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E.J. Hradek's Analysis

E.J.'s Mailbag: Habs, 'Canes, Panthers playoff bound?

Wednesday, 09.05.2012 / 9:36 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

On Tuesday morning, the Avalanche made a bit of history by slapping the "C" on the sweater of 2012 Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog, making him – at 19 years, 286 days old – the youngest captain in League history. The mark for such an honor was previously held by Penguins icon Sidney Crosby, who was 11 days older than Landeskog when he received the club’s captaincy on May 31, 2007.

The team’s decision sparked a lot of interest in the twitter-verse, judging by how many people asked me the same question: "What do I think of the move?"

I’ll start by saying the Avalanche management team and coaching staff know their team a lot better than any of us in the media would know it. So, clearly, their decision says a ton about their feelings for Landeskog, who scored 22 goals and 52 points while firing a rookie-best 270 shots on goal in 82 games.

Like Landeskog himself, I was a little surprised by the move. (He said he had "no clue" about the decision.) A second NHL season can be tough enough for any young player without carrying the weight of the "C." Why not wait another year or two?

E.J.'s Mailbag: Kings to repeat? Playoffs for Isles?

Wednesday, 08.29.2012 / 7:52 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

After a tough start to his career, Kyle Turris seems to have found a home in Ottawa.

The 23-year-old forward on Tuesday signed a five-year contract worth $17.5 million ($3.5 million annual salary-cap hit) with the Senators. The extension kicks in at the start of the 2013-14 season.

Turris, the third pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, started his career with the Phoenix Coyotes in the final days of the 2007-08 season after deciding to leave the University of Wisconsin following his freshman season.

In my mind, that was a bad decision. Turris hardly dominated at the college level, scoring 11 goals in 36 NCAA games. Not surprisingly, he struggled at the NHL level, scoring 46 points in his first 131 games, and spent long stretches in the American Hockey League (including the entire 2009-10 season).

After showing some signs of progress late in the 2010-11 season, Turris held out last year, missing the first two months of the season before signing a two-year deal. A month later, he was dealt from Phoenix to Ottawa, where he posted 29 points in 49 games.

With a fresh start and a little experience under his belt, Turris finally has a chance to move forward in a setting where he seems comfortable. He’s a good fit as a second center behind Jason Spezza in Ottawa. Maybe now Turris can finally realize the promise that made him such a high pick in ’07.

E.J.'s Mailbag: Oilers on rise, Sharks sliding?

Wednesday, 08.22.2012 / 9:13 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

Training camps are scheduled to start in less than a month, and you've had a bunch of different questions about your favorite teams.

So let's take our weekly dip into the mailbag. Remember, you can follow me on twitter @EJHradek_NHL. That's the best way to get your questions to me. You can feel free to add #AskEJ. Here we go!

Do you think Edmonton has a shot at the playoffs with the addition of Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, plus the progression of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle? -- @alleyezonme97

In the long run, there's reason for loads of optimism in Edmonton. The Oilers have assembled quite a cast of elite young talent.

That said, they finished 14th in the Western Conference last season, 24 points out of the last playoff spot. And that's with a 12-point jump over their 2010-11 campaign. They'd need a pretty dramatic improvement in one season to bridge that gap and earn a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, which would be their first since going to the Final in 2006.

E.J.'s mailbag: Capitals capable; who's moving?

Wednesday, 08.15.2012 / 8:35 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

This time last year, I was over in Slovakia and the Czech Republic eyeballing the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, which annually features many of the top prospects for the upcoming NHL Draft class.

For example, of the top 12 picks in the 2012 draft, eight of them (Alex Galchenyuk, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Mathew Dumba, Derrick Pouliot, Slater Koekkoek, Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko) participated in the 2011 Hlinka tourney. That’s a pretty significant number, eh?

The Canadians – this year under the direction of former NHL player Todd Gill – are seeking their fifth straight Hlinka title. And they’re on the right track, going 3-0 to advance to Friday’s semifinal against the Czechs.

Team USA, meanwhile, is 0-2-1 in its three games after an 8-6 loss to Finland on Wednesday. That’s not necessarily a surprise. USA Hockey prioritizes the Hlinka tourney differently than Canada and the other participants. In other words, they view it as an opportunity to see players outside their U.S. Development Team program. For me, I wish they’d send their best. The Americans will finish against Slovakia on Friday.

While I didn’t make the trip across the pond this year, I am here for you! Yeah, it’s time for another dip into the mailbag. Remember, you can follow me on twitter (@ejhradek_nhl) and tweet me your questions.

E.J.'s Mailbag: Pens' FA failings, 50 for Kovy?

