Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com NHL Insider Craig Custance stops by to chat about the latest news from the ice.
Custance joined ESPN in September 2011 as an NHL reporter for ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Insider and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN following a stint with the Sporting News. A graduate of Michigan State University, he lived for nearly a decade in Georgia working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he spent time covering the late Atlanta Thrashers.
Send your questions now and join Custance Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
Hey everyone - excited to get started. Let's jump right in.
do the flyers have a legitimate chance at the cup
Craig Custance (2:03 PM)
The short answer is yes. Absolutely. I had a good discussion with Paul Holmgren yesterday and he reminded me of something that was lost during the dramatic summer moves. He kept that defense intact. That stability on defense with Chris Pronger leading the way has eased the transition for Ilya Bryzgalov and their ability to retrieve the puck and get it quickly to the young forwards eases the pressure on the group of front. They're winning early but Holmgren's efforts to get bigger up front will especially pay off once the playoffs start. SO yeah, I think they do have a legit shot.
jimh (miami, fl)
Are the Panthers for real?
Craig Custance (2:11 PM)
I was certainly skeptical of Dale Tallon's shopping spree on July 1 but will never forget his enthusiasm that night about the players he was able to land. It wasn't just the talent, he brought in some personality and said one of his biggest goals was making Florida a fun place to play hockey. He was thrilled with the guys he got. It certainly looked like they were having fun while lighting up Tampa on Monday night. I want to see a little more though before making any conclusions. I certainly don't think Kris Versteeg can maintain this scoring pace but then again, at some point guys like David Booth and Scottie Upshall will contribute offensively. I still need some convincing but I'd much rather be in Florida's position than what we're seeing in Columbus.
Ken (Elkhorn, Nebraska)
Craig, the Red Wings' defense looks great this year, even with the loss of a couple of great veterans. With the surprising amount of cap space the Wings have now, do you see them looking to add another great offensive player to the roster?
Craig Custance (2:15 PM)
Yeah, so far the team is playing really well in front its goalies. I covered the game against Vancouver and plenty of the Canucks remarked at how tough Detroit was to play against once they got the lead. This is a veteran team that knows exactly how it needs to play to win games.GM Ken Holland will be a very interesting GM to watch at the deadline. Rather than blow the Brian Rafalski money on July 1, he's saving it for either a mid-season move or something this summer. Knowing the organizational philosophy of building with a deep defense, I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit targeted another defenseman at the deadline but like most teams their decisions will be based on injuries. Ideally, if you're Holland, you make a move at some point for a d-man who can help replace Lidstrom but those are very, very hard to find.
Andrew (Birdsboro, Pa)
Will the Jaromir Jagr be able to hiold up throughout the entire 82 game seasons and possibly in the playoffs.
Craig Custance (2:17 PM)
Hey Andrew - I touched on this a little bit in today's blog but that's the big question facing Jagr this year. I don't think anybody knows but i like how the Flyers are managing his minutes so far. When I asked Holmgren that exact question, he pointed to Jagr's work ethic that suggests he'll be able maintain his high level of play. He said he's been impressed with Jagr's post-game workout routine and how some of the younger players have followed along.
Anthony Curatolo (Brooklyn, NY)
Craig, how goes it? Hope all is well. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Al Montoya/Evgeni Nabakov and the Islanders...does the tandem create a playoff atmosphere for them?
Craig Custance (2:21 PM)
Hey Anthony - Great start for Montoya who has picked right up from how he played to end the season. I've maintained that the Islanders are a year away from making the playoffs but if those two goalies continue to play as well as they have, I'll be wrong. If I were in charge there, I'd make sure Nabokov gets enough steady work so that when DiPietro is healthy (I know, I know), there will be enough of a track record to trade Nabokov. If John Tavares continues this leap into superstardom, we may see this team in the playoffs earlier than I anticipated. My biggest concerns is with their depth on defense, I'm not sure they have the horses there to keep up in the East.
Will the Staal be back on the Rangers' blueline before 2012? IF not, will they deal for a solid top 4 guy (non waiver wire pick up)?
It's been nice to see the Rangers young talent (Staal, Girardi, Callahan, Dubes) grow up and the team has alot of gamers, but is there enough overall talent to be a top team? I worry after the first line on D especially.
Craig Custance (2:27 PM)
Dave and Mike - I'm very concerned about Marc Staal who remains out with a concussion. If we learned anything covering Sidney Crosby's recovery, it's that these things are unpredictable. If I'm a Rangers fan, I'm nervous. Until he's back on the ice regularly, training with the team, you can't count on him coming back. So to answer the second part of that question, I think it's imperative that the Rangers address their depth on defense. They won't be able to make a playoff run without it. The problem is, they aren't the only team looking for help on defense. Anyone who has watched Tampa the last few games knows they need help on the back end. When it comes time to adding talent as the deadline closes in - two things become a commodity: centers and defensemen. If I'm Glen Sather, I'm acting sooner rather than later.
tdiddy (winnipeg) [via mobile]
Great win by he jets last night, but too many defensive turnovers is their own zone. Any remedy for this?
