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 some hockey!
Assuming that Sid is playing at (or maybe even slightly better) than he was before the jaw injury last season, and assuming some growing pains with opposing goaltenders and the smaller pads and slightly altered nets; what is your over/under on Sid scoring 2 pts/gm for a whole season?
Craig Custance (1:02 PM)
It's fun to think about and I know there are even opposing players around the league who would like to see it happen. I think stuff like that is great for the sport because it starts to draw attention outside the tight hockey circle. Do I think it will happen? No. It's only going to get harder to score and his highest career ppg is 1.68. And it's been since 2009-10 that Sid has played at least 80 games.
test [via mobile]
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Enough with the Metropolitan division already. Apart from the Pens, there is nothing really to see or talk about there.
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
Were we talking a lot about the Metro division? Why the hostility Jake? I would disagree with your assessment. I think the Islanders are a very interesting team, they absolutely fly. D is better than I gave it credit for before the season. Columbus is fascinating. Todd Richards has given them a blue collar identity and Bobrovsky looks good. The Rangers will rebound. They still haven't played a home game.
Alright Craig, no vague answers on this one. Where would logical landing places for vanek/ miller be? and what type of return can you get? I have to think vanek can fetch a 1st and a mid tier prospect, at the least
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
Wow, really putting me on the spot. No vague answers? I think it's going to be really hard to trade Miller. Teams don't typically make a dramatic change at starting goalie during the season, except Tampa and it looks like the LIghtning have found their man in Ben Bishop. He doesn't want to go to Edmonton. That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room. Vanek is the fascinating one. I think he gets you a first and a legit prospect at least. You might be able to get a conditional draft pick thrown in there if he re-signs. The teams that typically make the splash at the deadline are teams on the playoff bubble that need to get in the postseason. OR a team that thinks it's a piece like Vanek away from winning a Stanley Cup. I know we've heard MInnesota a lot but they might fit both those characteristics. Cap a concern though.
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
That was really long-winded. Sorry.
Do you see the Ducks trading one of their goalies for some blue line help?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Hey Chris - Again, not to beat a dead horse, but goalies are hard to move. Especially in season. Jonathan Bernier is a great example of that. He's a legit talent who is young and Dean Lombardi didn't get the return he hoped for him. I think Bob Murray would be wise to move Jonas Hiller considering the goaltending depth in Anaheim. Edmonton would make sense, but is he really going to help a division rival? If I'm him, I"m not sending the final piece over to the Oilers. As for help on defense, it's even harder to make a pure hockey trade so realistically any trade with Hiller would likely be prospect/picks.
Henry (US but so close to Canada)
Craig: Who is one hot team bound to fall? How about one slogging through the early run that you expect to rebound?
Craig Custance (1:13 PM)
Hey Henry - I love Patrick Roy and think the Avs have some real momentum. There's definitely a buy-in to what he's doing there but they've giving up a lot of shots. I'm not sold on their defense. The goaltending is going to come back to earth. So I think we might see a Colorado slump at some point. I expect the Rangers to pull things together once they get some home games and Lundqvist returns to being Lundqvist.
Is there a chance for Matt Duchene to get team Canada consideration this season? Or are there just too many players ahead of him on that deep roster.
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
I think they have to consider Matt Duchene. I can tell you, he really impressed the Team Canada coaching staff during the World Championships. That's such a deep roster but Canada can't ignore what he's doing right now. SO yes, definitely a chance.
Craig, What do you make of this hole that Ken Holland has dug himself? As a wings fan, I think the media should be much more critical of his roster management over the last 12 months. I cannot believe that Nyquist is still in GR. To make matters worse, we could see a slew of waived vets stealing AHL roster spots. Not a great formula for developing prospects, eh?
Craig Custance (1:16 PM)
J - I understand why fans are anxious to see Nyquist but I think the roster jam up in Detroit will work itself out. And do we really think the Red Wings season or Nyquist's development is going to be irreversibly damaged because he didn't play NHL games this October? He'll be on the team when it matters. You're not going to see a lot of criticism for Holland because his track record is so strong. Especially when it comes to developing talent. He gets the benefit of the doubt here.
Jon (St. Louis)
Craig, I'm sure making the NHL schedule can be a headache having to schedule 30 teams around different events at arenas. But how do you explain the Blues playing 2 sets of back-to-backs with a week off inbetween?
