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 3 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (3:00 PM)
Hey everybody! Just got back from Joe Louis Arena where the Red Wings took part in their locker clean out. Lots of questions about that team moving forward and no shortage of issues around the league. Let's dive in!
What do the hawks do this off-season to address their issues?
Craig Custance (3:02 PM)
That's a great question Dennis. On one hand, that's still a great collection of talent and if they stay the same, that's certainly a group capable of winning next year. But sometimes it helps to get some new blood in there to revitalize. Both goalies are under contract for next year but GM Stan Bowman has to take long look as to whether he wants to go down that road again. ANd not to beat a dead horse but another center would be money well spent if they can find one. It won't be easy.
Your take on Ottowa's second goal last night? Should it have been allowed?
Craig Custance (3:03 PM)
Yeah, I can see where Lundqvist was right to be angry there. He's getting spun around and at least one replay made it look like it was kicked in. It might have been inconclusive but I don't think that should have been a goal.
Doug (Baton Rouge, LA)
Is it an overstatement to say that the chances New Jersey has in retaining Zach Parise hinges almost entirely on their ability to put away Florida?
Craig Custance (3:04 PM)
I'd go a step further and say that I don't think just beating Florida will be enough to convince Parise to stay. He's in for a huge payday and he's at the point in his career where he'll get a chance to pick his spot. There will be some attractive options. They might need to win a couple rounds to keep him.
Rick (San Diego, CA)
Has the landscape of the Western Conf changed? All 4 teams are defense first, lower scoring teams and that's against the West old stereotype.
Craig Custance (3:06 PM)
Rick - I asked someone this same question today and I liked his answer. He said the team that wins is the one that executes their gameplan better. Meaning, there's still room in the future for puck possession teams like Detroit, Chicago and San JOse to have success but this year the Kings, Predators, Coyotes and Blues implemented their style much better. I'm not sure we'll see a bunch of teams change the way they play because of it though.
terry B (y)
Something has to be done about Goalie Interference. Teams can really get screwed and 90% of players are trying not to hit the goalie. Seems like the vast majority of time the player getting called for the penalty is driven or crosschecked into the goalie but the referees always call it on him anyway. 2 games yesterday this call cost goals- Chris Neil most definitely should have been called for interference and in the same game the Ottawa player was cross checked into the goalie resulting in a 5 on 3 power play which cost them. The NHL has to review that rule or go to replay
Craig Custance (3:08 PM)
Replay is an interesting option that I agree should be considered. I'll definitely check after these playoffs with GMs to see if there's an appetite to change that rule because I think you're spot on Terry.
Ice Ace (Alabama)
Despite winning the series against the Penguins, do you believe goaltending is still an issue for the Flyers?
Craig Custance (3:08 PM)
Hi Craig, how far do you fel the Kings can go this post season? They've already knocked off the so called best team in the league any reason to think they can't at least win the West? Thanks!
Craig Custance (3:10 PM)
Bill - I absolutely believe the Kings can win the West. Without a doubt. They have a clear identity and play playoff hockey perfectly. My only concern was inexperience and beating the Canucks is a huge confidence booster. Dustin Brown has been dominant as has Quick. I really like that team.
If NYR meets PHI in round 2, what carries more weight--Rangers 6 wins against PHI this season or Philly's dominance of PIT?
Craig Custance (3:12 PM)
I'd put more stock in how these two teams fared head-to-head, although not too much. This is another season right now. But if that's the matchup in the second round, I can't imagine the Flyers will continue scoring at their current pace. They'll be up against a more defensively sound team and a better goalie. But then again, I never imagined that Penguins/Flyers series playing out the way it did either.
Do the East home teams hold serve in their game 7's?
Craig Custance (3:13 PM)
The Bruins were unreal in Game 7s last year and that experience has to count for something. But I'll go out on a limb and say the Capitals pull off the upset even though everything tells me the Bruins should win.
What's in store for the pens this offseason? What do they need to do to acquire a shutdown D man? Do you see Shero rolling the dice and shipping off assets off like Holmgren did last year?
