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 (3:01 PM)
We've got EJ!
Bharath (Holmdel, NJ)
I think this may Marty's last legitimate shot at winning a cup before he retires. What trade do you think the Devils will make to bolster their lineup?
EJ Hradek (3:03 PM)
First of all, who knows how many good years any of us have left. Marty is having a great year and he's shown over the last several years, no deterioration in his play. It might be a leap to say that this year is his best chance. They might have a better team next year, who knows. But the Devils have managed their cap situation very well, especially over the last few years. Because of that, they'll have some flexibility more than other teams. When everyone's healthy, if they can get a little more experience on defense, like a lot of teams, then maybe second line forward, put some scoring help to the team, those are two areas. I think the Devils have been playing well for most of the season.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What does the NHL do if a NHL Hockey Player tests positive for either PED,HGH,or Steroids?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
That player would be subject to suspension. There haven't been too many in the NHL, but one that comes to mind is Sean Hill, former defenseman for the Islanders, who tested positive for a substance that they deemed illegal. That was at the beginning of the playoffs.
What is your current Stanley Cup matchup prediction?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
Well, based on the way everyone's playing right now, I have to like Chicago in the West. They've been playing great. San Jose has been too, but I give Chicago the edge. In the East, I like the way Washington's been playing. If that happens, that would be one heck of a matchup with the skill and speed on both sides.
Does Chicago do something about the goaltending by the deadline, if so who are the candidates?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
I think there are probably some goalies that can be had, but I don't see them doing anything. I don't think there's anyone out there that's available that makes them immediately better at that position. Clearly the guys they have don't have a world of playoff experience or success on their resume at this time. When I look at the possibilities out there, I don't see a clear upgrade for them. At this point, I suspect they go with the guys they have now.
at what point do the rangers say enough is enough? how about trading lundquist and rebuilding?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I imagine that the Rangers see themselves as a team that could be in the playoffs this year. They are in the bubble of teams that has aspirations of getting one of the last spots in the East. I think they have as good a shot as any of those teams. I don't expect them to be making trades in an effort to rebuild. I don't think they'll trade Lundqvist. He's one of the really strong blocks that they can build a team on. They just need to support him better with more team speed and on defense. Realistically, I don't see them tearing the whole thing down and rebuilding from scratch. That's just not a good plan. I think Glen Saither and his guys will make plans to make the team better. But they don't have the assets to trade for the things they need, like a top flight center. The Rangers are on a treadmill in the middle of the conference. I don't know if that's a great place to be, but that's where they are.
were is Ilya Kovalchuk going? and for what?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I think that's a day-to-day thing that we're keeping an eye on. I don't know if there's one thing that stood out from what we're hearing. There are a number of teams that indicated they have interest. Chicago, LA, Boston, Washington, Islanders. With each passing day it looks like he'll be traded. I can't imagine that Atlanta would keep him without having him sign a new contract. Today, on Jan. 26 it looks like he'll be moved at some point. It's just a matter of what's the best package of players they can get in return. The package will be hard to say how good it will be because his contract is set to expire.
Mike (Rochester, NY)
Patrick Marleau for MVP? He is the goal leader and plays in every situation possible your thoughts.
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
I think he's a terrific candidate. He's had a great year so far. He's been playing extremely well. He's been playing on that line with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. It's an important year for him, because he could be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He's stepped up and played terrific. He's on the short list of candidates right now. Our two usual suspects of Crosby and Ovechkin, as well as a couple of other guys, would be on that list too.
Considering C is far more important than LW doesn't the fact that there is an argument between Alex and Sid mean by definition that Alex is the better player?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I write this today in my blog that these guys are both unbelieveably gifted guys. When I look at the two guys, Ovechkin is clearly the more dynamic player. If the question is who would I rather pay to go watch, it's Ovechkin. But Sidney, he has more responsibility from one side of the ice to the other, he's the more complete player. Watching him in the defensive zone last night against the Rangers, his game is becoming more and more complete. Who would you want to start your franchise, I would pick Sidney. Two great players, if I had to pick either one, I'd be in great shape.
Kin (Hong Kong)
Hi, EJ, do you think PHX would have enough left in the tank to make the playoff? Are you surprised by how they are playing this season?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Yeah, absolutely, I've been surprised right from the start of the season. I don't think there is anyone who's not surprised. I think it's going to be tough. Looking at their schedule, I believe they have more home games than road games. In fact, a quick look at it, they play 11 of their last 15 on the road. That's a really tough way to finish the season. I hope they can get there. They've worked so hard. It would be a great story if they can get there. It will be a real challenge for them to go on the road and get the points necessary.
big m (st. louis)
hey ej, do u honestly think the blues can make the playoffs and do u agree with me that kieth tkachuk should be moved.
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
I don't think the Blues can make the playoffs this year. I would say anything is possible, but they would have to put together quite a streak of games to get there. When it comes to the trade deadline, if there's a market for Keith and the Blues can get something in return going forward, they should consider it. Keith is a guy they've had in the past, moved him and got him back. He's a veteran that's helped with their younger players. Only they know how they measure that kind of impact in their room. But there will probably be some teams interested. It will just matter on what they offer so the Blues can continue down the path of rebuilding their team.
Mike (Rochester, NY)
Why are there so little divisional games played at the end of the season when races are important? Example Sharks play 3 out of 17 games. (not that the pacific will be close)
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
It might just be a scheduling quirk for the Sharks. I'd have to look through each team to see what the breakdown is. I'm sure some of the teams will be playing quite a few divisional games down the stretch. They play Dallas three times after the Olympic break. This year with the compact schedule, it makes it more difficult. That might be a part of it as well.
EJ, I really don't know what to think about the Bruins. Do you think they will make the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I think it will be a struggle for them. They're supposed to get Marc Savard back Friday. Getting your top center back will help. They've had some injury issues and some turnover from last season. Not surprisingly, as good as they were defensively last year, it's hard to replicate that stinginess on defense. A lot will be determined by how healthy they are moving forward. It might depend on if they add a player, perhaps a guy like Ray Whitney coming in to add some scoring. It will be a little bit of a challenge. Right now they've played themselves out of the top 8. I'm not impressed with some of the teams in there, so it's up to the coaches and players to play well and get in.
James (Colorado )
Ovie & Crosby are not available... now who do you pick to start a franchise with?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
Good question. There are a lot of guys. I would tend to try to look at a younger player. You could go in a lot of direction. One guy that comes to mind is Jonathan Toews in Chicago. His game is very complete. You can start with him and you've filled a significant position. After that, there are a lot of ways you can go. Evgeni Malkin is right up there too. To me, I'm looking at an elite No. 1 center or an elite goaltender.
Steve (New York, NY)
Will Canada implode if they don't win the olympics on home ice?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
Canada will melt and there will be a stream of red that will flow across the border of the United States. A lot of it will end up in the Mississippi and end up in the Gulf of Mexico. There's probably more made of it than there should be. If they don't win, it will be heartbreaking, like fans of anything. If they were to be a team that's not even a factor, which I don't think they will be, that would be a source of embarrassment. But that's for fans of anything in sports. On my behalf, I'm still sulking from the Vikings loss on Sunday. That's the way it goes when you have an emotional investment on any level. I don't think Canada disappears from the map, if they don't bring home the gold medal.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks for the great questions this week. We'll talk to you next week.