Craig Custance (1:17 PM)
THere's a lot of factors. You have events in arenas. You have a team like New YOrk on the road because of renovations. You have a new matrix where teams travel to every single city. ANd you have an Olympic break which means teams will have to make up games at some point. That's going to produce quirks in the schedule but Hitch will find a way to take advantage of it.
Roger (Hockeytown, USA)
Craig; A few thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings. Last night vs the Sharks, the Wings were missing their top-2 defenseman, yet they held the #1 offense in the NHL to zero goals (shootout victories don't count). Xavier Ouellet, one of Detroit's rookies that is slated for the AHL this season, played outstanding hockey in his first NHL game. Do you think Detroit has one of the deepest D prospect pools in the league? Also, what is your Cup prediction this year?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Roger - IN the Sharks defense, they were playing without their best defenseman (Dan Boyle) and a difference-making forward in Brent Burns. I was at that game, there wasn't a lot of room to operate out there. Two teams that play each other tight. Both have a legitimate shot at making a run this spring. My Cup prediction was Kings over the Senators. Sticking with it!
Jesse S (Carmel, NY) [via mobile]
Custy, there are rumors of a miller for yakupov trade where one team would get an established star still in his prime (ie not washed up) while the other team would get a highly touted name prospect (ie not a draft pick). Trades like this used to happen all the time in the 80s and 90s where both teams would win and the young guy in the deal would become the face of his new franchise. You had shanahan for pronger, clark for sundin, and of course nieuwendyk for iginla. How come we don't see many deals like that anymore? Are teams just overly reluctant to give up young stars...especially when they are on their entry deals?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Haha, Custy. You've got a good memory Jesse. Yeah, in the cap era you young stars on entry level deals are invaluable. You really need to have those guys in your system and on your team if you're going to compete for a Stanley Cup. So I think young stars are more valuable now than ever before. PLus, it's more of a young man's league than it was back in the day. It seems like the prime for a player has moved back to about 23 or 24 years old. THat's why I think it would have to take a huge package to lure Yakupov away from the Oilers.
Hi Craig. The Capitals had a pretty rough stretch of home games, and now they're headed out on a 5-game road trip. How do you think they'll fare out West this week? And what do you think of the decision to keep Tom Wilson in the NHL this season?
Craig Custance (1:24 PM)
The East hasn't especially lit things up in their trips West this season and I've seen nothing from the Capitals that lead me to believe they'll have any better luck than teams like the Rangers and Senators. That said, it's been the California teams that have been trouble for the East and the Capitals are avoiding them. As far as West coast trips go, this one is fairly manageable for the Capitals. I think they go 2-2 out West, then beat the Flyers to finish 3-2.
Dara (Boca Raton, Fl)
What do you think of the play of Tim Thomas so far? It seems the more he is playing the better he is getting? Also any truth to a complete fire sale for the Panthers or is that just another rumor?
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
I think you have to give a guy like Tim Thomas evaluation time considering all his time off. He looked pretty good against Boston then beat a good Wild team. I mean, he's Tim Thomas. He's going to work it out. As for the Panthers, if they keep losing there's no reason to keep all these veterans on one-year deals around. It's still too early for a fire sale but if things don't get better than Dale Tallon has to look at trading guys like THomas, Boyes, Gilbert, Whitney etc. Although, I don't see a huge return coming back in that group.
Dom (Brooklyn, NY)
Any reason to be concerned about the Pens off last night's loss? It looked scarily like last year's playoff with the Bruins.
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
What's wrong with this guy? Can Boston do anything to trade him? He has been terrible; can't skate, can't shoot the puck, can't backcheck. What can the Bruins do?
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
He's historically a slow starter plus he's on the downside of his career. We've got to keep expectations for Iginla in check. He'll get better as the season progresses and that's still a guy you want in the room come playoff time.
What am I most happy about with Roy? Aside from points in the standings, it has to be with how the club plays as a team for the full 60 minutes. Even last night where we were clearly overmatched in terms of skill, nobody took a single shift off. They continued to play team defense, and were rewarded with a tough win against a top team on the road. Compare that to the effort the team gave Sacco night in and night out, and I could not be happier with Roy. It's night and day.