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 4:49 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

On Tuesday, The Tennessean's Josh Cooper reported Shea Weber's agent, Jarrett Bousquet of Titan Sports Management, said he and the Predators were still having talks in regard to adding a no-trade and/or no-movement clause to Weber's newly-minted 14-year, $110 million deal.

If I were running the Preds, those "talks" with Bousquet concerning those additional clauses would be short and not-so-sweet.

My answer: No!

Nashville is under absolutely NO obligation to add such a clause to the deal. In fact, as you might be able to pick up, I think they'd be amazingly, incredibly foolish to do so.

E.J.'s Mailbag: 'Canes contenders? Blues' top goalie?

Wednesday, 08.01.2012 / 8:31 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

While the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association continue talks on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Stanley Cup takes its annual world tour, courtesy of the Los Angeles Kings, the 30 teams have spent the first part of their summer keenly trying to ready their rosters for another chase for the Cup.

That means you’ve got questions. Was a move wise or weak? Will a team be better or worse? Can a player rebound from a bad year?

Well, I’m here for you. Each week, you can tweet me the burning question that you want answered (@ejhradek_nhl) and I’ll give it my best shot. Let’s get started.

With the Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin acquisitions, do you think the Hurricanes will win the Southeast Division? -- @MarkGNCSU

I think these additions put them in a position to compete with the Capitals, Panthers and Lightning for the top spot in what should be a competitive Southeast (the Jets seem a step behind their four division rivals).

Hradek: Montreal job full of positives for Bergevin

Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 12:39 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

New Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin definitely has the people skills and sense of humor to handle the high-pressure gig in Montreal. In the coming months and years, we'll find out if he has the hockey smarts needed to get the proud franchise back on the right track.

The 46-year-old former defenseman isn't walking into a terrible circumstance. The Canadiens have some nice pieces in place.

Carey Price is a high-end goaltender. P.K. Subban is the type of dynamic puck-mover that every club needs on the blue line. After that, veterans Andrei Markov (if healthy) and Josh Gorges are legit top-four defenders and young Alexei Emelin impressed last season with his physical style.

Hradek: Eberle, Hartnell, Howard first-half surprises

Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 9:51 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

While the Bruins and their fans will disagree, I feel Brendan Shanahan knocked it out of the park in slapping Brad Marchand with a five-game suspension for his low-bridge hit on Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo, who suffered a concussion as a result of the dangerous play.
Shanahan's video explanation of his rational was compelling and crystal clear. I thought it was particularly enlightening to view the play in its entire context. Just 16 seconds earlier in the shift, Marchand and Salo came together in nearly identical fashion. In that earlier instance, Marchand took a different approach, opting for a straight shoulder-to-shoulder hit with the bigger Salo.
In the second go-round, I believe Marchand made a calculated decision to go low on Salo, who didn't have the puck and had no way to anticipate such a move. Certainly, I'm not buying the team's assertion that Marchand was defending himself. I mean, that was Salo moving slowly toward him, not Kevin Bieska.

Hradek: Flames limp home, Cup finalists meet again

Friday, 01.06.2012 / 2:28 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

After an ugly 9-0 blowout loss in Boston last night, the Calgary Flames stagger back home from their World Junior Championship-induced, seven-game road trip to open a four-game homestand against the Wild on Saturday night. The Boston massacre was the Flames' worst shutout loss in nearly 20 years. On March 1, 1992, Vancouver slapped an 11-0 beating on Calgary.
Actually, the Flames' journey began with back-to-back wins, but Brent Sutter's crew eventually crashed, losing the next five games (0-4-1). As a result, they've fallen into 12th place in the Western Conference, five points behind the eighth-place Predators, who've played two fewer games.
If there's any silver lining to the Flames' road woes, it's this: team icon Jarome Iginla is positioned to net his 500th career goal on home ice. I have to figure he'll get it during the upcoming stay at the Saddledome.

Hradek: 2012 New Year's resolutions

Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 10:52 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

The new calendar year is almost upon us. Before you can say, "Winter Classic," we'll be flipping the page to 2012.
With that in mind, in this edition of the Tuesday 10, I've decided to help some of the League's coaches, players and executives with their New Year's resolutions.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson: Fix the penalty kill

Wilson got that contract extension that he was seeking; now he's got to find a way to repair the club's badly broken penalty-killing unit. Entering Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers, the Leafs are killing just 73.5 percent of the power-play chances against them. That ranks them dead last.
Bad penalty killing is nothing new in Toronto. Since the 2005-06 season, when the League resumed play, the Leafs have ranked no better than No. 24 on the PK. In the past three seasons under Wilson, Toronto ranked last twice and No. 28 last year.
I believe GM Brian Burke was wise to agree to an extension for Wilson. The coach can return the good will by figuring out some plan -- any plan! -- to improve this important facet of the game.
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