Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Andre (Plandome, NY)
Hi CraigEnjoy your work. As a diehard Islander fan, what happens if the team falls out it by Christmas. Firing Capuano makes it 2 coaches fired within 1 year. Islanders don't have significant assets to make a big trade. At what point can we claim that Snow's rebuilding plan has failed. It seems like Edmonton which started their rebuild later is further along. I know Snow will never be fired because Wang is a clueless baffoon, but enough is enough already
Craig Custance (2:59 PM)
And we're off and running...
Craig Custance (3:02 PM)
To answer your question Andre, I liked the collection of young talent that Garth Snow assembled but this is a league about results and we're not seeing it with the Islanders. It think the three-goalie rotation has been puzzling and you're right, we've seen other teams turn things around at a much faster pace. If this season ends and there still isn't any progress, it may be time to hand somebody else the blueprint and find a new plan.
Hi Craig, I need some fantasy advice. I have three goalies on my roster. Jaroslav Halak, Jose Theodore and Antti Niemi. I can only start two. Who should I play tonight. Thanks!
Craig Custance (3:09 PM)
That's a tough one. I'd go ahead and plug in Niemi because St. Louis and Florida are facing each other and I hate starting two goalies in the same game. We're trying to max out the wins here right? So then it becomes, who do we like better tonight - St. Louis or Florida? Both teams are playing really well right now. Good friend Jeremy Rutherford has confirmed that Halak is starting tonight, which is always something to watch with the Blues goaltending. I'd go with Halak. He's allowed four goals in his last three starts and is fighting for playing time under a new coach. Good luck Jake!
Who re-signs first, Weber or Suter? And what does that mean for the other one's future with the Preds?
Craig Custance (3:13 PM)
I think Weber is in wait-and-see mode, so that would mean Suter would be next in line to sign. Suter's agent was in Nashville this week, so the talks are much more urgent for Suter who is set to be an unrestricted free agent. He has the tough decision between hitting the market as the most desired defenseman in free agency or committing to the Predators long-term. Ownership in Nashville has shown they're willing to pay a premium to keep their guys so I feel better about Suter's chances of staying now than I did a month ago. If he does sign, I think the chances of Weber staying increase significantly. Especially if the Preds keep winning.
Annika N (Denmark)
With the recent goalie issues facing the Leafs following James Reimer's injury, is the other shoe dropping after the amazing start to the season? Ben Scrivens has been inconsistent at best and Jonas Gustavsson has been even more static in goal. Is there a possibility of Marty Turco or some other veteran being signed short term until Reimer gets healthy, or do you think the Leafs should ride it out?
Craig Custance (3:17 PM)
Hey Annika - The Leafs must solve the goalie issue if they're going to regain some of the momentum from their hot start. It's safe to rule out Marty Turco as an option. Brian Burke has made it clear they're not going to go there, but each day Reimer is out, things get more serious on the goalie trade front. If a trade is the solution, then the question becomes - do the Leafs try and trade for a short-term answer (like Nabokov) or someone who might fill a long-term hole (like Schneider or Bernier)? That may hinge on just how serious Reimer's injury is.
Andrew Hirsh (Raleigh, NC)
What measures need to be taken for the Hurricanes to prove to their fans that they are still committed to winning?
DaveRob (Richmond VA)
The Canes.. yeah where to start? I wil stay away from the coaching question just because I don think the Canes will want to pay for 2 coaches.What players are we targeting via a trade and what players are we designating as our trade bait? JR has publicly stated we have a top 6 D-Man in play. I keep hearing the canes are on the phone but what can we really get and what will be willing to give up?
Zachary (Elon, NC)
Craig, I'm a huge Hurricanes fan and we're struggling. Mightily. You and Pierre touched on them in your debate, but I was wondering what specific moves in your opinion could help the 'Canes get back in the playoff picture. Thanks.
Craig Custance (3:23 PM)
Lots and lots of concern about the Hurricanes. If I'm Jim Rutherford, my first order of business is trading a defenseman for some scoring help. I understand why they didn't give Erik Cole the money he received in Montreal but he hasn't been adequately replaced. I had high hopes for Zac Dalpe who hasn't produced. There are plenty of teams looking help on defense but the problem is, general managers never want to make deals out of desperation. Carolina might not have a choice. It's either that or fire Paul Maurice but I'm not sure there's a coach out there who is a natural fit like Hitchcock has been in STL.
Any truth to the Eric Staal to the leafs Rumour? Thanks
Craig Custance (3:24 PM)
I'd be absolutely stunned if Carolina traded Eric Staal.
What do you think of Chicago this year?
Craig Custance (3:26 PM)
Great win in Vancouver last night and the Blackhawks are proving that last season was an aberration. Both Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville have mentioned that there was a conscious effort to add chemistry to the supporting cast and it's working. Plus, the stars are producing which isn't happening on other teams in the division (like, say, Detroit and Columbus). They're threatening to run away with the Central and just might if their power play starts clicking. Some real positive signs last night.
Is it time to fire Randy Carlyle? I feel he's using the same system he used during our cup season and we don't have the personnel to make it work. Dump and chase doesn't work when you only have one line of big guys. Anaheim has to much speed and star power to continue playing this poorly.
Craig Custance (3:30 PM)
Carlyle signed a contract extension in August that pays him through the 2013-14 season. I think he's safe. It's on the big guys to start producing at a higher level. After scoring 50 goals last season, Corey Perry has just six so far this year. While I think it might have been unrealistic to expect another 50-goal season out of him, I don't think it's unrealistic that he's among the top 35 goal scorers in the NHL. Visnovsky's injury is a tough blow for the Ducks.
