Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:05 PM)
Hang on folks, we're getting EJ!
Buzzmaster (3:15 PM)
EJ will be here in just a couple of minutes. Hang in there.
Sean (Orange County, Ca.)
EJ, What's your take on the Kronwall hit on Selanne? Seemed like an elbow to the head, and this isn't the first time he's done this. I for one am glad that Carlyle and Selanne went public with their disatisfaction with the referring at the Joe. How do you feel about this?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
Not being a Ducks fan, in my objective view and from what I saw, I don't think it was that bad. It was a north-south hit. The two guys were facing each other, it wasn't a blindside hit. I thought he hit him with his shoulder, not an elbow. I didn't see anything that was consistent with a suspendable hit. It was a tough play. Kronwell plays that way. I think it's one of those things when you play against a physical defenseman, you have to be aware, when you're on his side that he could be coming down the wall.
jim bob (sherwood, tx)
Although the Red Wings have had inconsistencies up and down the lineup, they have still managed to win games. Is it a good sign that they are winning despite not putting together a 100% effort or a concern that there are some flaws?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
Hey, winning is never bad. Winning is always good. Mike Babcock likes to say that they're in the winning business and they've been getting it done so far. I'm sure they'd like to have Rafalski in the lineup. The league is really tight and night to night, there's going to be challenges no matter who you are. I think a lot of teams are still trying to find their way. For the Red Wings fans, it's good that they're winning despite not being 100%. I'm sure they'll work toward being more consistent.
Do you think when Campbell comes back for the Blackhawks they will play much better?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
Yes. I do. Their top 4 group of defensemen is really important for their success. Campbell can carry the puck. He has great speed. There's no question that when Chicago can roll out their regular lineup, they're definitely a better team.
Tom (West Loop)
Considering how dirty the Ducks have been over the years, isn't it a little ridiculous to be calling out the refs in other buildings? Like they didn't get a number of calls the year they won the Stanley Cup (especially in the case of Pronger)...
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I think that teams, for better or worse, have a perception around them. The Ducks are a team that have a perception of how they've played for the last couple of years. I understand how they're trying to get rid of that perception. They don't want to be killing penalties all night long. Teams are always looking for an edge and always trying to work the officials. It's no surprise. My observation has been that the Ducks are fighting a perception issue that may have not existed 2-3 years ago.
Chris (New London, CT)
Any chance the Rangers make a run at trading for Spezza? Seems like he'd be a good match with Gaborik when he returns, no?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
There have been some rumors to that effect. The Senators have said that's not going to happen. Common sense says that Spezza has a big contract with a big cap hit. The Rangers are not without cap issues. They had to put Redden in the minor leagues just to bury a big salary to make things work this year. I don't see it. That will be a lot of pieces to move at once and I don't think they want to lock themselves into Spezza's contract.
Do you think the Blues can finally take that step and be contenders in the West? So far this year they have looked pretty solid
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
The last couple of years, they've looked improved. They're really pushed their team to the next level and parted ways with some of the older guys. They added Halak. I like their team. I think they'll be a playoff team this year and will develop into a legit Cup contender the next few years.
The first head coach to be fired this year is......
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Hmmmm....Good question. I'll answer it this way. The guys I think of are the teams that struggle right out of the gate. Buffalo, you know the relationship with the GM and coach, so that's probably not going to happen. There are some other teams that have new coaches, so they won't be making changes. But in Anaheim, if they keep struggling, there might be an issue there.
Zach (East Lansing, MI)
You think Stamkos will be able to keep up his current pace and have a shot at the Hart Trophy this year?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I really think so. He's gotten off to a great start. He leads the league in goals and points. He's surrounded by some good players. This kid made a terrific jump last year. It seems like he continued to get better in the offseason. He's working really hard. I think that he'll continue to be a dangerous offensive weapon.
Bill (Pasadena, CA.)
Any news as to why Kovalchuk was benched on Saturday night?
