Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season.
Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join EJ to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:02 PM)
EJ is here!
Is a missing a healthy pronger the difference maker or is it the Flyers need to invest in a #1 Goaltender?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
Losing Chris Pronger does not help. He's an elite defenseman. He's a future hall of famer. Losing him hurts you in a lot of ways. You'd like to have more confidence that you'll get a big save when you need it. But watching the Flyers in the first two games against Boston, you put together Pronger and the goaltending issues, they are too sloppy in their defensive zone. They've got too large of passing lanes. If you put all of those things together, you have a real hard time winning. That's where they're at now. Especially when don't have an elite goalie. I don't see any turn around in their future if they don't get that done.
Tyler (New Hampshire)
Tim Thomas the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
I don't think he's the leading candidate. I would think Roloson is the leading candidate.
What are the chances the Wings come back from 0-2?? Do you think they will win the two home games and get back in it? They are too good to not be right?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I think they can. I think they've got to play better. I think San Jose has really found a way to use their depth and speed to limit Detroit's offensive zone time and chances. Detroit has kept it close. They're simply going to have to be better. They're going to have to get more traffic time. They'll have to be better in that in Game 3. They have to get things done in Game 3 and put themselves in position to tie it in Game 4.
Marc (Malden, MA)
The penalty on Chara with 2:30 go was garbage. You can't call a penalty JUST because one player is a foot taller than another. If you're going to do that, just make a rule that no player can be over 6 feet tall.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I didn't think it was a great penalty, but Chara did give a little extra, putting a hand up in his face. To me, it wasn't a great penalty, but Chara hurt his case with the official by adding that shot to Briere's face. My advice is to keep your stick off guys so you don't get a penalty. There was no need for Chara to raise his forearm. The play was over at that point.
With all his playoff experience is Steve Yzerman being more "hands-on" during the Lightning's playoff run? They seem to have a different synergy about them this year.
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I don't know if he's being more hands on than what he planned to be. Steve was a player in Detroit during many playoff runs. He watched the way the Red Wings managed and interacted with the players. He comes at it from a different way because of his own playing career. Steve is a pretty thoughtful guy. I'm sure he had a plan in his mind as far as how much time he'd have with the players and coaches. It seems like he picked people to do their jobs and he's letting them do them. His demeanor and calm nature has helped the team, whether it's with the players or coaches.
Preds/Lightning in the finals. Would we have to talk Bettman off the ledge?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I don't think so. I think a lot more is made of that than it actually is. Clearly, if you're the NHL or NBA or MLB and to a lesser degree the NFL, I guess you're internally happier with a playoff story that includes the bigger markets. But with that said, I think in the NHL, which you don't see in MLB or NBA, is that some of these smaller markets have a chance to win. I would think there would be some part of the league that they put together a system where these teams have a chance to win and they're happy about that.
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I would say the TVs' executives worry about these things a lot more than the commissioners of the leagues, where the contracts of the leagues and networks stand. The NHL just signed a 10-year TV deal, so if they have small market teams in there this year, I don't think they are worrying about it. If the situation were different, and the ratings were down, I think they'd be more concerned.
Can Tim Thomas play like he did last night for the rest of the series?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Tim Thomas has an unbelievable record in Philadelphia. He's been really good all year for the most part. His numbers tell the story. Who knows if he'll stumble at any point. But he'll be continually hard to beat. I think you have to attack smarter. You really have to have a plan going in and try to follow it.
We definitely saw glimpses of the Champs this year but they couldn't hold it together. Do you see Chicago rebounding next year after having some time to heal and relax?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
Yeah, I do. I do see Chicago rebounding. They have a good group of core players there. I'm sure they'll have some challenges signing some guys to fit in around those guys, because of the cap. It looks like they found their goaltender in Crawford. They're going to be a dangerous team. If they're healthy and come back next year, to me, they'd be a contender again.
Jay Vanriemsdyke seems to be emmerging in this years playoffs as Claude Giroux did last year. With all the talent Philly has are they a better goalie away from possible winning multiple championships over the next few years?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I think stability in goal would be helpful for them. The Flyers have built their team by spending their money on forwards and defensemen. We've seen that be an effective strategy in Detroit. If you do that, the people in those positions as role players you need to play well. JVR's emergence has been eye opening in the first part of the playoffs. At the end of this, if Philly doesn't win the Cup, they'll look at their roster and they'll have to make some decisions on their goaltending.
Is Dwayne Roloson playing his way to a multi-year contract next year, or at his age is he simply living on one-year deals?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
Right now, he's completing a two-year deal. If he were to go on and win a Cup in Tampa, who knows. Who knows, maybe he'll just retire, having won the Cup. But if he continues to play well, who knows. Yzerman, having come from Detroit, they kept a lot of their older players on 1-year deals, might try to do the same thing. I think it would depend upon, really, what Roloson wanted to do moving forward. I suspect, if he plays anywhere, it would be on a 1-year deal.
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I would also say that maybe the Lightning might consider the marketplace on goalies this summer, if there's one that fits their group, they might go after one there.
Looking back at the 2008 draft, Flyers got lucky by missing out with the first pick. Drafting second to get JVR. Do u agree with that assessment or still would prefer Kane or JVR?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
It's easy now, in retrospect that JVR is emerging as a power forward and he's more valuable than a smaller forward. But Kane has won the Cup, he won the silver medal in the Olympics, I think he's one of the most fun guys to watch in the league. He's a really good player. I think we have to see more from JVR, though he's finding his way.
How much does Crosby not playing in the playoffs hurt the NHL from a marketing stand point? Is the game back to the level where they are not relying on one person to help draw people in?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I think you always want to have your top players playing and that certainly goes for their top, top player. He was on course to win the points by a wide margin. It in no way helps the league to have a Crosby, Ovechkin, Toews not playing. I think you're seeing some great stories being written. I think they're having a great playoffs. But Crosby is definitely a guy you want playing.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks for all of the questions. Follow me on Twitter: @EJHradek_ESPN.