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!
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear CraigShould Tim Thomas be fined by the league for what he said about not going to the White House?
Craig Custance (2:03 PM)
Hey everyone - welcome to another weekly NHL chat. Can't wait to get started and not surprised that there's a lot of interest in Tim Thomas. Let's start there:To answer your question, Chioke, I say no way. There shouldn't be a fine for Thomas' decision and I think the NHLPA would be quick to act if there was. Thomas exercised his right to boycott the White House visit. For me, it's a bit disappointing because Thomas has been the consummate teammate for years and turned what should have been nice story about the Bruins being recognized for their Stanley Cup win into a story about Tim Thomas. He has created an unnecessary distraction for the Bruins that could linger. Thomas will, no doubt, be a popular interview in Ottawa when the league gathers for the All-Star game.
james(Anaheim C.a) [via mobile]
do you think the ducks will make a good run for a playoff spot or do you think its to late?
Craig Custance (2:04 PM)
I think it's too late James. But to me it was important that this team find its legs under Bruce Boudreau this season. Now, Bob Murray doesn't have to blow up the team at the deadline. If he does trade Bobby Ryan, it's from a position of strength. I think we'll end up looking back at this season as a one-year blip for a talented core group of Ducks.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who is the Best NHL Team So Far This Season?
Craig Custance (2:05 PM)
Bruins, although Detroit is making a heck of a run right now.
Zach Williams (Nashua NH)
With Ovechkin out for 3 games do you think the Capitals have a chance tonight against the Boston Bruins?
Craig Custance (2:10 PM)
Great game tonight but both teams are loaded down with distractions. Ovechkin takes some heat off Tim Thomas with his decision to sit out the All-Star game. And it's not just Ovechkin the Capitals are playing without. They don't have Green and Backstrom and, on paper, it looks like the healthier Bruins have the edge. One thing that helps the Caps is that this is the third game in four nights for the Bruins who might be a bit gassed. But they can leave it on the ice tonight before the All-Star break. They should beat the short-handed Capitals.
The chances Rick Nash retires a BlueJacket?
Craig Custance (2:12 PM)
A lot can change over the course of a player's career, but the short-term plan is to keep Rick Nash in Columbus. Scott Howson has consistently said he's not trading his captain, so as long as Howson has his job, it seems like Nash will be with the Blue Jackets. If that franchise continues to struggle though, at some point Nash will get tired of the losing and want out. So, I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes his career elsewhere. It's just not happening this year.
Tim (San Jose)
Chicago wins a Cup, blows up its roster, and stays a legitimate contender. I have to attribute this to a strong core and the ability to build around it. As much as I want to think the Sharks are a legit contender, I don't see it. I'd much rather see them flame out (again) this postseason and blow up the roster... and instead of building around a core of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, build around Couture, Pavelski, Burns and Vlasic. Thoughts?
Craig Custance (2:15 PM)
Tim - I disagree. I think the Sharks can contend this year and I'd argue that this team is already built around guys like Couture, Pavelski and Clowe. I realize Joe Thornton is the captain and his game in the postseason has continued to evolve. I thought he was great in the playoffs last year. But I think the trio I mentioned above are now the heart of the Sharks. I really like the mix of youth and veterans (let's not forget Boyle) this team has. GM Doug Wilson has consistently put the Sharks in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup and I really believe one of these years they'll do it.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Craig, why must there be a huge fight after every big hit? I don't remember seeing this as much during the 90s unless it was a dirty hit. Last night Brad Stuart put a clean check on one of the Blues, and in return Chris Stewart decided to start a fight which led to him sitting in the box for 20 minutes. Idiocy.
Craig Custance (2:17 PM)
GBK - I'm glad you brought this up. This isn't anything against Chris Stewart. I admire his willingness to defend a teammate. But I totally agree. That was a clean hit and it seems like every time there's a big hit - clean or not - there's a fight after it. That ended up being a costly decision by Stewart. Guys shouldn't have to drop the gloves just for playing physical hockey.
Tom (San Jose)
Tim should not be allowed to cheer for the Sharks anymore after saying he wishes his team would flame out of the playoffs.
Rob (Atlanta GA)
If Winnipeg makes the dance this year any chance they reach out to us lost fans in Georgia?
Craig Custance (2:20 PM)
Interesting question. From what I can tell, it looks like the Jets have made a clean break from the fans in Atlanta. If I were a hockey fan in Georgia, I would adopt the Predators rather than the Jets. Nashville is a reasonable drive and you get more games on TV. The PRedators have reached out to Atlanta fans and I think that's smart by their marketing team.
Hey Craig, What do you think the chances are the Leafs actually sneak into the playoffs this year? It's been awhile since we were even this well situated at this point in the season.