Tim (New Orleans)
Is Mike Smith vs. Bryzgalov the best goalie match-up this season so far? and who do you think will come out on top?
Craig Custance (3:35 PM)
There are certainly some interesting subplots to that matchup, that's for sure Tim. Mike Smith has quietly been one of the better stories early on this season. I remember Don Maloney saying this summer that the Coyotes were a little nervous when Smith played well in the playoffs because they didn't want him to drive up his price in free agency. They had him targeted for a long time when it became clear he was on the outs in Phoenix and it's looking like they were very wise to do so. And you can't just say it's because of the system either. There's been a drop-off when Jason LaBarbera plays this season.
Tony (New Haven)
Hi Craig - why should I care about the Thanksgiving Showdown between the Red Wings and Bruins?
Craig Custance (3:35 PM)
You know what Tony? I'm going to save this answer for my Thanksgiving mailbag. Good question, that's a fun game.
Will the Rangers make it eight straight?
Craig Custance (3:38 PM)
Well, they should certainly be well-rested. The Rangers don't play again until Saturday. When New York hasn't been exhausted from a crazy road schedule, John Tortorella's team has played remarkably well. So yeah, make it nine.
Bob (Fort Lauderdale)
Is this the year the Panthers finally make it back to the play-offs?I'm ready to go dust my rat collection.
Craig Custance (3:43 PM)
If Florida returns to the playoffs, Scott Burnside deserves a ton of credit because I'm not sure I heard one other person come out so strongly this summer and say they were a playoff team. Not only are they winning, but this is a fun team to watch and it's full of great stories. 20 points in 17 games for Kris Versteeg? Brian Campbell scoring at a point-per-game pace? And what about Jason Garrison? It's good to have a "Boom Boom" back in the league. For the sake of the fans in Ft. Lauderdale, I hope it continues but if I still need some more convincing. If I was betting the mortgage, I think Florida is still outside a playoff berth when the season ends. But with the young talent on the way, compiled by Dale Tallon, it won't be long until you can get that rat collection out for good.
Kevin (New Jersey)
Have teams finally figured out how to defend Alex Ovechkin? He's having a down year (by his standards) and I'm curious if you think it has to do with him buying into Boudreau's system or does he have to adjust his game to start producing on a level we're used to seeing from him?
Craig Custance (3:46 PM)
I think it's fair to say that teams have at least a better idea how to slow down Alex Ovechkin, although it's a little simplistic to say he's been figured out. He's too great a talent and competitor to be shut down. Part of the reason we've seen his numbers come to earth is because this is as deep a team around him as he's had since breaking into the league. It's a good thing for Caps fans. Ovechkin doesn't need to score two or three times a game for them to win games. He'd be the first to tell you that he'd gladly trade a trip to Las Vegas for the Hart Trophy in exchange for a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Rob (College Park)
Even though the Bruins are currently sitting right outside of the playoff picture, they still have to be considered a Cup favorite due to their league leading goal differential, right?
Craig Custance (3:48 PM)
Sorry Rob, I don't consider the Bruins a Cup favorite. A playoff team? Yes. Capable of making a run in the playoffs? Absolutely. A favorite? Nope, not in my opinion. I like Pittsburgh, Washington and Philly better than I like the Bruins. Maybe New York too.
Saw your comment earlier on Versteeg and Campbell. Last year Byguflin and Ladd big years. That Hawks team from a couple years ago realy was a special group.. Your thoughts?
Craig Custance (3:51 PM)
You're spot on, Steve. We may look back at that Chicago team and marvel at how loaded it was. Remember how dominant that third line of Bolland, Versteeg and Ladd were during the playoffs? They were unreal. This year when Niemi and Brouwer are playing each other in the STanley Cup finals, it'll be another reminder of just how good that Chicago team was.
Fantasy Question: Jump ship on Datsyuk or Zetterberg at this point?
Craig Custance (3:53 PM)
I've always felt those two are better players in real life than they are in fantasy, unless your league gives points for being strong two-way players. But I wouldn't bail on them now, their value is too low. If anything, now might be the time to trade for one of those guys because their offensive production will pick up.
Seriously, who do you consider the best team in the NHL right now?
Craig Custance (3:54 PM)
Right now? Seriously? Chicago.
Is there any chance Bodreau won't last through the season?
Craig Custance (3:56 PM)
Washington would have to completely fall off a cliff for him to lose his job. I don't see it happening. In my opinion, Boudreau will be judged on the playoffs not the regular season. He's earned the right to see this thing through.
Cameron (Durham, NC)
Hi Craig - If Carolina does decide to pull the trigger on a coaching change after the weekend (assuming the slide continues)... who's left among available coaches - aside from Jeff Daniels in Charlotte?
Craig Custance (3:59 PM)
That's one of the issues with making a mid-season change, unless there's an obvious solution out there. AHL coaches might not be able to get out of their deals and your pool of replacements is limited. But I don't think you'd have to look too far in Carolina. What about Ron Francis or Dave Lewis to spark things?
Craig Custance (4:00 PM)
That's a wrap everybody. As always, really appreciate the participation. If I missed a question or issue, don't hesitate to click the mailbag link and ask - I'll be doing a couple of mailbags in the next week or so. Have a great day!