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! Time for another weekly hockey chat. Let's talk playoffs, off-season moves, trades, anything! Let's dive right in.
Ed (Queens Village)
Which team down 2-0 has good chance of winning next 2 games to make it a best of 3?
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Ed - Great question. For me, the better shot goes to the Kings. The Blackhawks won two games at home, that's what they're supposed to do. The Penguins, meanwhile, lost two games at home. That's a disaster. It's hard to find any positives about PIttsburgh's play right now. Of the two, the Kings have a much better chance of fighting back into the series. Especially considering Quick is a competitor more than capable of carrying his team back into this series.
How likely is a Chicago sweep?
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Was there a better thing to come out of the 04-05 lockout than the elimination of the 2 line pass? I can't even remember how teams got odd-man opportunities when that was a rule.
Craig Custance (1:04 PM)
You mean, besides the shootout?
With how dominant the Kings (and Quick) have been in the Staples Center, do you think the Blackhawks can come away with one win in LA and shorten this series?
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
This series is far from over, but I think Chicago is certainly capable of stealing one on the road. ONe of the big differences between this year's Kings team and last year's Kings team is health. They essentially won the Cup without any major issues health-wise. I'm concerned at how banged up LA is. They have a lot more mileage on them this post-season, something in which the Blackhawks can capitalize.
Thomas G. Pittsburgh [via mobile]
What are the chances that the penguins come back in the series?
Craig Custance (1:07 PM)
As good as the Bruins have looked, they have a history of letting teams back into a series. Maybe that's helped them learn the value of a killer instinct but Pittsburgh has too much talent to just write them off after two games.
Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh, PA)
Craig, as I am sure you know, my biggest goaltending nightmares are now coming home to roost. Who the heck should I start in Game 3? Vokoun has not played badly against Boston but he has not played great either. Yesterday was more of a mercy pulling/momentum changer rather than a reflection of poor play. But then Fleury went in there and proceeded to let in an absolute backbreaker late in the period on a straight wrist-shot from the wing that HAS to be stopped in a playoff game. If Fleury starts Game 3 and steals it, that gives our team a huge boost. But if he is terrible again and lets in a softie on the first shot of the game (something he does often)...then our season is over. Is Vokoun still the more safe pick?
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
Dan,Glad you turned to me for advice. I think you go back to Vokoun. yes, some of the rebounds have been questionable but he's been pretty rock solid in these playoffs and that's what the Penguins need right now. If Fleury had shown more in his opportunity yesterday, maybe there'd be a case for him. But he do anything that makes me think he earned the job back. I'd go back to Vokoun.
Just curious as to your thoughts on Adam Larsson. When NJ drafted him, all everyone said was he was the most NHL ready player in the draft and he could step in from day 1 and play. Did everyone jump the gun, is he just not that good or am I, and other Devils fans just being too hard on the kid, expecting too much too soon?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Adam - He's a 20-year old defenseman who has played essentially a season and a half. WAY to early to make any judgments there. Look at Victor Hedman, he's still growing as a player and he's got a couple years on Larsson. You need patience with a young defenseman like this.
Why play the entire season with 1 set of rules and then in game 7's the refs put away there whistle's and " let the players decide the game"? By putting away the whistle THEY ARE DECIDING THE GAME!!. I'm neither a Red Wing Or Black hawk fan but those officials helped decide that game by calling nothing and then they waive off a potential series ending goal by making a call that they shouldn't have. Call the game the same all year.Your thoughts?
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
Dom - I hear you, that's such a tough thing. I get the notion that you don't want to start calling ticky tack penalties in a tight playoff game. For me, I'd rather the refs err on the side of no-calls than call a game like it's October 15th or something. Maybe that's just how it's always been but I definitely see the frustration. I was at the United Center for the goal you're talking about and if Detroit had scored 30 seconds later, it would have been pandemonium. There were some ANGRY fans in that building.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions?
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
My pick before the playoffs started was the Blackhawks in 7 over the Bruins. I'm sticking with that.
Do you think the Pens are going to retain the "NEW GUYS" that we picked up at the deadline? If so, how? If not, who gets the boot?
Craig Custance (1:16 PM)
Don't think there's room for everybody to stick around. What happens this summer may very well be dictated on how the Penguins respond to this series hole. Hard to justify bringing everybody back if the postseason is deemed a failure.
It's rare to see/hear this in the NHL, but I think the officiating in the B's-Pens series has been almost flawless. Sure, Cooke probably didn't deserve a game misconduct in game one (or Marchand should have received the same), but other than that issue, the refs have called the right infractions and used good sense when to let stuff go uncalled. Thoughts?
Craig Custance (1:18 PM)
Lou - I'm with you. And I think it's worth pointing out since the officiating has gotten hammered when things haven't gone well. It's such a fine line and a tough call in real-time so I'm not one to typically pile on the refs. I wouldn't want their job.
As an insider, did anyone in the media call the Boston Pittsburgh series starting like this?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Dan - I picked the Bruins to win the series (in 7) but I don't think anybody anticipated this kind of dominance early from Boston. There's still a lot of series to go though, not ready to give up on my seven-game prediction.
