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E.J. Hradek's Analysis

Hradek: Young free agents go down to the wire

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 5:21 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

In Los Angeles, they wait for Drew Doughty. In Toronto, they're leaving the light on for Luke Schenn. And in Boston, they're eager to see their Stanley Cup hero, Brad Marchand.
By "they" (or them, to be more grammatically accurate), I mean you, the fan.
This year, it's your turn to worry as the clock ticks down to the start of training camp, the start of the season. You wonder - will my guy sign? When will it get done? Will they have to trade him?
You aren't the first folks to be asking these questions. You're just the latest.
Last September, Ducks fans were concerned about the Bobby Ryan talks (he signed on Sept 14). Rangers rooters were asking about Marc Staal (who inked a new deal on Sept. 15). And, as the calendar flipped from August to September, Canadiens fanatics still weren't certain about Carey Price's contract status (he agreed to terms Sept. 2).

Hradek: Crosby, Stamkos make impressions at PMT

Friday, 09.09.2011 / 9:34 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

"I've really learned a lot about eating better. You can train really hard, but if you're not eating right, you're not getting the most out of it."
-- Steven Stamkos

After spending a good part of Thursday chatting with several of the 34 top stars that have come to New York and Newark, N.J., for the League's fourth annual Player Media Tour, I left with a couple of thoughts and observations about the upcoming season.
*Sidney Crosby confirmed that he's leaned on good friend/Bruins center Patrice Bergeron for support and occasional advice during his continuing recovery from the concussion that sidelined him in January.
That almost made a lot of sense to me. If anyone has an idea what Crosby has been going through, Bergeron would be that anyone. The Bruins pivot suffered a serious concussion in October 2007, which put him on the shelf for the remainder of the '07-08 campaign.

Time to look back at memorable moves of the summer

Tuesday, 09.06.2011 / 9:40 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

The calendar on my wall says the last day of summer is Sept. 23. My hockey calendar, though, reads a little different. On that calendar, the last day of summer -- at least in this part of the world -- was Labor Day.
From here on out, there's no more wearing white; unless, of course, you're on the road. (Personally, I still prefer the home whites.)
After a summer of idly wondering about your favorite team, you can turn some serious attention to rookie tournaments and camps, last-minute free-agent signings and training camp invitations, the start of training camp and some preseason games.

E.J.'s mailbag: PHX-CGY trade, Bryzgalov and more

Tuesday, 08.30.2011 / 9:55 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

We had an interesting little deal on Monday between the Coyotes and Flames. Veteran center Daymond Langkow, who missed almost the entire 2010-11 season with a significant neck injury, goes to the desert for streaky-scoring winger Lee Stempniak.

Calgary GM Jay Feaster opens up some important cap space by moving Langkow, who must pass a team physical in Phoenix. He takes back Stempniak, who could provide some much-needed offensive support. Both guys represent little long-term risk as they're both in the final year of their contracts.

I'll be curious to see if Langkow, who'll turn 35 next month, can still be a helpful player. He appeared in just four games last season, but he's a real competitor who worked extremely hard to get back on the ice. I'm not betting against him.

While we'll have to wait a few more weeks to see how Langkow looks in training camp, I can answer a few of your burning questions right now. Let's get to this week's mailbag! Remember, you can always quiz me via twitter (@ejhradek_nhl).

E.J.'s mailbag: Crosby's health, Sharks 'D' and more

Tuesday, 08.23.2011 / 9:47 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

The clock is ticking toward the opening of training camps. We're now less than a month and counting. Rookie camps/tournaments will get going before that. It'll all be here before you know it.
While we wait, not so patiently, I'll take another dive into the mailbag to take a shot at some of your questions. If I don't get to your query here, I'll try to reply via Twitter. You can follow me @ejhradek_nhl.

How worried should the Pens be about Crosby's health? -- @bngsportsdotcom
How concerned should you be when your best player -- the best player in the League -- misses the second half of the season and the playoffs due to a head injury? I think you should be pretty darn concerned. Really, you'd have to be pretty naïve -- based on what we've learned about concussions over the past several years -- not to be worried.

