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 1 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (1:00 PM)
Hey everyone! Let's talk hockey and jump right in!
Should the jackets be worried about a 9-12 finish? Or is the change in culture more important than a top 5 pick
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Great question Jack - I think there's already been a change in culture with the duo of Davidson and Kekalainen and Todd Richards has that team playing hard. The culture change is finding its way onto the ice. That said, I think the long term payoff of a top three pick in a great draft is better than any gain that can be made by finishing just outside the top eight. If I'm a Columbus fan, I"m enjoying this run right now but secretly hoping they cool off down the stretch.
The Panthers have been a complete disaster and that is a combo of horrific goaltending and so many man games lost to injury. Weiss, Jovo, Versteeg, Weaver, Theodore,Bergenheim, Upshall, Kulikov, Goc...its actually unreal 1/2 the team has been hurt. Who do you think tallon will try and move? Hopefully Kuba leaves!
Craig Custance (1:06 PM)
Dara - With Weiss hurt, the Panthers don't have a really attractive rental player which would be the obvious answer for Florida. If there's a shortage in sellers at the deadline, playoff teams will have to consider trading for players with term left on their deal and that's something Florida has in Versteeg and Fleischmann. If Versteeg can prove he's healthy and stay healthy as the deadline closes in, he's an interesting one. He has a history of playoff success and is a great guy in the room. I'd take a close look at him if I were a contender.
Nonis has a lot of dman bodies, will he make a move?
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
He's in a really good spot right now because there are a lot of teams looking to upgrade on defense. Plus, if Nonis wants to he has a couple UFA forwards he could spin for assets. I'd look for Toronto to move one of their defensemen and then use those assets to try and upgrade their roster for a a playoff run. But Nonis is definitely in a position of strength right now.
How much, really, does Iginla have left in the tank?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Erik - One source i spoke with joked that it would be a lot better if it were 2009 but teams still respect what Iginla brings to the table. There will be a market or him and he's the kind of veteran player who can push a contending team over the top. He doesn't need that much left in his tank, just enough to make an impact during a playoff run. He's definitely still capable. If you're trading for Iginla you're only doing it for the short term.
Why do analysts keep saying the Caps are talented and are underachieving? Look at the roster, they have 3 top 6 F's on it. Ovi, Backstrom and Ribeiro. Missing 3 W's for a top 6 group is bad. They are basically a bunch of 3rd liners trying to play a role they are not capable of. Their D corps is pretty brutal too when you break it down other than Alzner and Carlson. Green might be the most overrated player in the whole league when he is healthy(which he hasn't been in about 3 years). So can you help the national media realize this please. We are the Calgary Flames of the Eastern Conference and with the new division structure, won't be competing for the playoffs anytime soon.
Craig Custance (1:13 PM)
Jim - Yeah, people might overestimate the current talent level based on past success and I think people definitely underestimate what the loss of Laich means to this team. But I disagree with you that the Capitals won't be competing for the playoffs anytime soon. They've got some good young players coming in the next year or two and some money to spend if they want to this summer depending on what happens with Ribeiro. They're not a playoff team this year but I bet they are next year.
Sean McKenzie (Van Wert, OH)
I havent heard ANYTHING about the upcoming draft. Since I am a long suffering Blue Jackets fan. Who are they targeting???
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
Sean - It's a great draft. Depending on who you talk to, there's probably six or maybe even seven guys who could play in the NHL next season. Seth Jones established himself as the No. 1 with a huge WJC but Drouin is making a case. MacKinnon is a great player too. CBJ would be happy with any one of those three. It's a great year to have 3 first-rounders.
Do you think the Blackhawks would go out and get Iginla? I think he would put us over the edge. I feel like we also have enough prospects to get this deal done. What are your thoughts? Thanks
Craig Custance (1:16 PM)
Hey Jerry - I'm not sure that's what Chicago needs to do. To me, they'd be better off using those assets to acquire another center rather than a veteran winger. Iginla would be a better fit on a team like Boston, Pittsburgh or Detroit.
