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 3:30 p.m. ET!
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
I'm here and ready to go!
Aaron (Wernersville, PA)
The All-Star game seems to have lost its relevance. Players are dropping out and potential replacements don't seem to be enthused about attending (Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, etc). The draft is a good concept but the game is a dud. NHL should just scrap it altogether and give the players the rest they need to recuperate.
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
I would have no trouble with them scrapping it. But then again, I would like to point out my point of view, as someone in the media, who has covered a number of these games ... I don't think the game is very representative of the real game of course because it is an exhibition ... but in each market, the fans like the event and like to see the superstars. Kids particularly like seeing the stars all in one place. That kid in Raleigh who is really starting to warm up to the game is going to be really excited. For me, if they didn't have it, it would be no big deal. But I know the league will continue to have it as a way to bring all their partners and sponsors together. I haven't heard any push from anyone with any power to do away with it. To their credit, they are trying to find ways to make it more appealing to fans. At the end of the day in a contact sport, an all star game is difficult to pull off.
Do you feel that the NHL should have replaced Jarome Iginla with another another Calgary Flames player for the upcoming all star game? I thought the whole point was to have a representative from each team. I know that the fact we have no player coupled with the absence of Sidney Crosby has left a lot of Flames fans disinterested in this weekends festivities.
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
Good point. They have been a little slow to name replacements because of some guys dropping out. Who knows who else will be on the teams. Like I said, I don't lose too much sleep over it. Most of these guys would rather have the time off.
Hi EJ - any chance that there's a change in the rule making it mandatory that a player returning from the KHL has to clear waivers? It's apparent Nabokov wants to be here and not in NY. It's absurd if you ask me.
EJ Hradek (3:39 PM)
It's a rule that pertains to playing anywhere in Europe, not just the KHL. The rule is there for a good reason. With the salary cap, you can make pre-arranged deals which impacts the balance of power across leagues. Nabokov was a free agent that could have signed anywhere and chose to sign a multi-year deal in the KHL that didn't work out. The NHL has to protect its competitive balance. Is there a way to take a look at it where you could limit the date and not going through the waiver process. Certain situations arise that create situations you can't predict so I'm sure they will look at all the different sides of this rule and how it affects players. But I don't think they will turn around and make any major changes here.
B-Diddy (Munstoeville, WYO)
Calgary doesn't have anybody outside of Iginla who's worthy. Next Question.
Mark Douglas (Pittsburgh,PA)
Are their any eastern conference teams out their right now that could give the pittsburgh penguins a hard time come playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:41 PM)
Philadelphia for sure. They are on par with Pittsburgh in a lot of areas. I look at their roster and they are terrific. The big question as always is the goaltending. The Flyers are certainly at least on kind of an even level with the Penguins. I still think you have to keep an eye on the Capitals. They haven't been as dynamic this year but they have the ability to match up with those two teams.
EJ Hradek (3:41 PM)
I'd even throw Boston in there. Thomas has been really terrific this year. They have a pretty good structure in place.
EJ, do the Caps have a identity problem this year? They came out of the gates fast this year similar to the team from last year. Then they have turned into a team that has focused more on defense. The guys on versus said they will be a better team in the playoffs last night because of the their focus on defense. I'm not so sure. It's like they have fogotten how to score. Your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:45 PM)
First of all, their schedule is much tougher as the level of competition in the Southeast is much better. They used to be able to roll through and they can't do that anymore. Ovechkin has gotten off to a slower start than usual. He hasn't looked like the same guy to me this year. He seems he is getting back to that level of late, however. Their PP has not been as strong this year as last year. They are not getting out to leads ... I think the fewest goals scored in the first period across the league. Sports is a copy-cat industry. When someone has success against you, teams go to school and play copy-cat. All of this has impacted the Capitals. But despite some guys not playing up to their normal levels, they have been finding ways to win and the defense has been good. The scoring is something to worry about, down a goal from last year, but they are still growing and have a lot of talent. They are trying to change their approach a bit but they are finding ways to win.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
EJ, I have a theory about why the All-Star game seems to have lost its luster. I am 28 years old now and when I was a youngster I thought the All-Star game was AWESOME. With the black and orange uniforms, Campbell vs. Wales, Gretzky vs. Lemieux, those were the days. For me most of the appeal back then was that you never got to see most of the star players from the other conference except for the one or two times a year they played your home team. Even as recent as 1994 there was no NHL on ESPN, Versus, NHL Network, Youtube or internet where you can get highlights of any player you want on demand. There was also no Olympics and the Canada Cups were not televised in the USA back then, so you could never see true "All-Star Teams" play in real games like you can now....so the NHL All-Star game was the best you got. Also the best All-Star games always had one compelling storyline to focus the whole game on....Gordie Howe returning to Detroit as a Whaler, Ray Bourque scoring the winning goal in the final minute in Boston, Messier hitting 5 for 5 on the targets in MSG....unless you have something like that going on, there is not a whole lot else there.
