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 11 a.m. ET!
Craig Custance (10:57 AM)
Hey everyone! Big day of CBA talks today in New York. Let's all hope for some progress. In the meantime, let's dive in to the weekly chat!
Suggestion for something the NHL could do for fans: Next season, work the schedule with the AHL and have 2-for-1 nights where, for the price of your regularly scheduled NHL game, the two teams' AHL affiliates also play (before or after). Fans get to see prospects and big leaguers. Obviously this would only work once per team, maybe twice max and would take revenue away from the minor league buildings, but I could see this as a permanent thing.
Craig Custance (10:59 AM)
It's an interesting idea Chris, I like it. You bring up a good point, in that after all this is done, the NHL is going to have to do something for the fans. Either in way of promotions or an interesting wrinkle to get the focus back on hockey. What would you guys like to see the NHL do when the lockout is over? My vote, as I mentioned in last week's podcast, is for a 24/7 focused around the playoffs. That would be awesome.
Any idea as to how soon the NHL will come back? I need some sport to occupy me during the week besides basketball. The NBA is corrupt and boring and i really need some hockey
Craig Custance (11:01 AM)
This is exactly the time when hockey starts really being missed. I was talking to someone in St. Louis, and fans are already over the Rams. There's no NBA. The Cardinals are out. Right now, would be the perfect time to focus on a great, young Blues team. They would have the entire city's attention right now. And yet, here we are. To answer your question Dave, this week's talks in NY will give us a good indication if we can continue to grow in our optimism. I'm still pretty reserved though.
Is there any talk of the NHL relocating franchises that may suffer greatly from an extended lockout. Quebec City, Seattle, Kansas City and another team in the GTA are all viable hockey markets that could thrive where other franchises struggle.
Craig Custance (11:04 AM)
The only franchise that is a prime candidate right now for relocation is Phoenix and I think we'll get a really good idea of where that sale is as soon as this lockout is over with. Doesn't make sense to invest in a team until you know what the next CBA looks like. But I agree Bill, those are all interesting markets, each for their own reasons. I still think expansion is the more likely path for a couple of those cities.
dan leite (columbus, ohio )
Craig, thanks for your great coverage of the lockout. Two quick questions. First, how do owners in Philadelphia and Minnesota seriously sit in negotiations with players and refuse to honor current player contracts since they were two of the owners who offered huge, multi-year expensive deals? Second, at this point, what kind of season would be salvaged if an agreement was met?
Craig Custance (11:09 AM)
Dan - First of all, thanks. Appreciate it. Covering a lockout isn't what you get into this for, but there have definitely been some interesting turns. Yeah, it's a little tough for a couple of these owners to say players are earning too much when you're the one handing out the contract. It's a balancing act these owners struggle with. You want to put in a system that is best for driving revenue and making your business profitable, but you also desperately want to win. These are all intense competitors. That's why there are plenty of people who think players will end up getting their money no matter what system is negotiated. Owners will always spend to win. Secondly, Dan, I still think we can get a solid 60-game schedule in at this point. Start in early December and go from there. But there needs to be more progress shown soon.
Kekoa (Vancouver) [via mobile]
Do you know what the Canucks might do if no trades come up for Luongo considering they have both Luongo and Cory Schneider?
Craig Custance (11:11 AM)
Kekoa - Oh, I think they'll have no problem trading Luongo. Especially when you look at some of the wrinkles in the NHL's last offer. Vancouver could be stuck with Luongo's cap hit after he retires, which alleviates some of the risk of the teams trading for him. Another thing in Vancouver's favor is that there will clearly be a transition rule put into place so teams don't have to dump salary immediately after a new CBA is put into place. So they aren't under the gun to trade Luongo. But last I heard there were four interested teams, and I don't think trading him will be an issue.
@DonCherryParody (COACHES CORNER)
YKNOW GREG I HOPE ALL YOU AMERICAN KIDS OUT THERE AND DO WHATS RIGHT AND VOTE FER #4 BOBBY ORR FER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED AMERICAN STATES AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT! LET'S GO! (THUMBS UP)
Craig Custance (11:12 AM)
Happy election day everyone! Voting as soon as this chat wraps up.
We're seeing a lot of mid-range players just totally dominate bottom-tier European leagues. How does a player like Nick Bonino benefit from going almost 3 points per game in Italy's Serie A2?
