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 (1:16 PM)
Hey guys! Sorry I'm late. Olympic craziness today. Let's jump in and knock these out.
John Dwonar (New Jersey)
And its gonna be awkard net time he see ST. Louis. As an American Citien I am very happy we dont have to play guys like Giroux or Marty but its still mind boggling.
Craig Custance (1:17 PM)
Yzerman said that was a call he dreaded to make. That's one of the toughest things for these guys - juggling their own team and trying to do what's best for their country. I honestly don't have any idea how this doesn't strain things a little in the short term in Tampa.
arin (d-town, Ca)
Is Logan not on the team because of his injury or another reason?
steve (san diego)
Logan Couture's injury certainly must have played a factor in Team Canada's decision to leave him off the roster, but all signs point to him being healthy and ready by the first game of the olympics. Why was he left off?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
We're finding out now that Logan Couture has been injured for awhile which helps explain his lack of offensive production lately. It's interesting because Babcock has mentioned many times that he wants complete 200-foot players out of his forwards and Couture certainly fits the bill there. I think it's safe to say his injury and struggles because of the injury ultimately cost COuture.
John Dwonar (New Jersey)
How did Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, or Jaime Benn make it over Giroux. By my numbers hes one of the three highest scoring Canadians in the past thre seasons, no to mention hes on an Absolute TEAR right now. I cant possibly see why hes not there. Educate me please Craig because i cannot figure this one out at all.
Craig Custance (1:20 PM)
One thing Yzerman mentioned today was that he wanted as many guys playing their natural position on this roster which I think helps wingers like Nash, Benn and Carter. Giroux definitely made a strong case in December and is likely on the short list of injury replacements depending on who gets hurt but I think adding natural wingers appealed to Yzerman.
Can we assume that Thornton was left off Team Canada because he isn't considered fast enough for the bigger Olympic ice?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Two things led to Thornton's exclusion - One, Canada is absolutely loaded at center. If you're putting Thornton on this team, who are you taking out? Bergeron? And yes, I think footspeed plays a part on the big ice.
how can team Canada validate bringing rick nash again as he did nothing last time he wet in 2010
Craig Custance (1:23 PM)
Mike - There's definitely an argument to be made against Rick Nash, but his performance in 2010 isn't one of them. I thought he looked dominant at times in those games. He had five points in seven games. It's not like he was a non-factor. That said, I'm not sure I'd put him on this team. Too many better options playing at a higher level right now.
Ed (Queens Village)
Who are top 5 players not in Olympics next month?
Craig Custance (1:25 PM)
I love this question Ed -- it's tough just off the top of my head and it's going to be heavy Canadian -- 1. Giroux 2. St. Louis 3. Thornton 4. Bishop 5. Yandle/Ryan. I cheated and made it six.
After reading Burnsides article - Do you think that Brian Burke had too much influence in the selection process?
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
James - No. Absolutely not. Let's not forget that he built that silver-medal winning team in 2010. That story should be required reading for every hockey fan, it might be the best thing I've read in hockey journalism in a long time. And yet, it still just captures snippets of the debate. Burke gets attention because he's so colorful in the way he articulates his opinions but I think everyone had their fair say in the process and ultimately it's David Poile's team. Let's not forget that Burke had Bobby Ryan on the roster he submitted and Ryan didn't make the team. I have no issues with Team USA's process and I'm excited that Scott was able to shed some light on it.
Matt Rosenberg (Gurnee, IL)
One of my friends and I were talking. We were surprised that Carter, Marleau and Nash made it over St. Louis, Couture and Thornton. What was the biggest surprise? Also, as a Blackhawks fan, I'm glad that Seabrook and Crawford didn't make it. Only going to motivate them both for the playoff run.
Craig Custance (1:29 PM)
The Blackhawks are going to be challenged enough with ten guys making it, I agree, it's okay for them that Crawford and Seabrook didn't. Probably helps. TO me, the biggest surprise was Marleau making the team and St. Louis not making it.
Jeff Carter was a surprising pick but the more I think about he's a big guy who can really skate, play against the boards, and has a devastating shot. The space he could have on the big ice could lead to a huge tournament. Do you think they will put on a line with an elite passer like Crosby or Getzlaf?
