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!
EJ Hradek (3:02 PM)
I'm ready for your questions!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Where will the NHL will be looking at for the 2012 Winter Classic?
EJ Hradek (3:03 PM)
Philly might be a possible site. There are some things to keep in mind ... one of which is TV. Whoever is doing it ... not sure if it will be NBC or not ... will have a great deal of impact in terms of what markets are involved. The league would like as attractive a matchup as two US markets as they can get. Maybe Denver would be an option. We'll learn more in the next couple weeks.
I was wondering your thoughts on the NHL this year. it seems there is no real #1 in my opinion. i mean, from week to week there could be a different top 5 teams
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
I can't really argue too much with that. It seems like right now Vancouver has put together a pretty good streak of successful play. They certainly appear to be separating themselves. Pittsburgh has also had a nice run. But you are right, several teams are swinging back and forth among the top spots. Injuries and scheduling certainly plays into it.
EJ, What do you attribute to John Tavares' recent success?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
He's a good player. I think he is probably just feeling more comfortable in his situation. He is maturing and growing everyday as a player. We'll see if he can continue to have this push and extend it. It's all about trying to be consistent over 82 games. I'm not too surprised because he is such a good player.
What do you think about Philadelphia's move in waving Michael Leighton? Were there no teams interested in a trade?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I think they had to do something. You can't go running with three goaltenders. They have a young guy they like and they were in danger of damaging his confidence by rotating three guys. They were in an unusual spot for sure. You can see that he wasn't claimed so there wasn't a feeling that he is a no-brainer high-end NHL goalie. I think it was something they had to do and they took a risk in doing it. Michael has a one-way contract and he just has to get healthy and play well and the interest will be there.
I feel San Jose has lost its window on a Stanley Cup. What is your opinion? Are they one of a handful of teams that can win it this year?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I don't know if it is closed but it certainly isn't as open as last year. They just haven't found those last few pieces. They are not good enough on defense. They have Boyle who is an elite puck holder but they fall off after that. I won't say the window is closed but it's up to them to find those tweaks to prop it back up. The main issue is on defense. They have to be quicker on the back line.
Thomas (Tampa Bay)
Does Dwayne Roloson really provide an upgrade? i just dont get the move...does he make us any closer to being a contender? We still cant play defense!!!
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I think he is an upgrade based on the numbers. So far this year, the goaltending and defense has just not held up. Roloson, even though he is 41, he has played well in some tough situations before. I think he is definitely an upgrade especially considering that they gave up almost nothing to get him. Good move.
EJ, bigger NY-area first-year coach disaster: Trottier w/ Rangers or MacLean w/ Devils?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
Good question. Probably Trottier. I just think MacLean got dealt a really bad hand. The goaltending just is not good. It was a tough spot for him. And the high end forwards underachieved. I just can't but much blame on him at all.
Red Wings - Avalanche at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
That would be doable. That rivalry had an expiration date that has passed but still Detroit is Detroit, a great team with a lot of star players in a hockey-crazy market. That's a matchup I could see holding some interest. Could even hold the game in Denver.
are the penguins better off with staal and malkin on the same line or going 3 deep at the center position? what would be harder to play against?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I think the beauty of the circumstance is they can be versatile. When all three are healthy, it creates real matchup problems for opposing coaches. I'm not sure either way is better than the other. They both have great advantages. It's rare to have three guys like that on your roster.
Andrew (Ashburn, VA)
Do you think the Caps will make any moves at the trade deadline? Would this be a good time to move Alex Semin? What is his value?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
They did last year, making a number of small moves at the deadline. Turns out none of them were difference makers. But I suspect if McPhee sees something that will improve his team he will do it. The fact he made a trade on Nov. 30 tells you he wants to be very pro-active. I don't think he will be as active as last year but if he sees a good fit he will go after it.
