Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the upcoming 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 on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:07 PM)
Tracking down EJ now!
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
any chance vinny lecavlier has a bounce back year now that teams gotta worry about Stamkos too?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I think Tampa Bay are hoping and praying for that. They are on the hook for a lot of money for a long period of time. I think the stability they have with the new owner will help and a new coach who is excited to be there. Vinny can still play. He has had some health issues that have hindered him but I will be very curious to see how he does. He needs to produce for them.
Christian (Staten Island, NY)
Am I the only person who thinks the Flyers trading away Gagne is a significant loss? Look how much better they have played in recent years when he is in the lineup.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I understood why they did it. They are a team that has to create some flexibilty to do other things. But I agree with you, Christian. He was a big help for that team. He gave them everything he had and he is an experienced player who has played in a lot of big games. But they had to make some big decisions with the cap. They are loaded up front with lots of talented forwards so maybe that mitigates the loss a little. Gagne is a good player when healthy so losing him is not a great thing.
Gregor (Las Vegas)
Are the Kings this year's Blackhawks, or are they still a big-scoring forward away from contending for the Cup?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I like the Kings a lot. Are they this year's Blackhawks .. I don't think they are ready to win a Cup. But they are poised enough to be in the playoffs and move forward from last season. Their success in the postseason will depend on their health and the matchups. I would like to see them add a player or two up front but they are moving in the right direction.
Dan (San Mateo)
Hey EJ, I am an avid Sharks fan and have been extremely disappointed in their last few playoff appearances. Will the Nabokov trade pay dividends in helping the Sharks capture the Cup or will this season be another disappointment yet again?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
You can't be too disappointed about last year, losing to the team that won the Stanley Cup. My biggest worry is on defense. I think they are a second puck moving defenseman away from being an elite team. When they get into those matchups with elite teams, their defense is a shade behind. I expect another good year, though. I want to see if Doug Wilson adds any help on the blue line as we get close to the playoffs.
Lou Cypher (NJ)
Were the Devils really in the wrong in the Kovalchuk situation? Or was the league just looking to make an example of them?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
All I can tell you is the Devils offered a huge contract and the league wanted to challenge it. Both sides agreed to arbitrate and that went to the side of the league. It was an independant arbitrator and he felt it was outside of the rules of the CBA. The second contract from the league's standpoint was not much better. It's not for me to say who was right or wrong. The Devils were just trying to get their guy and the league was tired of seeing the contracts get bigger and longer. In the end the team got their player. I hope I'm around long enough to see how it plays out in 15 years.
Ryan W (University Park)
What can the pens expect out of Jordan Staal offensively this year when he comes back form injury?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
Good question. It's hard to say right now. He's been sidelined by the infection to his foot. He will have to get up to speed physically. He hasn't worked out much the past few months. When he does get back on the line, it depends how they want to use him. They have talked about moving Stall into a second center type role which would give him more opportunity. He helps you win in so many different ways. If given the opportunity, he won't be dynamic scorer but he will produce over the season.
Adam (East Lansing)
The Red Wings will not win the Stanley Cup this year because.....
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
... Jimmy Howard as a second year goalie was not good enough. That's my biggest concern. It's their last best shot for sure. Lidstrom is year to year with what he can do, a lot of the guys are not old but certainly getting there. This is a last best chance as currently constructed. The thing that could hold them back is injuries and whether Howard is good enough in big games. Can he make those timely saves that help a team move on? Last year vs. San Jose he let in some bad goals that hurt them.
Betty Humpter (Los Angeles)
Do you see the Coyotes continuing to make strides this season, or do you see them maybe coming back down to reality a bit?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I think it is going to be a challenge for them this year. They won a lot of close games. They were really good when scoring first. When that happens one year, you have to wonder if it can happen two years in a row. The good news is the coaching staff is very solid. They are solid on the blue line. They still have a good group of forwards. I think they will still be competitive but a challenge to get to 100 points.
What is your thoughts on the Pens-Caps TV Series
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
It's a great thing for the league. We've seen this stuff with the NFL like "Hard Knocks" so it's great for the sport of hockey. They need more mainstream exposure like this. You have to find a way into the hearts and minds of sports fans, whether they think they like hockey or not. This show has the potential to reach those people. For those of us who already love the game, it's a great way to go deeper inside the game. The NFL show is during the preseason but this show is in season. That's big. I'm curious to see how it plays out if anything negative happens during the filming. How will the league and/or teams react?
Corey B (Brookfield, IL)
Iginla end the year wearing whose sweater?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I think Flames. He will stay right where he is. He seems to be a guy who really is a loyal guy who likes it there. They are under a lot of pressure to win. They are not strong at center, don't score a lot of goals, but they are so close. Calgary struggled last year and I won't predict a great turnaround, but it is possible to build on a great preseason and be more of a factor this year. I think it would take a catastrophe for them to want to trade him.
Can any player get to 120 points this season?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
Good question. Hard to say but I guess we know the suspects. If anybody, it's Crosby or Ovechkin. It's so tough to get there. But yes, I'll say one of those guys will get there.
Corey B (Brookfield, IL)
Is Nashville the best team nobody is talking about?
EJ Hradek (3:33 PM)
I would agree with that. I like Nashville a lot. I don't think people talk about them even when they are really really good. They are a conservative group, not much changeover, and the location. But they have a good team. They need to take that next step and win a first round series. I think they will be tough again this year and end up in that 5th or 6th seed area which puts them on the road with a tough opponent. They are faster up front this year and the young defense is getting better every day. Last year they came within a year of causing the Blackhawks real problems but unfortunately they gave up a goal in the waning seconds. Who knows what might have happened had that gone differently. This should be a team that is competitive every night.
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
Thanks for all the questions! I look forward to doing this each week during the season. Should be a great one! Thanks again!