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 (3:02 PM)
Hang on folks, we're getting EJ!
Buzzmaster (3:09 PM)
EJ is here!
I've watched every Blackhawk game this year and I think it's safe to say that Niemi has been in goal every time the Hawks have been saved by their goalie. In fact, the Hawks have only been outshot 9 times so far this year with Niemi in the net for 6 of them. His record in those games is 5-1. The Hawks don't have goaltending issues, they just have the wrong guy starting. Sure he's young and has no playoff experience, but the numbers don't lie, the kid can play.
EJ (3:12 PM)
First of all, I appreciate your passion for the Hawks. You are obviously up on their situation. We can't be so quick to judge Niemi for better or worse on such a small body of work. I think Niemi has shown some real potential in the games he's played this year. I've been impressed. Maybe he is the better of the two guys there. I certainly would agree that is a question. I'm not a huge Huet fan in terms of him as a goalie that's going to get you through the Cup playoffs. I think it's a legit question and to want to see more from Niemi. But once you get to the playoffs, if he's your guy, I don't think it's a given he'll be better than Huet. It's taken this game by game right now and trying to learn as much about the goalies as possible. I think managment is doing the same thing and they're considering if there's a move or need to upgrade. I agree that Niemi has played well, but until I see it in the playoffs from either guy, that's going to be something we all talk about.
What's a better play for the Bruins? Make a move to get scoring help or realize it's not thier year, stand down and take the picks?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
At this point, now that the big fish is out of the water - Kovalchuk - I don't think there's a player out there that the Bruins would consider surrendering the first round picks for. I think they could do a smaller deal for a Ray Whitney type of player. It's about being smart and knowing where they are. I think they do make a move to try and earn a playoff spot, but they have to consider the bigger picture as well. That would mean keeping those picks. I do find it interesting that we've heard some rumors about them shopping their veteran goalie Tim Thomas. I think it would be tough for them to make a deal like that because he has a no-trade clause. But I find it interesting that we've even heard those kinds of stories and that the Bruins are looking at the big picture beyond this season.
Are we going to see a Crosby/Iginla/Nash line at the Olympics? What other line will be the most exciting to watch in the tournament?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
There are going to be a lot of potentially really thrilling lines to watch. You could have a Malkin/Ovechkin/Datsyuk line. I think Crosby will start with Nash on his line, not sure about Iginla. On paper, he can't go wrong. The reality is that this is a really short tournament and you're going to be looking for guys to click early. You'll be looking for guys on a shift to shift basis to mesh on the lines.
Will the Avs hold on and make the playoffs and I am guessing they probably will lose in the first round in 5 games but the future looks pretty bright?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
Absolutely. I think they will make the playoffs. I wouldn't write them off as a first round loser, because they have a key ingredient - a good goalie. As an Avs fan, you have to be pretty excited that you can turn things around. The future looks very interesting for Colorado because of the potential of these young guys. They're going to be a fun team to watch for several years.
Dean Moll (North Royalton, OH)
Hey EJ, How far do you think Team USA will go in the Olympics?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
It's a short tournament, like I've said, single elimination. If you have a hot goalie or one that has a couple of good games in a row, you could find yourself in the gold medal game. I think Team USA has a chance to play for a medal. The fact the games are in Vancouver is a benefit. The games will be played on a North American sheet is not as big of a deal as before, but it helps. Even though they're an underdog team, I see them being in the mix to play for a medal.
Jose (Dale City, Virginia)
Scott Niedermayer is at a -17 as of today (projected to -24 for the year). I know he is a legend but his 5 on 5 skills have diminished big time this year (if you use stats). When he goes against the top guns in the world in the Olympics I think the Ovie's and Backstroms of the world are going to salivate when they see him in there. Are the Canadians going to be able to hide their Captains Defensive play?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
I'm not going to agree with you on that. I think this year that Anaheim have had a number of issues on defense. To be honest, I haven't seen Anaheim play on a day to day basis. When you don't see someone day to day, minute to minute, it's hard to say an absolute, but I will say that Niedermayer is playing in different circumstances this year. The team has struggled a little bit. He's on the ice in all situations. When they're down in games and they're pushing for offense and they give up a goal for being overly aggressive, that's not going to reflect well on his +/-. While that stat is an indicator of certain things, I think you have to take into consideration all the things about that player. I am still comfortable in putting him against the best players in the world. I will add that this has not been Scott's best season and that he's not overly thrilled with his play on the whole, but I'm willing to take my chances with this guy, especially when he's with more skilled players who are reliable.
Jussi Jokinen not making team Finland has got to be the biggest snub right?
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
It might be a little bit of a surprise for some, but I don't think we can say it's a huge snub. They've had a pretty consistent group of players for a while now. I happen to like Jussi. When I look at their roster, should he be there instead of Innonen? Sure. But when you look at their roster, they have a pretty veteran group.
The Hurricanes would be crazy to trade Ray Whintney wouldnt they?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
No. They're out of the playoff chase right now. They're a team looking to re-prove themselves in the offseason and at the trade deadline. Whitney's contract is up at the end of the season, so he's eligible to leave via free agency. He's an asset right now. Teams looking for a top 6 forward to play on the power play. He was on a Cup winner in '06. He's an experienced guy. If you're Carolina, and you can get a young player or a couple of draft picks, it's a smart move to make.
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
The one kicker is that Ray has a no-trade clause. The rumor is that he's already scuttled one trade. He could force Carolina's hand and stay.
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
Thanks again. Great questions. A lot happening. Trade deadlines. Look forward to doing it again from Vancouver!