Hi Craig, it seems everyone agrees who the Top 3 picks are in this year?s draft. But I?m wondering what my Preds do with the fourth pick. Go for Barkov? Take a chance on Nichushkin despite the Radulov debacle? Trade for a roster player? What?s your take?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Chris - Your Preds are in a very good spot. The general belief is that some combination of Drouin, MacKinnon and Jones will go in the top three, but after talking to scouts/execs at the combine, I'm wouldn't be surprised if one of the two guys you mentioned jumped into the top three. That'd be just fine for Nashville, who could use an elite scorer like Drouin. If the top three goes as expected, I would be shocked if Nashville didn't grab Barkov. Big center who is playing well against men. That's a great pick for them, unless they get overwhelmed with a trade offer to move down.
Is the switch to quasi-division playoffs next year more likely to foster interesting rivalries or would seeing the same match-up permutations year after year get old?
Craig Custance (1:24 PM)
Vincent - To me, you can do all the realigning you want or set divisions up any way you want, but truly the only way meaningful rivalries are developed are in the playoffs. Nothing sparks a rivalry like a heated 7-game series.
Craig, who do you like for the next NYR coach and do you see them moving any of their d line depth for a front line center?
Craig Custance (1:26 PM)
Anthony - I know Messier is a beloved icon in NY but to me, the better hire would be an experienced coach. I think ALain Vigneault would be the perfect fit for the Rangers. He'd open things up offensively for them and is one of the most respected coaches in the league. You remove a lot of risk by hiring him.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
Craig, what do you think the Red Wings will do this summer? I'd like to see them add a veteran defenseman, and let go of guys like Bertuzzi, Samuelsson and maybe even Tootoo, who is fine in the regular season but not in the playoffs. What big free agents are out there and how will the cap shrinking change how teams approach free agency?
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
GBK - Interesting off-season ahead for Detroit. If they let Filppula, which is a possibility, they have some money to spend in free agency. They want to keep some spots open for their good young talent, but they could really use a scorer on the wing. I like Nathan Horton as an option for Detroit. A guy like Bickell would appeal to Babcock too. Big body, banger, who can score.
sansjj (Celina TX)
1st 2 hire's in the NBA Have been assistant coaches. Except for Curt Frasor here in Dallas they have been overlooked in the NHL, Why and is there a Head coaching candidate from the assistant on the Final Four teams
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
Interesting question. I think the Kings have two assistants who will get another shot at head coach in Davis Payne and John Stevens. Notice that teams who have fired their coaches aren't rushing to make hires (aside from Buffalo's decision to lift the interim tag from Rolston. Not sure what the rush was there). They could be waiting until these four teams are done.
Stalberg, Kruger, Leddy, Handzus, Rozsival, Bickell and Emery are all restricted or unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. With the Hawks signing Antti Raanta, it looks like Emery is out. I think they resign Bickell, Leddy and Kruger. Your thoughts?
Craig Custance (1:32 PM)
JW - I agree. I think Emery is gone. No room to keep him, he'll get paid elsewhere. I think they'll get their RFAs done too - Leddy and Kruger. If they want to keep Bickell, they'll have to move some bodies. With the cap coming down and his huge postseason, he's going to get a big raise. I'm guessing in the $3 million per season range. If that's the case, they can't afford him right now.
Claude Julien has pushed and pulled all the right levers so far in the B's-Pens series. How much pressure in on him to make sure his team goes for the jugular in Boston, where he can dictate the matchups with last-change options at home?
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
To me, there's much more pressure on Dan Bylsma who doesn't want to answer questions about another lost postseason. But yeah, the Bruins don't want to let Pittsburgh back into this thing.
Anybody really think Letang is a legit contender for the Norris after the last two games?
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
VOters don't have the luxury of weighing in the postseason play before turning in the ballots and you can't deny the outstanding season Letang had when he was healthy this year. Can't forget those are regular season awards.
What are your thoughts on Seguin still being down on the (far) less talented third line while Jagr coasts along on line 1a with Bergeron and Marchand?
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
It's hard to be critical of a team that's up 2-0 but if we're nitpicking, I'd like to see Seguin's role expanded and Jagr moved down the depth chart a little bit. But then again, I'm not coaching a team that is two wins away from the Stanley Cup finals.
Mark Messier (New York City)
Craig, does the risk outweigh the reward for me potentially becoming the next head coach of the Rangers? I am already an all time legend that can practically walk on water to Rangers fans. If I get the job and deliver a Cup, then I am a mega-legend that can also fly and cure the blind. But if I take the job and bomb (cough...Gretzky in Phoenix....cough) and have to get fired or part on bad terms, that might tarnish my reputation at the Garden.
Craig Custance (1:39 PM)
Exactly. And coaching isn't easy. Messier would go against guys have eat, drink and sleep coaching and have been doing it for years. Messier may be the biggest competitor in the world but who do you honestly think wins a tactical in-game battle between him and Mike Babcock? And then, if it doesn't work, how do you fire Mark Messier? I definitely don't think the risk outweighs the reward in this case, especially considering the coaches on the market.