Craig Custance (11:14 AM)
John - The benefit is playing and remaining in game shape. Not sure any additional skills will be developed there. But the real players benefiting right now are the guys competing in the AHL. We may look back at this time as critical to Justin Schultz's development for Edmonton. I wrote a story today about Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner, who is playing well for Binghamton. There's probably a player on every single AHL team that will be better in the longrun for their AHL time during the lockout.
Morris (Pgh, PA)
"The NBA is corrupt and boring and i really need some hockey"I've never liked the idea, whether it comes from Dave (WI) or Jeremy Roenick, of attempting to promote hockey by pointing out how terrible other sports are. Can't we just focus on how exciting and fan-friendly hockey is? Besides, most hockey fans are fans of other sports as well.
Craig Custance (11:15 AM)
Morris - Fair point. I think hockey stacks up against any sport, but I'm a fan of every other sport as well. I think people are just frustrated.
Robert (Quebec City) [via mobile]
Who's to blame for the lack of an NHL season up to this point?
Craig Custance (11:16 AM)
There's enough blame to go around on both sides. Anybody who thinks it's completely one-sided may be a bit misdirected.
craig- A lot has been made of the "Make-Whole" provision in the last NHL proposal and it seems there is room to negotiate with the PA. I have heard almost nothing about the NHL's proposed adjustments to contract rights. Are these changes so unattractive to the union that it will not even discuss revoking contract rights? Are these "periphery" issues the last major roadblock to a deal and can the two sides find any common ground on the issue?
Craig Custance (11:17 AM)
Greg - I think the assumption on the contract rights is that there is room to work there as well. To me, if the two sides can come to an agreement on HRR, revenue split and the make-whole provision - the rest will be handled in fairly short order.
Have there been talks in the CBA negotiations about restricted free agents. I am amazed that the NHLPA hasn't screamed "collusion" in recent years, since it's quite obvious that GM's/owners have some kind of back-door agreement not to pen other teams RFA's to big offer sheets. If I were a top flight young player operating on my rookie deal and about to become an RFA, I would be screaming at the NHLPA to address this issue now during negotiations.
Craig Custance (11:19 AM)
The second-contract is a huge point of contention for the NHL right now and I think most players probably wouldn't mind if some of that money shifted from younger players to more veteran players. I think the final deal will have provisions in place that will give young players a little less leverage on their second deal. And it's hard to claim collusion when Shea Weber gets a huge offer sheet. I think most GMs just aren't willing to overpay for a guy and do all that legwork if the other team is just going to match.
Dalton (St. Louis)
If we were to start the season today, where do you think the Blues would finish? And do they have a shot at a cup?
Dalton (11:21 AM)
I love the Blues. I absolutely think they're one of a small group of Western Conference teams with a legit Cup chance. A shortened, condensed schedule is such a wildcard though. If there are injuries or a goalie gets hot, standings could be completely shifted. But St. Louis fans should be excited about this team. Doug Armstrong has done a fantastic job with that group and there's more young talent coming. Tarasenko is a Calder favorite.
Craig, do you think the NHL would ever considering putting something like the NBA has with it's free agents where they would get more money by staying put rather than signing with other teams? I think it's one of the few things to like about the NBA since it means you have a better chance of keeping a home grown star.
Craig Custance (11:23 AM)
Tom - The Larry Bird rule, right? Yeah, i like that rule in the NBA but haven't heard much talk on that being enacted in the NHL. If anything, the league wants to find ways to make the salary cap a harder cap than it was last time around. Rules like that just soften it, which isn't something owners are eager to do. I think GMs did a good job in the last CBA of keeping homegrown stars. Just look at how weak free agent classes have been the last couple years. Teams are learning to keep their best players.
If the NHL does come back for this season.. which of the players that have gone overseas do you anticipate staying there for good? I know Ovechkin has said that he would but is it just an idle threat?
Craig Custance (11:24 AM)
You know what Conor? Maybe I'm naive, but I think that if there's a new deal done, all those guys will come back. I know there's been some bold talk coming from Russia but the NHL is still the best league in the world and staying in Russia may even impact whether or not these guys can play in the Olympics in Sochi. Not sure they would risk that to stay in the KHL.
Jon (North Iowa)
Hi Craig, while I was pumped about the Wild's big splash this offseason isn't Fletcher's splash one of the issues (big, backloaded contracts) trying to be stopped? I'm 31, and after going through one lockout, why should I change my mind and support the league again after this one? The average salary last year compared to the average salary before the previous lockout and we still can't get everyone to agree? It's pretty mind-boggling. Thanks again for your committed work.