Craig Custance (3:16 PM)
Nick - That's such a tough call because I like how that teams is built. I'd hate to break up that trio of centers. That would be an overreaction in my opinion. Maybe the solution is to move Michalek or Martin and bring in a Hal Gill-type player. They need another option in goal behind Fleury though. That'd be my focus, getting him a stronger backup.
Josh S. (Philly)
Would you say the Flyers are the favorite to make it out of the East?
Craig Custance (3:18 PM)
Josh - Depends on how these other series play out. If the Rangers and Bruins can survive, I'd put them in Philly's class. If they don't, the Flyers would be the favorite. It's just hard to call them a clear cut favorite when I don't trust their goaltending.
terry B (y)
Philly is not going to score 8 goals a game against the Rangers or any of the teams out West just so you know Kev
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, offseason trade proposal: Jordan Staal to Chicago for Patrick Sharp. Chicago needs the second line center. Pitt needs another all-star winger to play on Crosby's line. They both make about the same. Who says no?
Craig Custance (3:20 PM)
I think Pittsburgh says no. Sharp's salary is about to make a jump to nearly $6 million and that's through 2016-17. Pittsburgh has some issues on defense to sort out, I'm not sure spending more on the wing is going to solve that. Fun question though. That was a tough one.
No question, just wanted to say Claudddddddddddeeee Girrrouxx..
How Come James Neal didn't get any where close to 25 games that Torres got. when their head shots were relatively identical, and on top of that Neal went ahead and went after Claude Giroux's head as well? Is this another form of penguiin bias from the NHL?
Craig Custance (3:23 PM)
In Torres you had a player with a long history of dirty hits. Shanahan has made it clear those guys are his target. Plus, Marian Hossa left on a stretcher and is still in rough shape. Injuries factor into these decisions and Marian's injury sounds pretty severe. Lastly, Neal is a star player. I know there are players who believe stars get a break when it comes to supplemental discipline.
Hi Craig - what are your thoughts on the play of Tim Thomas? I know it was foolish to think he would duplicate last years playoff run, but some of these Washington goals have been soft. Do we see Tuuka at all this playoff? Should we? Thanks
Craig Custance (3:25 PM)
Yeah, nobody is going to measure up to the performance Tim Thomas put up last year. That was one we'll be talking about for year. Not even Tim can measure up to that. The problem with Rask is he's coming off an injury and hasn't played since early March. This is a tough time of year to try and get your timing.
Judeman5000 (Mountain Home, ID)
Let's just get crazy for a second and think about the possibility of Los Angeles playing Philly in the Final. Who would come out victorious?
Craig Custance (3:27 PM)
Philly vs. Philly West? From a storylines perspective that would be absolutely ideal. Can you imagine Carter and Richards going back to Philly for the Finals? That would be fantastic. I'd pick the Kings to win that series though. Love their style of play, their defense and goaltending. The Kings might have a hard time keeping up offensively but might be able to throttle the Flyers offense enough to win in 7.
Craig do you expect old-time hockey in Beantown tomorrow night?
Craig Custance (3:27 PM)
Absolutely. Can't wait for that one.
What's your feel on Lidstrom? I'm guessing he plays next season.
Craig Custance (3:29 PM)
Saw him today and he gave his usual post-season assessment. He said physically he feels good but he's not sure the motivation will be there. I'm torn on which way I'm leaning and he's not revealing much but I do know a couple teammates and his head coach think he'll be back. So I'd lean very slightly in that direction.
Any word who is starting for Florida tonight? Does it matter?
Craig Custance (3:30 PM)
Multiple reports saying Scott Clemmensen getting the not w/Theodore's injury. It'd be interesting if the former Devil knocked out his old team.
Hi Craig, Everyone picked the Pens to win said they were too deep, disciplined and talented not to advance but a 19 yr shut Malkin down and in game 6 Giroux set the tone for that game, the series was much more than that and the Flyers were more that ready to step up.
