they might look for a right handed shot to fill that spot. I wish I had a good example off the top of my head, but I don't.
EJ - With the Olympic rosters set, can you rank how you think the top 5 will shake out?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I think what we have here is seven pretty talented teams. I'm going to include Slovakia, because their goaltending is better this time around that you have to put in there for a one-game scenario. I think the favorite, you have to look at Canada, Russia, with their dynamic teams. Finland has a real depth of goaltending there. They play a real, earnest type of game. The Swedes are defending champs. The Czechs are lying in the weeds. Everyone's overlooking the Americans, but they can give teams trouble. In a real short tournament, where things can happen quickly, any of those teams has a chance.
Are you surprised by the attendance numbers in Denver this year? This has always seemed like a solid organization, but the Preds are drawing more fans per game.
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I don't think I'm really surprised by any kind of attendance numbers in this economy right now. I think it's tough for people to spend a lot of money or spend as much money on sporting events as they used to. They didn't come into this season with high expectations. They have a good, young entertaining team so far this year and gradually, they'll win people back. Now, the NFL season is over in that area and we might see an up tick in their attendance. I don't think we can be surprised by anything in this economy right now.
What did you think of the Winter Classic this year?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
Unbelievable. Great venue. Great weather, as it turned out. You always worry about it for an outdoor hockey game. The game had an event-like quality to it, which is really terrific for hockey. The game itself for 50-minutes wasn't all that exciting, to be honest. But we had a great finish and an OT game. The league did a great job in all of the events surrounding it. There's still some college games to be played this week. Just a terrific day for hockey.
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
Let's get the Caps in this thing next year and see Ovechkin on New Year's Day.
Do you think the Coyotes can continue to play well and make the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I think they can. They've put themselves in a great position. They're off to a great start and have had a really good run at home. It's going to be hard, the conference is really tough. They rely a lot on their goaltender. They're not a team that scores a ton of goals. When you go through this many games, it's a veteran group and we know who they are right now. I think they'll continue to play well.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
EJ, I was at the Winter Classic on Friday and what a scene. But honestly, what was your opinion on James Taylor singing the national anthem? I know he is a Boston icon (maybe 30 years ago), but could this guy have any less energy for a hockey game? The fans in the centerfield bleachers belted out Oh Canada and were all set to do the same even louder for the Star Spangled Banner until Taylor sang way too slow and with the wrong melody. Where was Boston's normal singer Rene Rancourt with his patented point and fist pump? Regardless, how sick was the stealth bomber?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
The stealth bomber was pretty amazing. Being in the home press box at Fenway, I was a little worried that we'd be done if the bomber did any rolling. But the whole thing was an event. I just look at the peoples' faces in the crowd and they're thrilled to be there. They were happy to be in the park. I've always kind of like James Taylor. He has his own style. I enjoyed it myself, but I guess if you're in the crowd, and you're all juiced up, you want someone to belt it out a little more. However, it's hard not to like James Taylor.
EJ, do you think the Devils have what it takes to maintain this lead in the Atlantic? We all know how Pitt gets hot late in the season....
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
At this point, it's kind of foolish to think the Devils can't continue to play well and at this level. They kind of just keep rolling along. When they have a set back, they bounce back. They're looking like a team that's looking like a tough opponent every night. Pittsburgh is going through a little losing streak and allowing the Devils to open it up. You just never know how the end of a season will finish up with injuries and especially this year with the Olympic break. The Devils are well coached, great goaltending, good young stars. This is a good hockey team. Until I see something different, I have to think they'll be a handful for anybody.
Do you think the NHL ever realistically have less than 30 teams? There's off and on talk of a more 'reasonable' 24-team league, but that means simply cutting teams (Phx, NYI, Atl, Nash may be the most obvious to go). I sort of see 30 teams remaining, but perhaps adding Hamilton, Quebec, Seattle via relocation over time -- what do you think?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
I think the league executives and Gary Bettman and his group are committed to keeping 30 teams. In the short term, I would say that's where we're going to be. What happens long term in Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta are things that will play out over time. They do like the number of having 30 teams. If they could, they would love to have more, because that would mean expansion fees. But I think for the forseeable future, we're looking at 30 teams.
Chris (Mt. Laurel, NJ)
Hi EJ. Happy New Year. In what year will the Flyers eventually regret turning their back on international talent and their stubborn philosophy to employ only Canadian players??? Until then, they will be slow, one-dimensional, predictable, undisciplined, and forever be pretenders. 1976 hockey was played a looooong time ago.
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
First of all, Happy New Year. Second, I would have to disagree with your premise. They've had a number of foreign players come through there over the years. I think the Flyers' biggest problem in the past has been their problem with identifying a franchise goaltender. Being around them a little bit at the Winter Classic, there's something not right about that group. It seems like there are some things going on there. They're going to have to sit down and address those issues within their group.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
Will the Hurricanes end up putting Aaron Ward on re-entry waivers at some point and dump half the salary or will they wait to trade him and get more in return?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
I don't really know what you're going to get for a guy like Ward. He's been around a little bit. He might be able to help a team's depth. He could help with his experience with his limited role. I don't know what teams will be willing to give up for a player like that.
one more EJ...at the 1/2 way point of the season...what are your biggest surprises and disappointments thus far...team and/or individual player....?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I guess I have to go with the surprises, which are Colorado and Phoenix. I think these two teams have really surprised everybody. Those two teams are big surprises. Disappointments are the Ducks out West. I thought they'd be better. In the East, we just talked about the Flyers as being a disappointment. As for players, Myers in Buffalo has been a surprise. He might be the top rookie in the league right now. The job Jimmy Howard has done in Detroit in a pressure situation has been a surprise. Those are two rookies that have really answered the bell.
do the rangers have any chance of ever doing some real damage in the playoffs again?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Ever is a long time, right? This year, with their current roster, I would say they'd be hard pressed to even get into the playoffs. What they have going for them is that Lundqvist, in a short series, could be dangerous. If they could get in, with Henrik in net and if their younger players can step up, you never know. Some of the guys that have played well in the minors, they need to come up and continue to play well. In my mind, they have a ways to go and are a bubble team in the East.
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Thanks again as always. Happy New Year. We'll do it next week.