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
Yup, there's a complete buy-in from the Avalanche players. They enjoy coming to the rink now. That wasn't necessarily the case last year.
There are some teams that are off to better starts in the West but the road to the Finals still runs through Chicago. Agree or disagree.
Craig Custance (1:32 PM)
Agree. I think it's asking too much of the Blackhawks to repeat after last year's grind, plus the coming Olympics which will feature half Chicago's roster. But I expect that we'll see something similar to what we saw from the Kings last year. A prideful, talented team that makes a run in the spring but ultimately runs out of gas.
So Colorado goes from a defensive mess to being a league leader in goals against with much the same personnel. Is it luck, or is it the new system? What from an X and O perspective are they doing differently?
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
Likely realizing his blueline was a bit of a liability, Roy's focus in training camp was on tracking. He's got those talented forwards backchecking more this season, which helps the overall team defense. I think luck plays a part too, Andrew. Colorado's team save percentage at even strength right now is .961. That's coming down and when that happens, we'll see a bit of a correction in the standings.
Craig, hypothetically speaking, could the Blackhawks swing a trade for Vanek if they wanted? I mean I see everyone else asking what it would take to get him and just thinking that the Hawks have a thriving minor league system. Surely Bowman could be willing to deal one of those guys, no?
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
Look at Stan Bowman's track record though Eric. I don't think he's against making a splash necessarily but in talking to Stan in the past, I know he realizes that those big trades don't ultimately always lead to success. His philosophy seems to be making a tweak and adding depth, a philosophy I actually agree with. You could argue that the Johnny Oduya trade was as good a deadline move as any in the last several years. And if the Blackhawks do something major, the better move would be to find a center.
Craig Custance (1:38 PM)
And one more thing Eric - he knows you need that young talent coming in every year to manage the salary cap. So I don't think he's that eager to deal talented prospects.
Jesse S (carmel, ny) [via mobile]
Craig that was my test. Still trying to get used to this blackberry thing from the road. That does NOT count as my question for the streak
Craig Custance (1:38 PM)
Haha - I got you in there Jesse. No worries!
Mark (Washington, DC)
Should I just enjoy Fleury's great play for the time being and not worry about the Spring collapse??
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
I mean, what else are you going to do? His success right now beats the alternative if you're a Pens fan but if I'm Ray Shero, I'm still bringing in insurance at some point.
Craig I know it's an honor and privilege to play for your country in the Olympics, however, as a wily veteran...let's take Hossa for example...if he weren't in tip top shape, how would it be viewed if he doesn't play in the Olympics because he wants the rest? I'm sure it's a players choice whether or not they want to play, correct?
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
I would say that for most of these guys, especially Europeans, playing for your country is as important to them as playing in the NHL. If not more. This isn't like an all-star game. This means the world to these guys. So I honestly can't imagine a scenario where a guy might pass on an invitation to rest for the NHL season.
Looking like the best case scenario for teams on the California swing this year is 2 point? That's 3 brutal teams to play in a row. I would be surprised if the road to the Stanley Cup doesn't go through there this year
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
Seriously. I think if you get three you have to be happy. You just can't get shutout. You need to sneak in some overtimes. But the California gauntlet is brutal this season.
Marc (Malden, MA)
It's been documented how Quick really benefited from being on Team USA in 2010. If that's really the case, then why not have John Gibson as the 3rd goaltender in Sochi? The 3rd goalie never plays anyways and he's the future so isn't it better to give him the experience then carry some guy who is just going to sit on the bench and never play?
Craig Custance (1:43 PM)
I love that idea and you have to believe that's it's been debated behind closed doors with Team USA brass. But ultimately, there are too many good goalies in the mix to do that. Plus, it's still invaluable experience Cory Schneider and Jimmy HOward who are still young enough to start in future Olympics. So it's not going to happen. But I like the thought process.
Marc Bergevin (Montreal, QC) [via mobile]
Bonjour Custer. Can we all just calm down with this repeat norris and team canada roster talk for pk subban. He is an average defenceman at best. Probably not many other teams would even want him (checks calendar until free agency; drinks shot of scotch)
Craig Custance (1:44 PM)
Haha - keep telling yourself that Marc. PK isn't coming cheap.