Craig Custance (1:31 PM)
People seem surprised by Carter but it's an easy pick to defend. Yzerman mentioned experience being a factor and Carter has it. He raised a Cup with the Kings and like you said, can skate and has that heavy shot. I haven't sat down and played with the Team Canada lines but you almost can't go wrong. He's a guy you put in the top six.
Starting goalie for Canada: Is is Luo's or has Carey done enough to be the No 1 from the start? Does Smith even get a sniff at it during the tourney?
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
I like Mike Smith but if he's playing something has gone terribly wrong for Canada. Truthfully, you can say the same for Jimmy Howard and all the other No. 3s. Tough call on the starter but if it's me, I"m going Roberto Luongo. He's been there before, has experience and if he struggles you have Price ready to go.
Now the rosters have been named how do you rank the squads? For me 1) Sweden 2) Canada 3) USA 4) Finland 5) Slovakia
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
My pick to win it is Sweden. Based purely on talent, you have to say Canada is No. 1 but Sweden is loaded and the game is being played in Europe on big ice which puts them over the top for me. We're going to be rolling out some rankings on the Insider blog so I don't want to tip my hand too much here. Surprised you didn't mention the Russians at all, Scott.
If we are going based off of pure performance this season and of late the biggest snub by far has to be Seguin. He has been electric this season.
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
Seguin has been great for Dallas and Peter Chiarelli is part of the Canadian braintrust, knows him well. But you have to factor in body of work, something Seguin is still working on. Not to mention, you'd have to play him on the wing and there's also questions about how complete his play is at this point. Just don't think he's ready.
How did Sweden overlook Hedman? He is playing great and deserved to be on that team.
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
Two surprises jump out at me for Team Sweden - one is no Hedman and the other is no Jonas Brodin. I thought they'd both make that team. That just goes to show you how deep that defense is. Canada has the best forwards but if I had to pick a defense, it's Sweden.
Were you surprised to see Orpik selected to Team USA?
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
Mark - I wasn't surprised because he has experience plus you had to assume Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero would make a strong case to bring him. It comes down to trust and in Paul Martin and Orpik, Bylsma has two defensemen he knows well and trusts well. I would have found room for Keith Yandle on that defense but understand why there was some trepidation from the coaching staff there.
Do you think Pitt is the best team in the NHL right now?
Craig Custance (1:40 PM)
Nope. Still very bullish on the West with Blackhawks, Blues, Kings and Sharks (when healthy) all teams I like better than Pittsburgh. Still, Boston and Pitt in a class of their own in the East.
With both the US and Canadian rosters being announced now, which team do you feel is stronger all around? Obviously if you look at pure talent up front that favors Canada with the US being better in goal.
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
That sums it up. I'd take Canada's forwards and defense over Team USA but would rather have both Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller over any Canadian goalie. As we saw in Vancouver, goaltending can be the great equalizer.
Marc (Malden, MA)
How is Pekka Rinne's health? I really don't want Tuukka to have to play every game for Finland.
Craig Custance (1:43 PM)
Rinne won't be a part of Team Finland. Still isn't even practicing last I checked. But they have Rask, Lehtonen and Niemi, so they'll be fine. There might not be a better goaltending trio in the games than those three.
Miss Manners (Advice Column)
Craig, the situations with Martin St.Louis not making team Canada but Stamkos making it even though he is injured, and in the same vein Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin making team USA, bring up a bigger question. Should these national teams have "volunteer" coaches and GMs that have a clear conflict of interest with their other "paying" jobs in the NHL? By my account, the European countries all have independent third-party coaches for which the national team is their sole focus for that season. I think Canada also does this with their World Juniors coach. I mean, this shouldn't be perceived like mites where the Coach's son makes Selects and plays first line (even if he really is the best player).
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
It's an interesting question, because who would you tab to be Team USA's full-time coach/GM? Is that a position guys would prefer over an NHL job? Like, if USA Hockey signed Peter Laviolette to a four-year contract, would he really pass on NHL jobs to fulfill it? If not, then you're settling for secondary guys who might not be the best possible coaches and GMs. Would you rather have a fully committed duo of, say, Don Waddell and Ron Rolston for Team USA or part-time help from NHL guys? It's an interesting theory, I just don't have a great sense of who would do it.