Craig Custance (2:22 PM)
The Maple Leafs are a playoff team. I've felt that way all year. My gut feeling is that the Southeast will only send one team (the Capitals) to the playoffs and that Brian Burke will do something before the deadline to bolster the playoff chance in Toronto. This is such a crucial year for the Leafs and if they get the goaltending, they'll be in the top eight.
Will Zach Parise be traded before the deadline and where will he be playing next season?
Craig Custance (2:23 PM)
Parise won't be traded before the deadline. My prediction for where he plays next season is Minnesota.
Rob...just gotta say, I feel for the hardcore fans in places like Atlanta and Phoenix. I wish there were more fans like you!
Cody (Mankato, MN)
The Wild have quite a bit of cap space and quite a few prospects heading into next season. I think that will be enough to entice some FAs. I am predicting the Wild signing two significant free agents, a Defenseman and a Forward. What do you think?
Craig Custance (2:25 PM)
Cody - I agree with you. Like I said on the previous answer, I'm picking the Wild as the favorite to land Zach Parise. He can return home and the Wild can afford to pay him what he deserves. Winning is important and Minnesota has enough good young talent that it'll be in position to contend for the next several years. I expect Chuck Fletcher to be very aggressive in free agency this summer.
We have seen before that the league has no problem with propping up financially strapped teams (aka Pheonix) but a lot of that seems to be to protect Bettmana??s southern expansion. I also remember back in a??95 when there was a chance the Devils were going to Nashville that Bettman said something along the lines of he felt the NY area had enough teams with the Rangers, Islanders and Buffalo. So with all these rumblings about the Devils financial problems, is there a chance they would leave NJ? (which would suck as they will soon be the only team representing the state despite the 2 football teams that play here.) And how does this affect their ability to sign Parise?
Craig Custance (2:29 PM)
I don't think we're at the point yet where New Jersey is a threat to go anywhere. If the New York area is going to lose a team in the next decade, my money would be on the Islanders. But you raise an interesting point about Parise. New Jersey's ability to sign him will come down to money and winning. If he isn't convinced that ownership has the financial strength to build a consistent winner, I can't imagine him signing on long-term. It's a situation worth watching closely.
Leave NJ? That arena was just built, I went there the year it opened.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement a repeat offender is defined as having more than one suspension or fine in a 18 month period. In Shanahan's video for Alex Ovechkin's suspension the last point he makes is that Ovechkin is a repeat offender. Showing that he uses this fact in deciding to suspend Ovechkin for 3 games even though under the current CBA he at the time wasn't considered a repeat offender. So ask is there any chance his suspension is reviewed on these grounds ?
Craig Custance (2:31 PM)
Nicklas - this is one of the confusing aspects of supplementary discipline. My understanding is that the 18-month period is in regards to the fine. Players with repeat offender status have to pay a heftier fine. But Shanahan does take into account incidents that fall outside that 18-month window, it just doesn't count toward the fine. Does that makes sense? So to answer your question, no, it won't be reviewed on those grounds.
Garrett (Long Island)
The Rangers clearly need more offensive production. Who do they add at the deadline to score some goals?
Craig Custance (2:33 PM)
Rangers could use some depth on D. Lots of teams looking for top six foward help so Rangers aren't alone. What about Vinny Prospal? Probably wouldn't cost too much and would fit right in.
Are the Stars toast?
Craig Custance (2:35 PM)
Jamie Benn's injury doesn't help the cause. I don't see Dallas finishing in the top eight but they've already exceeded my expectations. There's a lot to like, and Joe Nieuwendyk did well to get Alex Goligoski locked up long term. Nothing against the Stars, I just think there are too many teams I like better in the West. Tough conference.
Jon (Mason City, IA)
Craig, first off let me thank you again (a weekly thing) for your predicting Parise ends up in Minnesota next season!! I'm still excited (until it doesn't happen). Secondly, as far as a smaller trade for the Wild, do you think someone like Prospal would be available? He's got some ties to the coaching staff and the front office, doesn't he? How about someone like Doan or Vrbata? Too expensive there?
Craig Custance (2:37 PM)
Jon - No problem. Just don't be mad at me when he signs with Los Angeles or something. Prospal will be available, but I don't see the Wild dealing for Doan or Vrbata. Doan doesn't want to go anywhere so the Coyotes would really have to be out of the playoff hunt for him to change his mind. And let's not forget how things went for Vrbata when he left Phoenix the first time. it was a disaster.
Ryan (Miami, FL)
Ok... enough beating around the bush. If the other fans won't ask, I will. Can the Florida Panthers win the cup? Do you think they have the team built for it? I know you don't have a crystal ball, but do you think the team can pull it off?