Let's face it … conflicting reports about Crosby aside, there's just no way to predict how any individual will respond/recover after suffering a concussion. There's just no timeline for these things.

E.J. Mailbag: Sharks moves, Devils captain and more

Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 1:02 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

Who says there aren't many entries on hockey's August calendar? Not me! I just returned from Slovakia and the Czech Republic where I was fortunate enough to get a look at a great many of the top prospects in the draft class of 2012 at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. There had to be more than 100 amateur scouts/executives from each of the League's 30 teams eyeballing the talent.
This week, I'm headed to Toronto for the NHL's second Research, Development and Orientation Camp. Brendan Shanahan, the League's Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, and the rest of the hockey ops department will take a look at several different rule changes and variations under game conditions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Those test games will be played by 40 top draft eligibles. That means at least a few of the kids that participated in the Hlinka tournament will be part of the group in Toronto. That's a pretty busy travel schedule for those kids.

Five who have impressed at Hlinka tournament

Friday, 08.12.2011 / 11:23 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- The 2012 Entry Draft is more than 10 months away, but each team's amateur scouts already have begun their plotting and planning for the chance to add new blood to their respective organizations.

Among the first stops on that long road to the 2012 draft are Piestany, Slovakia, and Breclav, Czech Republic -- two towns that sit about 75 minutes apart on different sides of the border. Those hamlets host the annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Under-18 tournament, which, every year, is among the very first opportunities for many top draft hopefuls to impress the scouts.

Last year, for example, center Ryan-Nugent Hopkins cemented his status as a top prospect with a strong performance in helping Team Canada to its fourth consecutive gold medal in the event. Nugent-Hopkins went first to the Oilers and six of his Hlinka tournament teammates also were taken in the first round.

Hradek: Weber's future, Jets outlook, Doughty

Tuesday, 08.09.2011 / 10:50 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

Greetings from Slovakia! It's not exactly Asbury Park. I'm here for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Under-18 tournament, the unofficial first stop on the road to the 2012 Entry Draft. Sadly, Russian-born phenom Nail Yakupov won't be participating because he's a few months too old. The Sarnia Sting sniper – can you say that three times fast? – is expected by many to go No. 1 next June.
Fortunately (for me), I'll get to catch Yakupov's act at the NHL's Research & Development camp later in the month and I'm definitely looking forward to that. There certainly are enough high-end prospects to keep me busy during this trip.
Before I head out to the rink (I'll be sending some video postcards throughout the week), I wanted to answer a few of your questions. If I didn't get to your inquiry here, I'll make every effort to respond on Twitter. You can follow me: @ejhradek_nhl.

Canucks seek own version of Recchi-Thornton

Friday, 08.05.2011 / 11:17 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

At one time or another, every North American pro sports league has been called a "copycat league." I've certainly heard the NHL called that enough times. And there's usually some truth to it. After all, there's only one team that gets to carry the Stanley Cup. Everybody else is left to try to emulate the formula of the previous winner.

On Thursday, in a small way, I felt Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis was looking to take a page out of the Bruins' title blueprint by inviting veterans Owen Nolan and Todd Fedoruk to the club's training camp. Gillis probably noticed the impact an old graybeard like Mark Recchi and hard-nosed fourth-liner like Shawn Thornton had on the champion Bruins.

Gillis certainly didn't have a been-there, done-that, North American-born vet like Recchi in his room to settle the Sedin twins as the pressure mounted, or a straight-ahead, no-nonsense, smash-you-into-next-week guy at the end of the bench like Thornton during the Final. 

EJ mailbag: Isles arena, Red Wings and Emery

Tuesday, 08.02.2011 / 9:48 AM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

EJ Hradek - Analyst

You guys and gals sent me so many good questions via Twitter last week, I thought I'd answer a few more of them in the second installment of my weekly mailbag. I did, however, decide to start with a question I received late Monday evening concerning the future of the Islanders.
If the Isles move when their lease expires in 2015, where do you see them going? Quebec? – @w_snyder_jr
While Monday night's Nassau County vote against a proposed plan to build a new arena is a clear setback for the franchise's long-term future on Long Island, I suspect we'll see some other plan surface in the near future. 
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