Craig Custance (2:31 PM)
Great win and it came at a good time for the Jets. A great story would have been completely spoiled if the Jets started off the season on a long losing streak. But now comes the reality that this team isn't particularly good. The turnovers are nothing new with this group. When you have a young developing defenseman like Zach Bogosian or a risk-taker like Dustin Byfuglien on defense, it's going to happen. They're a young growing team and the fans in Winnipeg are going to have to show lots of patience in year one because I'm not sure it's going to immediately get better in that department.
Over/Under:Halak- 30 winsSkinner - 82 pointsCrosby- 60 gamesGaborik- 40 goals
Craig Custance (2:37 PM)
The gambler in me loves over/under bets. I know we're kind of cheating with the season already started, but I'll tackle some of Mike's:Halak 30 wins: I had high hopes for this team but a slow start is making me nervous. I'm going to take the under but think Halak makes it close.Jeff Skinner: 82 points - So essentially we're asking if Skinner can make a 20 point jump in his sophomore season. I'm going to say yes. He's a special player who is one of the game's most driven young men. He'll get there.Sidney Crosby: 60 games - I'm going to take the under but would love to be wrong. The game is better with him in it.Marian Gaborik 40 goals - Over. Brad Richards will find a way.
Thoughts on Luongo and the canucks thus far? When will they start to turn it around?
Craig Custance (2:39 PM)
I think Luongo is going to be pushed for icetime from Cory Schneider so he'll need to raise his game. It's only natural that there's going to be some hangover after last year's long playoff run but the impression I got from the Canucks is that they're still very driven and hungry after falling short of a Stanley Cup. They're having trouble putting together a full game and will get a major boost with Ryan Kesler back in the lineup. You could make an argument that he's their most important player and once he gets his legs I think they'll be much better.
Think the Wild should break up the top line? After a great pre-season they look disorganized. Was hoping Heatly would get back to his 40 goal ability!!
Craig Custance (2:43 PM)
Johnny - I wouldn't break them up just yet, it's still early and the Wild need that line clicking if they want compete in the Northwest. But I would temper my expectations for Dany Heatley a bit. I think it's more realistic that he ends the season in the 30-35 goal range.
need a little help, Datsyuk or Kovalchuk 2pts for a goal and Giroux, Kane or Staal?Thanks Craig
Craig Custance (2:45 PM)
Gary - Assuming plus/minus doesn't factor in the equation in your pool, go Kovalchuk over Datsyuk even though there probably isn't an NHL GM who would do the same. And Giroux in a landslide. He's in for a huge season. That was a fantasy hockey question, right?
Power rankings -- how much do you love doing them?
Craig Custance (2:46 PM)
Haha - hopefully with my move to ESPN I've written my last power rankings. Thanks for jumping in Whitney.
Fantasy Question - Anyone on the Panthers worth picking up? or is this just a flash in the pan?
Craig Custance (2:48 PM)
Alex - It depends on how deep your league is but I think there are plenty of Panthers worth picking up. Brian Campbell is worthy of being owned in any league. I'm the proud owner of Tomas Fleischmann in our ESPN experts pool and Stephen Weiss in LeBrun's Media Hacks pool. Versteeg is worth keeping an eye on too.
Looking for an intern? I don't like my day job.
Craig Custance (2:49 PM)
Do you know how to transcribe lots of interviews with unintelligible questions?
Whittington (Hyde Park)
Lightning... what can they do to win a game?
Craig Custance (2:52 PM)
They need to tighten up their team defense. They also miss the brilliant Wayne Fleming , the architect of the PK that was so effective during the playoffs. It's still too early to panic in Tampa though. I think they'll be okay. Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher are too smart to let this get out of hand.
Your preseason pick was Sharks-Penguins in the final. Now that you've seen the teams play a little bit, do you still like that pick or are you having second thoughts?
Craig Custance (2:54 PM)
I'm not bailing on them yet although the Sharks are making me a little nervous. Assuming the Penguins are being cautious with Crosby and Malkin, I still like Pittsburgh to be the premier team in the East once those two are healthy. But I will admit Philly looks much better than I thought they would. The Sharks will come around. Just look at how all the teams from last year's final four (Boston, Tampa, Vancouver and San Jose) are performing. On some level it's got to be tough getting up for games in mid-October.
Who puts up more points this year richards or Gabby...both could possibly hit 90 pts in my opinion
Craig Custance (2:55 PM)
B-Diddy (Munstoeville, WYO)
Where do you think the Avs will finish?
Craig Custance (2:57 PM)
They look much better than anyone expected but I still have last season's second-half collapse fresh in my head. I think with a young team you have to expect some ups and downs and right now they're up. But based on their start, I'll put them in the 8-10 range out West which is better than I would have a month ago.
Were you surprised the Caps didn't make a major move in the offseason? I would have thought their playoff meltdowns would force a move.
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
Isaac - I loved what George McPhee did during the off-season adding players who are tough to play against in the spring. It wasn't time to blow things up, especially considering how young the core is. They're winning and they're doing it without Alex Ovechkin carry them, which is an important development. Now, if there's another playoff meltdown...
Craig Custance (3:01 PM)
Alright guys, gotta run. As always, really appreciate the questions. See you next week!