Craig Custance (2:40 PM)
This year? No way. They would be happy to make the playoffs. But Dale Tallon is accumulating talent like crazy in Florida and will have that team contending consistently. The big question for me is -- when some of the young talent matures in the next couple years, will he be able to up his budget to add the necessary free agents? They can't be a salary cap floor team and expect to challenge for a Cup.
Craig (Custance, OH)
Do you think Ryan Malone will be moved if the Lightning start losing again?
Craig Custance (2:43 PM)
Custance, OH? Sounds beautiful. There have been Malone trade rumors from the day he signed that deal in Tampa. But he controls the situation with a NMC and he comes with a hefty cap hit on a deal that runs through 2014-15. So it would take a team that can spend money, that really wants to add some size (Toronto?). We'll see.
Hey Craig, thanks for doing this. I wanted to ask you about two defencemen with good to great upside. PK Subban and Jake Gardiner, both have great offensive upside although different type of players ( One skates with the best of em, and the other is physical and good shot).. if you had to bet on one of these players today .. who would you pick to be the best player 5-10 yrs from now
Craig Custance (2:44 PM)
PK Subban. I know Montreal fans are frustrated with his stalled development but he's so skilled that experience and maturity should eventually mold him into one of the NHL's best defensemen.
Who you got Pittsburgh or St. Louis?
Craig Custance (2:46 PM)
Give me the Pens. They're red-hot, play well at home and St. Louis is coming off an emotional loss in Detroit. Might be hard to get back up for this game after the showdown against the Red Wings. Plus, Malkin in the best player in the league right now.
Is Columbus really this bad or is the Central division just that good? If you look at the standings the other 4 teams are just dominating not just us, but everyone. Pretty hard to compete with the 4 top teams are all in your division.
Craig Custance (2:48 PM)
Both. The Central is tough, but going into this season there shouldn't have been this big a gap between Columbus and the Blues/Predators. If my memory serves me correctly, Columbus had the highest payroll in the division entering the season. Playing in a tough division isn't an excuse for their horrible season.
Bill (St Louis)
Oh....and the Blues are at home tonight against Pitt. Case and point...
Craig Custance (2:49 PM)
My fault. You're right. Game is in St. Louis. Sticking with my Pittsburgh pick though.
Bill (St Louis)
I have been reading your chats for weeks now and I have to ask what you problem is with the Blues? You seem to dog them every week.
Craig Custance (2:51 PM)
Do I really? It's not intentional. I actually really like the Blues and think Doug Armstrong is one of the game's best GMs. He acted swiftly when it came to hiring Ken Hitchcock and has built that team without a bunch of lottery picks.
Josh (Raleigh, NC)
Craig, What do you think the Canes can get for Gleason and Ruutu? Do you think a team will panic and hand over a #1 pick? Thanks.
Craig Custance (2:52 PM)
They might Josh simply because there aren't a ton of players available right now. It'll depend on how many other sellers emerge when the deadline gets here, but right now the asking price for Gleason and Ruutu is really high. All it takes is for one GM to get desperate and pull the trigger. I think Jim Rutherford will do well in his deals moving those two players.
The Stewart fight was about trying to expose the fact that Detroit is the least physical team in the NHL. Do you view that being a problem as the playoffs approach? Look at the style of play the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers play with in the East.
Craig Custance (2:54 PM)
I think Detroit can handle any style of play. Historically, they've punished teams on the power play that have been overly aggressive against them. This season, their power play hasn't been particularly effective and that could be a problem if it continues.
Brad (Philadelphia, pa)
Craig.. Flyers need a top notch D-man? Suter or Weber. Which young players would u say would be untouchable? JVR, couturier or Schenn?
Craig Custance (2:56 PM)
After what Paul Holmgren did this summer, untouchable may not be a word in his vocabulary. Still, I'd put Giroux in the untouchable category. If the Flyers truly can land Suter I think they'd part with one of their other high-end forwards you mentioned to make it happen.
Danny Kuchler (Philadelphia)
Right NOw, Who's your favorite to win the Eastern Conference? Do you think the Flyers have a legit shot of making it to the Stanley Cup?
Craig Custance (2:58 PM)
Bruins then Rangers. If the Flyers add a significant D-man, I'd put them right there too. I'm still partial to the Penguins though. If everyone is healthy except for Crosby, they'll make a run. If healthy and Crosby comes back, they replace the Bruins as the favorite.
Derek (St. Louis)
Will the return Andy Mcdonald and Alex Steen give the blues enough offense, or do they still need to make a move?
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
I'm planning on speaking with Doug Armstrong today for an ESPN the Magazine feature on the Blues so I'll get a better sense of what their deadline plans are. I don't expect anything major though, most likely a move or two to add depth.
Craig Custance (3:01 PM)
Wow, that hour flew by. Thanks for all the questions. I'll try and answer a few I couldn't get to in my Friday mailbag. Have a great week!