Craig Custance (11:26 AM)
Thanks Jon. I don't have a great answer for you as to why you should have to endure another lockout. I still think its absurd how cavalier the league and the PA has been toward disrespecting the fans. If another season is lost, I think fans like yourself will have a real hard time coming back to the game and that's something both sides should take very seriously.
How come I keep seeing comments about expansion coming to the NHL. With the number of teams struggling financially wouldn't it make more sense to have a contraction? NHL should come to terms that the sport won't work in certain markets and rather than keep trying to bail out franchises that aren't viable, and further diluting the product by spreading the talent pool too thin they should just focus on suitable markets.
Craig Custance (11:28 AM)
Gustavo - See, you're thinking much too logically. Think instead like an owner and a player who wants to see increased revenues. If you're a player, you can get behind expansion because it means more potential NHL jobs. If you're an NHL owner, those huge expansion fees do wonders for the bottom line. And despite the struggles in some cities, there are cities right now without teams that are interested and would make strong hockey markets.
gerry (college park md)
what do you think of the caps coaches going down to help out with the hershey bears?
Craig Custance (11:29 AM)
Gerry - No issue with it at all. It's great experience for Adam Oates to get some bench time before taking over the Caps. It doesn't make a lot of sense for other teams, where the NHL coach might just get in the way. But in this case, I think George McPhee made a wise choice.
I really hope the hockey season is cancelled.
Craig Custance (11:30 AM)
Mario (Syracuse, NY)
Any chance Philly will trade for Luongo if they can get rid of Bryz's contract (amnesty) perhaps?
Craig Custance (11:31 AM)
Mario - I think the NHL's offer gave us a good glimpse into the minds of where the league wants to go with transition rules and I don't think amnesty is a part of it. So to answer your question, no.
The coverage you have had through the lockout is incredible I must agree with everyone. If the NHL does in fact come back today, was it rather premature to cancel the Winter Classic?
Craig Custance (11:33 AM)
Thanks Conor - Also, if you're keeping score at home, - if you compliment me, you definitely get your question answered.I really believe the Winter Classic cancellation was a logistical one. They had to make a decision there, that is such a huge event especially this year. You can't rush an event where you have 115,000 in an outdoor game, and another 200,000 fans attending festivities in Detroit. This is an event they needed to be attacking right now. SO I don't think it was premature. It was definitely a black eye and upsetting for fans in this region, but it was the right decision.
Congratulations to Pavel Bure for an astonishing career. Considering his play in the dead puck era with largely inept teammates his true quality will not be understood. i would argue not a player in the game since has come close to his pure offensive ability. It's unfortunate the lockout mars the induction ceremonies, yet another thing spoiled.
Craig Custance (11:34 AM)
Thanks for bringing that up Mark. If you haven't read Katie Strang's outstanding story on Bure, make time to do it. You're in for a treat.
JOEY NO-NO (LA LA LAND)
Which current and retired American born NHLer would you vote for for President?
Craig Custance (11:35 AM)
Love this question.Current: George Parros with David Backes as his running mate. Both smart, well-spoken and guys I think would make great politicians.Retired? Hmmmm. Maybe Chelios.
Great work Craig (I took Note) When do you think there weill be a deal reached and when do you see a season starting ??
Craig Custance (11:37 AM)
Haha - Thanks Bill. My original prediction was early January and I'm going to stick with that. They're just now starting to get serious with negotiations.
If these meetings do not provide a settlement, then both side just want to win and there will be no hockey season. Do the players realize that they will lose in salary this year more than they would be giving up over the whole new CBA under the owners last proposal. Seems like they are cutting off the nose despite there face.
Craig Custance (11:39 AM)
Tim - The argument against that is if they give into a bad system, future earnings will be impacted more than what was lost this season. Plus, the players don't want to get in the habit of getting their clock cleaned with big concessions in every CBA negotiation. But yeah, there's some serious money being lost.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, I am stealing this question from a Penguins only blog, but I thought it was a good one. If you look at the players that are the "faces" of the NHLPA during this lockout, you see guys like Crosby, Toews, Eric Staal, etc. Smart guys for sure, but most of them are very young and do not have much (if at all) education at the college level because they turned pro so early. How much do you think the Fehrs are able to influence the thinking of players like that by throwing out complex math and legalese that they might not fully understand? And how much do you think guys like Craig Adams (Harvard) and George Parros (Princeton) help out in a process like this?