Hey Craig,I think we both know that most likely Alfie nor Iggy will be moving at deadline time. What are some other names that are being tossed around right now as potential trade subjects?
Craig Custance (1:18 PM)
Dougie - I agree with you on Alfie but I disagree with you on Iginla. I think he'll be traded. As for other players, it's going to come down to which teams emerge as sellers. The Islanders have a couple interesting options in Streit and Visnovsky but they continue to battle and are just three points out of the playoffs. Hopefully things start to shake out a little more in the next couple weeks.
Lightning seem to have hit rock bottom after a promising start. Do they have a chance to make a run and sneak into the playoffs?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Marc - Yeah, I'm surprised at the nosedive TB has had. I thought they'd be in the mix for the playoffs. If they can get better goaltending, I still think they have one more run in them down the stretch. I still haven't ruled out Tampa.
Craig, do you think the Rangers have righted the ship with taking 5 of the last 6 and getting Nash healthy? Are they ready to make a run up the standings?
Craig Custance (1:20 PM)
yes. I've been consistent in these chats of saying the Rangers will be just fine once healthy. That's a Stanley Cup caliber team that's been fighting through injuries but they'll emerge just fine. They're poised to make a nice run as the playoffs get closer.
Mark Wooster (Los Angeles)
Do you think Corey Perry just doesn't want to sign with the Ducks? If he doesn't sign by April 3, should the Ducks trade him or go for the Cup?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Mark - This will be the No. 1 question of the trade deadline. I don't envy the decision Bob Murray has to make. It may be one of those deals where, if you get this close to free agency, you might as well test it if you're Corey Perry. The Ducks are proving as capable as anyone of making a run in the West, but it would be tough to lose Perry and Justin Schultz in consecutive years with nothing in return. Me? I would trade Perry for a huge return and also try and add a scoring winger in the short-term to make up for the loss.
Jed (St. Cloud, MN)
Thoughts on Jonas Brodin so far? He has been so much better than a 19 year old should be allowed to.
Craig Custance (1:23 PM)
I'm a big Jonas Brodin fan. Great skater and has a huge future for Minny. You always want to manage your expectations with young defensemen but he's going to be really good for the Wild. Some great young talent coming there.
If the caps keep on struggling, what are the odds that they move ribeiro and what do you think they can get for him?
Craig Custance (1:25 PM)
I would trade Ribeiro especially in light of what Getzlaf got in his deal with Anaheim. You could get a first-round pick in a great draft along with a prospect. And who knows? If you really like him, take a run at him in free agency this summer.
Buck (Cape Cod)
With the success of the Leafs so far this year, how much credit should be given to Burke seeing as how he was GM for several years and brought many of these players in. Was it a mistake firing him?
Craig Custance (1:27 PM)
Buck - I don't know how you don't credit Burke with this success. What has changed? These are his players, coached by a coach he brought in. I think Nonis is very capable as his replacement but yeah, I think it's proving that Burke might have known what he was doing. It bodes well for him though, he'll have no trouble lining up his next job.
Haven't seen any reports yet, but if Kelly is hurt badly does Boston shift their trade focus from a scoring winger like Iggy or Alfie to someone who plays center? Do they do both?
Craig Custance (1:29 PM)
Marc - Good question. I think it's early to speculate there because I haven't heard anything definitive yet on Kelly's injury. But injuries would play a role in trade deadline strategy. The PK is a big part of Boston's success and Kelly is a big part of that. You'd want to make sure you're in good shape there.
Can the Avs latest improvements be tied to O'Rielly signing? If so, is this mud in the face of Mgmt for the long delay?
Craig Custance (1:31 PM)
I think that's part of it. They're also getting healthier too. They did a nice job treading water during the O'Reilly fiasco but needed to start collecting points. And yes, I don't think that O'Reilly situation reflected well on management at all.
