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 (3:01 PM)
EJ is here!
Do you think the Kings will make the playoffs and if so, how far do you think they can make it?
EJ Hradek (3:02 PM)
It's so close. It's so close right now. If I have to guess right now, I will say yes, because I like their team. It will not be easy. If you look at the standings right now and how tight it is, it's not going to be easy.
EJ Hradek (3:03 PM)
One of the things you look at with playoff series is are the teams healthy and are they getting a favorable matchup. But there are lot of things that can happen between now and April.
With the playoff races being so tight this year is there a surprise team that you could see winning it all like Nashville or Montreal?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
I think it's possible, but because the teams are really close. Last year, Philadelphia finished seventh and made the final. Montreal was 8th and made the conference final. There is a hair of difference between these teams. Philadelphia was able to get to the Cup Finals without having to play the top seed. The matchups were vital. With Nashville, I look at their team and they have good goaltending and two top level defensemen there. It's just a matter of if they'll be able to put up enough goals. I think it's possible that in the right circumstances a team that we didn't expect to make a run do something special.
Paul H. (Chelmsford, MA)
EJ, how exactly can somebody who employs Matt Cooke think they can complain about cheap-shot tactics. Sorry Mario, you don't have credibility on that front.
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
Well, I think what Mario was addressing was something different than the problems that Matt Cooke have faced in his career. But I wrote about it in my ESPN.com blog, in life, we want it both ways. Unfortunately, it's not possible. In this case, you have to be consistent. If you're going to speak out about things that are harmful to the game, you have to be a little more consistent and speak out about acts that are done by guys on your own team. I agree with what Steve Yzerman said in that I would like to hear from Mario more often on all sorts of things. He's one of the best players in the game. He's an owner of a team. He's in the league now. I think we need to hear from Mario more often. Whether we agree or disagree with things that he says, I'd like to see him more involved in things that go on in the NHL. He can have an impact if he wants to be more vocal.
Hi Ej, What do make of what the Wild are doing now. They are playing much better at home. Chances they make the playoffs? Thanks
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
Yeah, there's a great chance they could make the playoffs. They're 8-2 in their last 10. They're getting really good goaltending on most nights. When you're getting that kind of goaltending, you can stay in the hunt. I have to give Todd Richards a lot of credit in his second year. The team has responded to him.
Chad (St. Paul)
Was this finally the end for Forsberg? Its getting sad even for a non-Avs fan.
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I think so. I think if you watched the press conference yesterday and the fact that he shut it down after two games. This is a guy who has had so many different health issues and surgery. I've always said that these guys should try and play as long as they can. I know I would if I were in their place. Some times we just tire of these stories, but the bottom line is these are the lives and careers of the players so if they want to keep playing, they should. But Peter has examined all of the different methods and ways he could of trying to get back to playing. The game is so much faster than it was when Peter was in the heyday of his career. He was a great, great player in his day. He has the fourth highest assists per game number in history. He's left an indelible mark on the sport. While we're sorry to see him go, I hope he can get some closure on that part of his life and move forward.
Are we ever going to see Sidney Crosby the way he was before this concussion? I am a Rangers fan but can tell you honest truth that not seeing him playing has made realize how much we need him in this game, healthy. Is he the next Eric Lindros?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I hope so. I really hope so. They're being really careful and cautious, which is smart to make sure he's healthy when he comes back and plays. If he is, then I suspect he'll be ready to go. But we really don't know with this kind of injury. He's only 23, going on 24, so I would think that he's not even at his peak yet.
Chiarelli seems to poised to make a move or the fans here will be irate..what are the odds of a blockbuster (i.e. Richards/Iginla) or do you see them using their cap space and draft picks to make multiple smaller moves?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I don't see Richards or Iginla, or that big type of move. Maybe some smaller moves. They might be able to make a move to get Kaberle. They can make some moves to address different areas on the team. I expect him to be in conversations with different teams. I do think they're a team that's going to be active to make something happen for themselves.
What kind of pressure does the Versteeg move put on other teams in the East? Desperation level rising?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I think teams always are impacted in some ways by deals that other teams make. It ups the ante a little bit and if they're interested in making some other move, it puts those wheels into motion quicker. Each team has different players and picks and assets that they can move. It does move things forward a little bit. If teams have what it takes to make a move, they're going to make a move.
Any sign of the hope for the Stars right now? Or was their first half such a fluke that now things are correcting themselves?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
They're in the midst of a real slide here in the last 10 or so games. They have to turn things around. They're starting up a three-game swing in Canada. They need to get some points out of Edmonton. They had a cushion but now they've fallen into that group of teams that are battling for a playoff spot. They played well early and like all teams, you can't afford to go into a slide because you'll play yourself out of a playoff spot.
What are the Pens chances now? I see them getting healthy pretty soon and all I can remember is how much adversity Pens went through in 2009 at this exact time. What are your thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
It really depends on first and foremost getting Crosby back in the lineup. With that injury, you really never know if someon is ready to go. After that, then it depends on what they do at the trade deadline. It's a wait and see. Before the season, I thought they would win the Cup this year, but now I don't know. They're a team that we'll all be watching between now and the end of the season. If they can get healthy, they have a chance to be a pain in the neck.
Michael Dunn (Montclair, NJ)
So it's trade deadline day, and the Devils are less than 10 points out of a playoff spot(let's say 8). Are you a buyer or a seller?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I think I would still be a seller if I'm the Devils. They're in a transition period now. They've had an incredible run over the last several weeks. A lot will have to do with the next several weeks. If they can get regulation wins against teams like Carolina, that will move them closer. I would look at what deals are out there for them and if I can add a good deal, I would go forward. At the end of the day, they're a team in transition.
Is the Islanders Michael Grabner for real, or is this recent goal scoring trend going tol pass as quickly as it came?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
Hard to say, he has terrific feet. Terrific, terrific feet. That's one thing in today's NHL that's key. He was a first round pick a few years back. I guess we'll have to wait and see. When you look at the background in terms of being a high pick and he's finding his confidence now, you'd have to think that he'll continue to be an offensive threat. He could end up being a really great waiver pickup for hte Islanders.
Do you see the Ducks having a realistic shot to win the division with the Stars struggles?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
I look at that division right now and the Ducks are one point out of first place and San Jose is one point behind them. Everyone has a chance to win the division right now. At this point, you look at it, it's about as wide open as can be. I don't think I've seen a division as wide open at this point as this. The division games will have an impact on who makes it and who doesn't. Right now, if the season ended today, only LA would be on the outside looking in and they're right there.
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
Thanks for all of the great questions. I look forward to chatting again next week. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @EJHradek_ESPN.