Craig Custance (11:42 AM)
Jesse - I actually think the PA has done a good job of getting a wide mix of players represented in these meetings. If you look at the negotiating committee, it isn't stars like you mention. There are guys like Adams, Parros who help greatly and every player I have spoken with said one of the huge things the Fehr brothers have brought to the PA is communication. They are constantly updated on what's going on. It's been a diverse mix getting involved.
Any chance that the Panthers still make a move for Luongo?
Craig Custance (11:43 AM)
I'd say Toronto is the front-runner but I wouldn't count out Florida. I just think it's a much bigger necessity for the Maple Leafs who don't have a guy like Markstrom waiting in the wings.
Bear hibernating in a cave (Jellystone)
I'm hearing rumors that the NHL will, in fact, lock out its players this year. Any truth to this and how long will it last?
Craig Custance (11:43 AM)
haha, yes, that may happen.
Cat X-Thrasher (Atlanta)
Great job Craig! and I still miss Kovy! Will there be any US coverage of KHL?
Craig Custance (11:45 AM)
ESPN3 has been televising the games and I think you can count on many writers in the hockey world heading over to Europe to cover hockey if this season is wiped out. To me, the interesting thing would be the world championships. If there's no NHL, that tournament will be awesome.
Craig, I was happy to see Adam Oates get in the Hall of Fame.. Great player for many years.. Any chance my man Doug Weight will get a look?
Craig Custance (11:47 AM)
Let me take this moment to plug Scott Burnside's fantastic work writing about Adam Oates over the last week. Read it if you can. Enzo - As a loyal American, I love Doug Weight but (to borrow from Bill Simmons) I think he's better suited for the Hall of Very Good.
Hayden T. (Wyoming, Yes we have hockey)
Craig, I'm one of the few hockey fans where I live, I'm a L.A. Kings fan and during this season I was atually able to sway a bunch of NBA/MLB fans enough for them to check out hockey. This lockout has completely stripped their interest in the game, does the NHL/PA care at all about this or at this point is it just hoping that most of the die-hards come back, and just saying "forget it" to any casual fans?
Craig Custance (11:49 AM)
They'd better care because you're right. Hockey quickly disappears off the radar of casual sports fans like your friends. Events like the Winter Classic were great for grabbing attention of casual sports fans. Now that's gone. That will be one of the biggest challenges facing the league when they play again.
Your early prediction for Rookie of The Year in the NHL? Schultz, Nail, Granlund?
Craig Custance (11:51 AM)
Those are three pretty darn good candidates right there. My early pick is Yakupov, especially when you consider how much he's tearing up the KHL. I think Tarasenko is at least in the conversation and I'd throw Sven Baertschi in the mix. Calgary fans should be excited about him.
Craig,is there going to any fallout for Bettman after this is over.He was hated in all hockey towns prior to these negotiations.Can he continue ( after deal) to show up at NHL venues and be the face of ownership?
Craig Custance (11:53 AM)
There may be, especially if this drags on. There's a lot of hatred towards the commissioner right now among the players and they need to mend that relationship once this is over. The league needs the players to help out with things like the NHL Network, NHL.com and other promotional outlets. I'm guessing the commissioner won't be making a ton of public appearances shortly after this is wrapped up.
A team that no one expects to make the playoffs, that you think will surprise everyone this year?
Craig Custance (11:53 AM)
Craig, What have you been doing to occupy your time during the lock out?
Craig Custance (11:55 AM)
Dan - There's still plenty of work to do during a lockout. Plus, I've been able to see other levels of hockey. This week, I'll be heading to the Four Nations tournament and an AHL game. Covering the super series next week. Also, I'm driving my family crazy.
Any chance of a playoff focused 24/7 or some other expansion of the show in the near future? Even if the crew rotated amongst different teams for 2 week stretches during the season independant of the Winter Classic. The show's appeal to both the hardcore and casual fan could be a real tool in restoring some cheer in the hockey world post-lockout.
Craig Custance (11:57 AM)
Chris - There has been talk of that in the past but coaches are obviously hesitant to grant that kind of access during the playoffs. But in my opinion, the league and players owe it to the fans to go above and beyond if there's a season this year. This would be a great way to do it.
Craig Custance (11:58 AM)
Alright everyone - thanks for jumping in today! Hopefully there's some good news to report this week.