Chigbundu Otanjah (Los Angeles)
With some less than Conn Smythe performances Quick has given Bernier a chance to show that he is a solid goaltender and a potential starter. What teams might be interested in him at the deadline, and are the Kings deep enough at the position to let him go?
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
Yes, at some point they have to trade Bernier. Quick is clearly the longterm answer and Bernier has patiently waited for a solution. this has been a good season to assess him, he's probably upped his trade value. As for destinations, you just have to look at what teams may be due for a transition in goal to a young starter. To me, New Jersey would be a great fit. You could groom him to replace Brodeur.
Hi - Two unrelated questions - Is Slava Voynov really better than Drew Doughty on the offensive side of the puck or is this a blip? Who's a better player moving forward - Sam Gagner or Brayden Schenn? Thanks.
Craig Custance (1:34 PM)
Joe - Yeah, those are pretty unrelated. I'm hoping to do something on the Kings D sometime next week. I'll say this about Voynov - he's the real deal but I'm not ready to anoint him better than Doughty at anything. Guys get hot but things have a way of evening out. As for Gagner vs. Schenn, I'd go Schenn.
what to you think it would cost for the oilers to let go of whitney? i'm thinking a lot of teams might have interest in acquiring a veteran blue liner and the only thing the oilers are competing for is last place with calgary.
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
I like Whitney but injuries have really slowed him down. Edmonton would move him but I'm not sure the return would be huge. Maybe a mid-level prospect or draft pick.
Teemu Selanne (Ana)
How many more years do I have left?
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
As many as you want.
What would it take for the Penguins to trade for Jarome Iginla? A prospect like Olli Maatta and a first? Does more/less need to be added to that deal?
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
Joe - If I'm giving up Maatta, who I really like, I'm making that first rounder conditional on the Penguins winning the Cup. If I'm Ray Shero, I wouldn't give up any more than that.
Craig, is this what the future might hold for NJ if there is no Marty? and is Lou regretting not signing praise back to a new deal?
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
Shane - Believe me, Lou Lamoriello made every effort to keep Zach Parise. That wasn't his call, that was Parise's decision. So he may regret Parise leaving but he didn't have much of a choice. But you're right, NJ is getting a glimpse of life in the post-Brodeur era and it's not always pretty. That's why I love the Jonathan Bernier option for NJ.
james dolan (msg)
what moves would you tell me to have sather pursue?
Craig Custance (1:40 PM)
James - Offensive defenseman and maybe a center. Like your team though, could use a little more depth.
Any chance the caps would consider trading Ovechkin? What kind of return could they expect?
Craig Custance (1:40 PM)
It's fun to speculate but I don't think Ovechkin trade happens anytime soon. Hard to even guess at a return when you consider his contract.
Will next year's realignment affect the Red Wings' style of play? Or will they stick to the same way they've played in the West?
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
Max - Great question. I asked a couple of their players that same question. Kronwall joked that they might need a couple more fighters to be ready for more games against Boston. Puck possession hockey is still winning hockey so they won't change the way the play but it might change slightly how Ken Holland fills out the bottom of the roster.
John (North York)
When are teams going to start adapting advanced stats? ex. corsi, corsi relative... I find them an incredibly useful tool to evaluate players.
Craig Custance (1:44 PM)
John - Boy, it's really split when it comes to hockey execs and advanced stats. I think some teams say they use them just to placate their fans who think they should be using them. And I think some teams do use them. But most GMs I talk to see them as just a small portion of a bigger picture when it comes to player evaluation.
Matt (NY, NY)
Huge NY Rangers fan here. Do you see Stephan, Callahan, and McDonagh all making Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
Matt - Callahan is a lock and Tortorella is probably the leader in the clubhouse to be the coach. I haven't sat down and looked at the USA defense in awhile but McDonagh is definitely in the mix. OF the three, I think Step will have the hardest time making the team. A big year from Kreider might have made things interesting there but obviously that hasn't happened. JT Miller is another fine American on that roster too.