EJ Hradek (3:47 PM)
I think there is something to this argument. I'm old enough to remember a time when we didn't have access to all the games and players. You can say that across other sports as well. I just think the world has changed and the coverage of sports is around the clock. All-Star games in general seem to have less of an impact than in the past. Even the MLB All-Star Game with no real competition around it, and now with real meaning behind it with home-field advantage in the WS, seems to have lost some of its luster.
Peter Forsberg appears to be preparing to call it a comeback. After being out of the NHL for so long, do you think he will still have that razzle dazzle?
EJ Hradek (3:50 PM)
Forsberg was such a great player in my mind. Prospects modeled their game after him. He was good in so many areas of the game. These last couple years have been hard to watch because of the injury issues. I saw him play in the Olympics which is certainly an elite tournament. There were moments where he was a real help to Sweden. But the rigors of an 82 game sked with playoffs, I don't know if he is up to that. Like all players, you get to an age where you just aren't the same. In the right circumstance with a team that needs a particular type of help with players woh can support him, maybe it works. But that decision has to be made by the Avs and by Forsberg. We just don't know where he is phyiscally.
get lemieux and gretzky to pick teams and coach
EJ Hradek (3:51 PM)
Hmmm. That's a really great idea. The problem is you would have to get them to buy in. I know Wayne since the situation with the Coyotes has tried to take a step back. I don't know if there would be a real upside for those guys to do it. But in theory that would be a lot of fun for fans.
Jason (Long Island, NY)
Not sure how the Rangers are doing it, but continue to persist on winning games without a lot of their key stars in the lineup or performing up to potential. Torts definitely should be a lock for top three contention for coach of the year. Agree? Disagree?
EJ Hradek (3:53 PM)
I don't know if we'll get into the rankings of coaches ... but certainly he has to be high on the list for consideration. They have had some real challenges on that team but he has established a philosophy and culture of a hard-working team. A great example was in Washington on Monday night ... they called up some young guys and clawed out a shootout win. That has been the biggest positive to me, how he has established a new identity.
EJ, Keith Yandle was just announced as an all-star replacement. I feel it was well deserved - your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:54 PM)
Very well deserved. I don't have his stats handy but he is a great puck-moving defensemen. I think he could have been named on the original list of All-Stars.
How does the Calgary Flames recent improved play effect things for Jay Feaster? Does he wait until the team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before he starts rebuilding or does he make a big move on trade deadline day regardless of the team's performance?
EJ Hradek (3:56 PM)
I would say when you are in the job and the pressure is to make the playoffs and you have spent so much on players, the demand is there to make the playoffs. Teams make money when they qualify for the postseason. The bigger picture is what is the goal? To squeak into the playoffs or build a year-in and year-out contender? They need an infusion of young guys and to strengthen their depth at the center position. The recent streak is putting them closer to a playoff spot and the pressure will be to try and capitalize on that.
Your quick take on how in the world Curtis Glencross escaped a 5 game suspension for his hit on Clayton Stoner? If any suspension were automatic, Id have called that one it. Amazing.
EJ Hradek (3:59 PM)
Thanks for the great questions! Enjoy All-Star weekend! We'll do this again next week!