Craig Custance (3:32 PM)
You're exactly right Karen. I knew Philly would make it tough on Pittsburgh but I was definitely in the group that thought Pittsburgh would advance. Was absolutely, completely wrong.
What's with everyone suddenly anointing Giroux as the best player in the world? Where's all this coming from? A great player, I'll give him that, but he's only had one good playoff series against a goaltender who played horrendously. Would you say people need to wait till he wins a cup or a Hart until we start including Claude in the 'best in the world' discussion?
Craig Custance (3:33 PM)
Yeah, Matt. I'm with you on that. Not taking anything away from Giroux who I absolutely love as a player and have for a long time. Let's at the very least see how these playoffs play out before anointing anybody anything.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Read earlier today that Barry Trotz said to Lidstrom: "Please don't retire" in the handshake line. Now that's respect.
Craig Custance (3:34 PM)
Yeah, Lidstrom confirmed that today. Nice touch by Trotz, who is all class. For the record, Babcock said he didn't say anything to Ryan Suter. A possible future Red Wing.
what do you think of florida's chances tonight
Craig Custance (3:35 PM)
You don't get to this point by accident. I think their chances are pretty darn good. Lots of playoff experience in that room and when you look at that roster, it's one of the older ones in the league. There won't be any surprises tonight.
Game 7 in NY, who do you got?
Craig Custance (3:36 PM)
I'll stick with my original pick and say the Rangers close it out. Really liked the game they played last night. Brad Richards showed why he was so coveted as a UFA. They need to bring that again in Game 7 and I have to imagine they will.
Ben (San Jose)
Craig, Patrick Marleau's poor performance in the last couple playoffs...result of not adjusting his play as the game has changed from what it was? I just don't see him as an impact player come playoffs and it's disappointing to watch. Contrast that with Jumbo, who showed another great performance. Something has to change in that locker room, and it has to be a leadership guy because that attitude affects the entire team.
Craig Custance (3:40 PM)
Thornton was outstanding this year as he was last year. I agree, that room needs a shakeup but I wouldn't start with Thornton. If I could find a taker for Marleau, I wouldn't hesitate. Too many postseason disappointments for him. The tough call is Joe Pavelski. He might have the most value on that team among players who might be considered expendable and I love his game. He's one of the few consistent postseason performers for them. But if they want to do something drastic (Nash?), Pavelski might be the one moved.
Vikas (Arlington, VA)
Seems like Parise and Zajac haven't been the same since sustaining injuries. Kovalchuk looks like he's playing hurt. Any truth to this rumor ? He's historically been a Panther killer.
Craig Custance (3:41 PM)
Vikas - I wouldn't be surprised at all if we learn the truth about injuries once the Devils are eliminated. The thing is, it can't become an excuse because every team is dealing with injuries right now. It's the teams that overcome them that survive.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Why didn't the NHL Suspend Chris Neal from the Senators since he Had the Same Hit as Raffi Torres which cost him 25 Games?
Craig Custance (3:43 PM)
The big thing is Neil isn't a repeat offender like Torres is. But supplemental discipline has definitely become almost impossible to predict.
Why no talk about the Yotes? They looked impressive against a very good Chicago team. Can Smith continue to stand on his head and help give Nashville a run for their money?
Craig Custance (3:44 PM)
You're right Connor, we should be showing the Coyotes some love. Great series against Chicago and Mike Smith was outstanding. Problem for them is they had issues scoring against the Blackhawks and they're about to run into a goalie in Pekka Rinne who can match Smith save for save. Should be a good series but my money will be on Nashville.
Bastian (st. louis)
Hi Craig, u picked the sharks to beat the blues in 6 games, u were waaay off. please tell me u will pick the kings to win in 6
Craig Custance (3:46 PM)
I've been getting a lot of heat from Blues fans and deservedly so. I showed way too much faith in the Sharks this year. Bastian, I haven't decided yet on that series but I am leaning towards L.A. I still want to talk to a couple people. But you might get your way.