I was watching the Ducks the other night and I couldn't help but see the resemblance between Cam Fowler and Duncan Keith. Does he have that ceiling?
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Kelly - I would never underestimate Cam Fowler's ceiling. Talent and athleticism have never been the question for him. I like the comparison, both are great skaters. Cam has taken serious strides this season and Bruce Boudreau clearly trusts him against the toughest competition. He went out and made that American roster, something I don't believe he was on before the season. If he continues to make those strides, he can get there.
Kunitz scored 2 goals in 12 games last year without Crosby, and 20 in 36 with him. How can Yzerman say he's not dependant on Crosby?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
In Yzerman's defense, what is he supposed to say? Kunitz only made the team because of Crosby? The perception in the league is that Crosby isn't easy to play with so in Kunitz you have a guy who has proven he excels in that role. Maybe Yzerman can't say that but we can. He'll be good on the forecheck, plays with tenacity and an edge. And he may also end up being the most scrutinized player on that roster.
Are you surprised Seabrook didn't get picked based on his play and his pairing with Keith?
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Somewhat surprised but I look at that defense (where lefty/righty was a major consideration) and I'm not sure who I'd send home in favor of Seabrook. Keith is a great skater, more than capable of developing quick chemistry with another defenseman. I don't have an issue with leaving Seabrook off the team.
Wit (Illinois )
10 players from the blues. Congrats to all of them but man do you see this being a factor as well as Chicago come play off time. If one of these two win it I think it's a little extra special
I'm really not seeing the advantage that Canada or Sweden has over the US Defenseman. Why are you rating them lower?
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
Sorry, double clicked on a couple questions. Wit - I think it could be an issue for both the Blues and Blackhawks. But especially Chicago considering they're coming off a short summer already.
Craig Custance (1:56 PM)
Chris in Charlotte - I'd put the American defense a shade below Canada and Sweden in part because of its youth. Suter is a horse and will be great. Martin has health concerns. Faulk is a stud but he's still just 21 and it's quite possible he's in Team USAs top six. Fowler, Carlson are both young. Orpik is experienced but there's concerns about the big ice. These are all good players but I look at guys like Doughty, Keith, Weber and Bouwmeester on big ice and feel better about that group.
Gotta think the Marleau selection was a make-up for having to leave Couture off the roster.
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Jeff - No way that was even a consideration by Yzerman. He's trying to put the best team together, he doesn't care who he upsets on NHL teams. I mean, he didn't even take his captain.
Sean (Orange county)
Wow Craig, No mention of the Ducks as a force in the West. Why don't you like them, they're a great team that not many like to admit to.
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
Yeah Sean, I realize I always leave the Ducks out of that foursome. I love the Ducks, love Bruce Boudreau but until that group makes a run in the playoffs, I'll still be a little skeptical. I'd probably pick them to come out of the East, but they're not in the East.
Since I'm more of a guru than any members of the Candian brain trust, I thought I'd put some lines together for you.Line 1: Kunitz Crosby StamkosLine 2: Tavares Toews SharpLine 3: Nash Getzlaf PerryLine 4. Benn Bergeron CarterDouchene and Marleau odd men out. 1. Sweeden 2. Canada 3. US 4. Russia 5. Finland Cheers!
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
Phil (Thornhill, Ont)
Hi Craig,I know it's fun to ask why or why wasn't that player included but, honestly, looking at both Canada and Team USA, I don't think there was a single inclusion or omission of a bubble player that would tip the scales one way or another.
Craig Custance (2:00 PM)
It's funny Phil because you're probably right. We obsess (as do the GMs putting the teams together) over the last couple guys when in reality it probably won't make a difference in the end.
can you make a case for callahan to be us captain?
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
You could, but I think it's going to be Dustin Brown. Don't hurt that he recently raised the Cup.
Craig Custance (2:02 PM)
Thanks everyone! I can tell the excitement for Sochi is already at a fevered pitch. Thanks for joining me!