Ken (Denver, CO)
Craig, still not wanting to give the Avs the respect they have earned? Why? They have had 4 games with 30 or less shots against, 5 with more. They only had 14 shots last night against the Pens, but managed the one goal they needed. Good teams just win. What will it take for people to start to give them the credit they deserve?
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
Ken - I hear you and I'm really impressed with what Roy is establishing there. I just want to see it for more than nine games. Is that fair?
Stu (Newport Beach)
How do you see the Pacific playing out? There are some good teams battling at the top, do you see the Ducks continuing their winning ways on this 8 game road trip?
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Bruce Boudreau has had that team clicking now for awhile now, so you have to give him credit and expect that it continues in some form. But am I concerned that their PDO is at 1055 (No. 1 in the league)? Yes. That suggests to me that they're getting more breaks than others at 5-on-5. And at some point LA is going to go on a run, so is Edmonton. The Pacific is stacked. I like San Jose to win the Pacific and think the Sharks and Kings have the best shot at a long playoff run out of Pacific contenders.
Did you see Red Berenson's quote about officiating last weekend? "A man may dress like a cowboy and smell like a cowboy but he can't ride a horse."
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
Haha, no. But thanks for sharing. Red is classic.
Hi Craig, in the words of the great Barry Melrose shoot the puck and good things will happen. Well Minnesota is shooting and still shooting but no or very few goals. Scoring chancecs are abound. What do you think needs to happen to get the puck in the net. Thanks
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Hey Todd - Keep shooting! THe Wild's even strength shooting percentage right now is at 4.17 percent. Only the Rangers are lower. Last season, Minny was over 7 percent. These things have a way of working themselves out.
Andersen, Fasth, Hiller and Gibson for a team with glaring needs on defense...... there has to be a trade in there somewhere for a team that needs to spend money wisely
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
Dale - It would be absolutely ideal for Bob Murray to spin one of those goalies (just not Gibson, don't trade Gibson) into a defenseman the Ducks can use now. It's just not an easy proposition. Perhaps, the better move would be to trade one of those guys to a contending team at some point for prospects/picks then spinning those assets into a defenseman from a team looking to rebuild. We saw Doug Wilson get creative at the deadline last year, maybe Murray could do something similar.
The Semin-Staal-Tlusty line in Carolina looks like it's finally starting to get warmed up and the newly assembled defense has been solid early. Coupled with the dearth of contenders in the Metro I expect some playoff hockey here, any thoughts?
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Yeah Greg, that defense has been better early than I thought it might be. I think Carolina will be in that mix along the bubble but ultimately my prediction is that the wildcard is going to come from the Atlantic. And I expect the Rangers to bounce back in the Metro. And the Hurricanes still have a negative goal differential. I guess, what I'm saying here, is I'm still not sold on Carolina as a playoff team.
Ed (Queens Village)
It's a small sample of games. Has Patrick Roy changed culture for Avs?
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
Love all the Avs questions. There are tons of them in here. Ed - to me, that's the biggest positive you can take from Colorado early on. They play hard for Roy, they believe in what he's teaching and they love playing for him. He's brought an element of confidence to that team and there's been a complete buy-in. They really like playing for him so far. Definitely a major culture change in Colorado, which is encouraging.
Do you think Curt Fraser is an underrated assistant coach in Dallas?
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
It's an interesting question Oliver because I'm not sure there are a lot of overrated assistant coaches in the NHL. Like, who is an assistant coach that gets a lot of publicity? That said, I'm a huge fan of Curt Fraser. One of the good guys in hockey, universally liked and respected. Jim Nill knows what he's doing in Dallas.
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
Is this like Jeopardy? Okay, lemme think of a question. Here we go. Which team in the NHL most depends on their goalie staying healthy in order to make the playoffs?
Craig, not sure if you'll post this or even see this, but re: Bowman, yes I know how he operates and I don't necessarily envision a huge deal or anything like that...something minor that turns in favor of the Hawks down the road, just curious as all. Thanks for the answer though. Great and in depth. Appreciate it.
Craig Custance (2:02 PM)
You got it Eric!
Craig Custance (2:03 PM)
Whoa, just realized we're over our time limit here. Great questions, had a lot of fun. If I didn't get to you, please shoot me a question in my mailbag and I'll get it in there on Friday: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/mailbag/_/id/40243/craig-custance