Justin Levine (Tallahassee, FL)
This year was supposed to be a "rebuilding" year for the Panthers considering this team was built for the future. Up 3-2 so far v. the Devils just how good do you think this team will be with guys like Huberdeau, Howden, Bjustad, Petrovic, Markstrom and Shore getting the call up within the next 2 years?
Craig Custance (3:48 PM)
That's the thing about the Panthers. They're way ahead of schedule here. Markstrom is the big one for me, because by all accounts, he's going to be really good. Once they start pumping in some of this young talent, it could get really interesting in Florida. Can't give Dale Tallon enough credit.
Is the NHL nervous at all with the number of big draw teams getting bounced in the first round? I have a feeling not many people will be lining up to watch a Phoenix/Florida Stanley Cup.
Craig Custance (3:50 PM)
I don't know if anyone would ever admit it publicly but I can't imagine those running the TV networks are thrilled about the SCF possibilities we can draw up now. You lost some serious ratings draws in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Has anyone heard from Pierre since the Sharks choked yet again? Is he drowning his sorrows in poutine?
Craig Custance (3:50 PM)
Haha, I think Pierre will be okay. As long as Claude Giroux is playing like he is, he'll be fine.
Odds Detroit can land either Parise or Suter? Both would be good fits here but then again, they'd be good fits on just about any team.
Craig Custance (3:52 PM)
I'd say they become the favorite to land at least one. If Nashville makes a long run, that might be enough to convince Suter to stay. The interesting thing will be whether or not they try and get them both.
I don't thik Giroux is the best in the world, but to say he has had just 1 good playoff series is naive. He's scored 52 points in 46 career playoff games.
Craig Custance (3:53 PM)
You're right. Giroux has been good for a long time now. I'm just not ready to crown him best in the world, that's no disrespect to him. He's an unbelievable player.
Rob (San Antonio)
I'm a Crosby fan but it seems this series exposed his leadersip was lacking when it mattered the most. This teams needs a guy like Talbot, gritty leadership.
Craig Custance (3:54 PM)
I think it's safe to say the Penguins missed Max Talbot in a big way during that series.
Dan the Man (Jersey City, NJ)
I'm going to the game tonight, and I'm pumped! CC, whats your prediction? I'm hoping to see Kovy go beast mode on Clemmer :-)
Craig Custance (3:55 PM)
Let's go Devils 4, Panthers 3.
pavelski was indeed consistent this postseason. 0-0-0. and he'd have more way value than marleau. want a crazy prediction? boyle, niemi pavelski, out; luongo iginla in.
Craig Custance (3:57 PM)
Let me say this about Pavelski. He played hurt. Not making excuses for him but they were injuries that definitely impact a player like him. And yeah, that's a crazy prediction. No way Doug Wilson trades for Luongo's contract.
Craig, How much upside do you see with Kreider? He's been one of the best Rangers the past few games and continues to improve
Craig Custance (3:58 PM)
He's been great Steve and seems to be getting better with each game. Great skater. Even before he scored last night, he was one of the few guys who was getting good looks at Anderson. Can't wait to watch his development.
I think most have thought Shanahan's disipline has been "curious" to say the least. Any chance they come up with a better system ( a group of 3) than 1 guy handing out the punishment?
Craig Custance (3:59 PM)
Dom - This will definitely be an issue during CBA negotiations. I think the players biggest problem is the appeal process. It goes right to Gary Bettman, which doesn't do the players much good. But, as with all negotiations, the question is how much are they willing to fight for changes to supplemental discipline?
Nick (KC, MO)
With all of the ownership situations in the league, do you think there is a better chance that KC gets a team or that Toronto gets a 2nd team?
Craig Custance (4:01 PM)
If I had to pick, I'd say there's a better chance of Toronto getting a second team. There's no shortage of people interesting in bringing a second team to TO and I think it'd be a wild success. If there's another round of expansion, I'd put TO on the short list of favorites.
Craig Custance (4:01 PM)
Alright everyone, gotta run. Thanks so much for the questions, great as always!