Joe S (LA, CA)
Pretend you are Kenny Holland for a minute. What would you do?
Craig Custance (1:47 PM)
First, I'd sign Jimmy Howard to a contract extension. Then, I'd try and convince Phoenix to trade me Keith Yandle in a deal built around Valtteri Filppula. Then I'd give myself a nice raise for the effort.
I dropped Andrey Vasilevskiy, TB in a 20 Team 25 man keeper league, am I the Village Idiot?
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
Don't be so hard on yourself JDub. Young goalies take a while to develop and are really tough to predict. It might be years until you kick yourself. But I'm impressed that you're in a 20-team, 25-man keeper league. That's a big league.
The failed shootout attempt last night reminded me that the shootout was for the fans. However, I find that overtime is much more entertaining. Why not make OT longer?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
Jack - I'm with you on that one. I'm in favor or another overtime session before going to the shootout. That said, I'm not a shootout hater. I loved the attempt we saw last night in the Ottawa/Boston game. It's entertainment, not to mention it almost worked.
Who do you see being the next American captain in the Olympics? I truly think its down between Callahan-My fav, Parise, Brown.
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Paul - David Backes is in that conversation too. no shortage of candidates. If Tortorella is the coach, I could see him tapping Callahan as captain. But there's a case to be made for Parise and Brown too. Can't go wrong there.
Hi Craig - if the Bruins and Blackhawks started a seven game series today - who do you have and why? Thanks
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
John - Oh man, that's a tough call. Both teams are experienced, both have depth. I'm very much in favor of a Chicago/Boston final. That would be great. If you're making me pick, I'm going with Boston in 7 because I like Rask slightly better than Crawford and the Bruins PK has shown it can dominate a playoff series. If Patrick Sharp is hurt in this imaginary scenario, then definitely Boston.
Buck (Cape Cod)
Building on what Max asked, do you think Winnipeg is in for a wake-up call when they leave the SE division next year and have to play in the Western Conference?
Craig Custance (1:54 PM)
Buck - Yeah, definitely. If the Jets can't make the playoffs with a Southeast heavy schedule, they're really going to feel a difference moving to the West. Great point.
Should the shootout stay or go?
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
offer hope for the flyers' future .... please
Craig Custance (1:56 PM)
Haha - still one of the best organizations in hockey. Love that group of forwards and I look forward to seeing what Paul Holmgren does to address the D this summer. Half the battle is having an owner willing to spend and invest in his team and that's something Philly has. That's why they'll always be in the mix.
Craig, the Stars biggest weakness seems to be the lack of a top tier defenseman (and has been for some time, see e.g., the terrible Neal for Goligoski trade). Is there anyone available on the trade market that the Stars could pursue?
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Brian - There simply aren't a lot of top four defensemen available right now. There are a lot of teams in the same boat as the Stars, that's one of the reasons the Wild paid what they did for Suter. It's just hard to land one of those guys. That's why you have to draft and develop your own or take a risk on a guy like Goligoski. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Kaspars Daugavins (Kanata)
Should I book myself a one way bus ticket to Bingo?
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
No way. Loved the move.
Who do you think could be the goalies for Canada in 2014? Is MAF in discussion or is he to inconsistent? Other ideas are Price, Luongo, Ward.
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
Josh - To me, Price and Luongo are in at this point. The No. 3 is a tough call. MAF is in the discussion and I think Mike Smith could be if he can get more consistent. But that's the one position where the Americans have the edge on Canada.
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
Alright everyone, just got a call from ESPN and we're taping a Hockey Today podcast. Gotta run! Thanks for the questions as always. Great work in here today. If I missed you, shoot me a question in the mailbag and I'll get it in there: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/mailbag/_/id/40243/craig-custance