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
Not officially from the team. The Devils themselves are not saying anything. From what I hear and understand, it stems from Kovalchuk being late for the players gameday routine Saturday meeting, either a meeting or something else. I also heard it's not the first time, it might have happened earlier in the season. I don't think this happened because of his performance. They were coming off of their best effort of the year on Thursday, so I think it comes from some issue that occurred on Saturday morning.
Mario (Milwaukee, Wi)
How are the LA Kings looking in your opinion?
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
I think the Kings look fine. They're off to a really good start. My biggest concern for them is Doughty. He's not traveling with the team due to his concussion. They need him in the lineup. He's already one of the elite defensemen in the league at age 20. We all know how concussion problems can impact a players' career, so the biggest issue is for him to get himself healthy.
The Kovalchuk benching: water under the bridge, or a brewing tsunami?
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
It seems like, listening to him address it last night and the coaching staff, they are looking at it like water under the bridge. Time will tell if it is or not. You have a first year coach and a player who signed one of the largest contracts in the league. We'll see if it's behind them and watch their actions over the next several weeks.
Ryan (Germantown, MD)
What do you think of the Rangers the past couple games? They're finally playing like they want it.
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
The Rangers were in a tough spot right off the bat, because they lost a key player in Gaborik, their biggest offensive weapon. They were also without Chris Drury. They came back in the last few games and were rewarded with three wins. They have to feel good.
Is Tuka Raask deserving of the starting job?
EJ Hradek (3:39 PM)
Tim Thomas has come out of the gate playing really well. It's the same thing as last year, when Raask played well, he got the majority of the playing time. They have a situation in Boston where they have two really good goalies and they can play whoever is the hottest. They're both pushing each other. From what they've seen so far, they have to be thrilled with how Thomas has played.
Vancouver....best team in the league?
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
Not for me. I think they're a team that a lot of people like. The beloved Barry Melrose has picked them to win the Cup this year. That can be taken a lot of different ways. But right now they haven't done anything to separate themselves. This is the first year of a 12 year contract from Luongo. They have to hope that he's a guy that plays better in the playoffs. I don't think that they are a team that's split above the group right now.
Matt (Kingsport, TN)
What can the Sabres do to improve their home woes? They're monsters on the road and if they can bring that kind of success to Buffalo, they'll be in the Cup running.
EJ Hradek (3:42 PM)
They just have to play better at home. You have to win your home games. They have to get better in all facets. They have to get the leads at home. They have to be better all around. They've given up a lot of goals at home. That's not the formula to have a successful team. They've already lost a good number of points on the home ice.
Bill (Pasadena, CA.)
Hey EJ, what goalie has a bigger upside Quick or Bernier?
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
Upside? I would probably say Bernier. He's a little younger. He had a terrific year last year in the AHL. But Quick has been really good. He's been up for the challenge to the people who want to put Bernier in the job already. They have two guys in L.A. pushing each other, that's terrific.
Jason (Ellicott City, MD)
Why do the Caps have such a hard time controlling the puck?
EJ Hradek (3:44 PM)
I don't know if they have a hard time controlling the puck. They have had some injuries. Sometimes they are a little loose in their own zone and not as competitve defensively as they need to be. But I think they move the puck all right.
Craig G. (Newcastle, Washington)
Hey EJ, I've read recently about declining attendances in certain fan bases for a few years now. Are you are of any franchises possibly looking to relocate? P.S., I'm a HUGE fan of your podcast.
EJ Hradek (3:46 PM)
Thanks for listening. I appreciate it. At this point, the only situation that's on going is Phoenix. Particularly, in the NBA, you can use them as an example. There are teams there that have issues drawing and you can talk about them maybe moving. But when you have 30 teams, only one can win the title. The owners in some areas would like to be doing better. There are some places that are struggling to sell tickets now, but used to have packed buildings. It's not a perfect world in pro sports where they are always competitive. You just need to be strong in the lean years.
EJ Hradek (3:46 PM)
Thanks for the great questions. We'll do it next week.