Who do you think has the edge in the Atlantic Division? Pittsburgh or Philly?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I think Pittsburgh. When I look at Philly without Pronger, that's a big hole. The Flyers are deep and strong and they can get by without him for awhile but if you look at the teams top to bottom, the Penguins just have better balance.
When (not if) the NHL gets back on ESPN, you will have a lot more work (interviews, stories, analysis) to do. You ready for that?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I love the work! I love my job. It's not even work, really. I'm lucky to be in this business. Bring it on! I hope we do get it back.
EJ, great job at the Classic! Did you think the Steckel hit on Crobsy was "dirty"? It looked to me that he was trying to avoid him and get back into the play.
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
I'll tell you what .. it looked accidental to me. I didn't have a chance to watch it 20 times in slow motion or anything but in what I saw at the time, it seemed accidental. All that said, there is no way to ever really know what the intent is. I would say anytime you can put a body on Crosby you do it. Let's face it, this is a tough game with teams competing hard and this is going to happen.
Drew (Fort Wayne)
What impact do you see Jordan Staal having on the Pens the rest of the way?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I think anytime you have a guy like him he is going to have a big impact. He provides them such an advantage over the competition with matchup problems. He can chip in on offense, is great on the penalty kill. He is just a terrific player who can do so much to help you win. Over time as he gets healthier he is going to be a real asset.
Sam (Los Angeles)
EJ, any word on the Richards situation in Dallas? Would love to have him stay, especially with the way he and the team are playing this year, but risk not resigning him if he stays then to have him leave and get nothing would be a disaster. Also, what do you think of the Daley extension? Thanks
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
I've been pretty straightforward about this ... the Stars want to make the playoffs. They are going to keep Richards there as long as they are playing well and I don't see a drop off coming. Their goaltending has been remarkably better which has made a big difference. The Stars are going for an ownership change and when that happens then the real negotiation with Richards can start. I think he has a real interest in staying there. Unless something dramatic happens, I don't think they will trade him at the deadline and I think he could stay there depending on how the ownership works out.
Can the Rangers make a move to get a center for Gaborik or are they too close to the cap?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
There are always ways to do things. The bigger question is who is available? And at what price? I'm sure like all the teams they are keeping their eyes open. It's tricky. You have to figure out how someone would fit and exactly how much it would help. It's a possibility but not as easy thing to do based on how the league looks right now.
Shouldn't the Rangers be given a chance to play in the Classic? Aren't they the only original 6 team not to have played as of yet?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
Montreal and Toronto haven't either. Bottom line, you are right in that they are a team that should be in it. The Rangers have been pursued at other points for outdoor games at Yankee Stadium but for whatever reason it just didn't work out. The league would love to have them at some point. How about the Rangers and Flyers down in Philly?
Mike (Rutland, VT)
EJDo you see the Bruins stringing together some wins in the near future and getting a hold on the top spot in their division?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
It's possible. I like the Bruins. They have been great in goal with Tim Thomas. They have a number of good players on that offense. There isn't much difference right now between the good teams so it's hard to say they will put a long string together but they have a chance. This isn't a league where you can just be better than everyone else every night. But the talent is potential is there.
Mike B (Lewisville, TX)
I thought the Rangers played against Mystery, Alaska in an outdoor game?!
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
That was a hell of a game! I love the way Mystery comes onto the ice.
what does toews need to do to become as good as sid the kid
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
I don't know if anybody will be as good as Sidney. But he is a top five player and more importantly a winner. What else can you say? If you are picking guys to start a team, you could argue he is the pick after Crosby.
EJ, who are your captains for the ASG?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
Oh boy ... great question ... I'd like to see Staal with the game in Raleigh. He has enough standing in the league to garner that. After that, you could go to Crosby or Lidstrom. Maybe it would be fun to have an older guy like Lidstrom getting that honor. Crosby has enough on his shoulders already. Staal and Lidstrom would be great.
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions! Happy New Year to everyone! Talk to you again next week!