Tim (New York)
Do you think the dominance the Bruins have shown against the Pens so far in the Conference Finals is making Sather re-think his assessment of Torts' coaching performance during the Conference Semis? With the exception of Game 2, the Rangers were in every game of that series.
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
Tim - I can tell you this - I spoke to a number of people around the league after Tortorella was fired and there wasn't a single one who thought he wouldn't coach again in the NHL if he wants. If the players truly soured on him in NY, it might have been time to let him go. But that doesn't mean he isn't a good to great coach. My guess is he'll be back and he'll do well in his next stop, especially if it's in a smaller market.
David (New York)
To Tom in DC, we all know the Norris isn't for truly the best dman, it's for a good dman who puts up points.
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
David is right to some extent. Being able to produce offensively is part of the consideration. I think it'd be cool if they had an award to best defensive defenseman. We should make that happen.
The Stephen Walkom call in game 7 of the Detroit/Chicago series was one of the worst calls I've ever seen in hockey. I know he has a good reputation but how is this guy still refereeing games with such a major error.
Craig Custance (1:44 PM)
Rob - If you remember, there was that play along the boards where Filppula was hurt and I think he was trying to avoid another situation like that. He had no way of knowing the call was going to wipe out a goal. The whistle clearly blew before the goal and everyone I talked to on both benches heard it and realized the goal wasn't going to count.
Matt (Washington, DC)
Any chance Bolland gets moved to make room for the Hawks' pending RFAs and UFAs? He's been next to useless in the postseason, which was always his calling-card.
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
Matt - I think it's safe to assume he's not 100 percent but I agree. With the cap coming down and so many guys to sign, spending $3 million plus on a third-line center is a luxury they may not be able to afford. They can also retain some of that salary to help expedite a trade if need be.
How bad are the new Hurricanes uniforms?
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
Not a fan? Very reminiscent of Team Canada.
jc (tinley park)
who do you think deserves considerations for Conn Smythe now.. Quick or Crawford, Keith....
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Those are some good options, but don't overlook the Bruins. Tuukka Rask is making his case and David Krejci might just be the front-runner right now.
Any chance at Rask for the Conn Smythe he's putting up some great numbers and has kept Boston in it so far.
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
Yup. His case is getting stronger and stronger.
Thoughts on the Antti Raanta signing by the Hawks? Quite the coup it seems, as other teams were hot after him...
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Great signing. I know the Wild were very interested and there were reports that the Oilers were too. He's still young and inexperienced so you want to ease him in next season. I spoke with one GM who said the perfect number of starts for him would be about 20. And, if he earns the backup job behind Crawford, the Blackhawks have one of the league's most affordable goaltending duos. Give Stan Bowman a lot of credit for landing this one.
Timmy G. (Clovis, CA)
So is Havlat bought out or do the Sharks try to trade someone like Boyle or Marleau?
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
Timmy - Doug Wilson has historically been very careful managing the money in San Jose. He's not a GM who typically buys players out or buries money in the minors. They have good ownership but it's not like it's NY or Philly so I don't know if he'll have the green light for an expensive buyout. I really liked how San Jose played down the stretch but if he can get a big return for Boyle, I think that's an area that will be explored.
Joe (East Lansing MI)
As a wings fan I have been watching the phoenix situation closely. If the new ownership cant get a lease deal with Glendale and moves to Canada, it has been speculated that a new canada team will get our spot in the east and keep Detroit in the West, likely in the Nash/Chi/Dallas etc division. Overanalysis or legitimate concern?
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Overanalysis. If the team leaves Glendale, my money is on Seattle. And that wouldn't impact Detroit at all.
Do you think Subban will win the norris or do you thing it Letang?
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
I voted for Suter. It's going to be a tight race between all three.
Andre [via mobile]
Hi Craig What kind of big moves do you see islanders making in offseason. Vanek, Bobby Ryan, or on defenseman like Edler. They need make a big move to take next step. Otherwise it will look like the owner does not want to spend money again
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Andre - With news surfacing today that Streit is leaving per Newsday, they have to do something fairly big just to replace him. I don't think Anaheim is too eager to move Bobby Ryan. Edler is an interesting option. Vancouver needs to get younger and move some money, so if there's a package of prospects you can send to Mike Gillis, it might make sense. But I'm with you, it's time for ownership to make the necessary commitments for this talented to take the next step.
Could we at least get rid of the trapezoid when a team is on the power play?
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
I'm in favor of getting rid of it completely, so you won't get an argument from me. Might help save wear and tear on defensemen retrieving the puck if the goalie can help out.
People thought Toronto signing Jonas Gustavsson was a big deal when that happened too. How has that worked out?
Craig Custance (2:01 PM)
True but you can't pin his lack of success on every European goalie who signs with an NHL team. All indications are that Raanta is ready to be a legit NHL goalie. He's not big and he's inexperienced but it's a bit unfair write him off because another goalie didn't succeed.
Craig Custance (2:02 PM)
Alright everyone, thanks for the questions! Enjoy the game tonight!