Hockey Chat with Darren Dreger

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs heading into the third round, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger was online answering your questions on the semifinal series and other hockey matters on Friday.

Watch Molson That's Hockey on Friday at 7pm et/4pm pt for a full preview of the final four!

Dreger breaks news, files stories that take viewers inside the game, and is part of panel discussions and debates on TSN. He appears on the NHL on TSN, SportsCentre and Molson That's Hockey, and contributes regularly to TSN.ca.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Moderator: Welcome, and thank you for joining us today for this question and answer session with Hockey Insider Darren Dreger. He will answering your questions and will remain online roughly until 4pm et/1pm pt.

Darren Dreger: First of all, thanks to everyone for joining us today. I blew off a round of golf with Darren Pang to hang out with you guys, so have at it! And please, no questions about McGuire's chances of getting the GM's job in Minnesota. I know he's on the short-short list and is eager to make the 'monster' move if given the opportunity.

From Ian in Ottawa: Anaheim's James Wisniewski and Scott Niedermayer did an amazing job shutting down Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. Do you think Chicago's defence will be able to hold him back any more? I believe he is too good a player for this to continue, especially against a less experienced Chicago defence. Thank you.

Darren Dreger: Ian, the Ducks defence was outstanding, no question. Game 7 hero Dan Cleary acknowledged that in a radio interview I did with him this morning. He also noted the Blackhawks 'D' while less experienced might be every bit as stifling. I really thought Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were going to wear down in the Vancouver series and then they didn't. However, I agree with you on Datsyuk, he's a world class goal scorer and he's going to find a way. The scary thing is, the Red Wings didn't need his goals to advance.

Christophe from Joliette, QC: Hi Darren, who's your playoff MVP after the first two rounds?

Darren Dreger: Christophe, we're already in to the Conn Smythe predictions, eh? Well, going into the Conference finals I'm leaning towards Cam Ward. Crosby has been spectacular and Eric Staal has shown us how good he can be, but Ward has been remarkably consistent from game 62 of the regular season, through two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Paul Maurice has referred to Ward as the backbone of the Hurricanes on more than one occasion in this postseason. If he leads the Canes into the finals…he's my Conn Smythe pick.

Spencer Reid in Winnipeg: Darren, do you think that Roberto Luongo will leave Vancouver or will he re-sign with them?

Darren Dreger: Hi Spencer, I do think re-signs. Aside from being a quality guy, the motive for making him captain in Vancouver was to deepen Luongo's investment in both the organization and the community. I think the whole goalie–captain move was a bad idea, but there's not questioning Luongo bought in and very much feels like he has unfinished business in Vancouver. The question is, can the Canucks afford to pay him 6+ million per season long term with the salary cap dropping next season and expected to dive the year after? I think he stays and agrees to a long, long ,long term contract to lower the cap hit.

Matt Winn in Beloeil, QC: Hey Darren, with Simeon Varlamov's success in the playoffs, do you think its a possibility that they will buy out Jose Theodore's contract or possibly try to trade him during the offseason?

Darren Dreger: Hey Matt, sure it's a possibility, but the Capitals will tell you Theodore was decent throughout the regular season before getting bumped by Var-LA-mov. I think Simeon showed Caps management he's ready to be a starting goaltender in the NHL and since there isn't likely to be a trade market for Theodore and the $4.5 million he has remaining on the final year of his contract, why not try and create a competitive environment in training camp and see where it leads you?

Andy from Toronto: Do you think that Pittsburgh with the experience from last year's Stanley Cup finals can win the cup if they meet Detroit again in the finals?

Darren Dreger: Andy, I see a different Penguins team then last years, so yes, I do think Pittsburgh could beat the mighty Red Wings in a rematch. I know one player can't will a team to a championship, but he can if everyone buys in and we're starting to see that scenario take shape with Crosby and company. If Fleury can match Cam Ward save for save, the Penguins will beat Carolina. If he can't...they won't. But, don't for a second underestimate the experience this young pens team gleaned from last years run.

Doug in NJ: The media will play up the Staal vs. Staal match-up with at least one obligatory interview, but what do you see as the key match ups in the Pens-Canes series? The Pens should have learned by now that you can't take the Canes lightly, and experience can trump pure skill the deeper you go into the playoffs!

Darren Dreger: Doug, Staal versus Staal is a nice, warm and fuzzy story (although I can't imagine any of the backyard rink battles Eric and Jordan have had in the past were too warm and fuzzy). The brothers will compete as hard as they know how to, that's a given, and Crosby will provide his share of heroics, that's a given, so for me it's waiting to see how bad Malkin wants it. If he turns it up, I'm not sure Carolina will be able to contain the waves of scoring chances Pittsburgh will throw at them. The top two lines will wear the Canes down if they are firing on all cylinders, leaving the depth to chip in, as they did in the first two rounds. Aside from that, the biggest matchup will be between the pipes. Ward vs Fleury and this is where the Penguins may have an issue. Fleury has been very good, but Ward has been awesome and has the experience to lead him through the tough spots that will surely arise as this series unfolds.

Jeremy from Calgary: Do you think Anaheim has taken too much out of the tanks from Detroit for them to be able to keep up with the potent speed and offence of the young Hawks?

Darren Dreger: Hi Jeremy. Not at all. I think the Ducks prepared the Red Wings for what lies ahead. The Anaheim-Detroit series was a hard fought, seven game, flip a coin affair, but in the end the defending champs calmly found a way to get it done and didn't have to rely on their high octane to do it. We haven't come close to seeing what Datsyuk, Zetterberg or Hossa are capable of, and Holmstrom isn't at the top of his game either. If Detroit's heavy-lifters turn it up in the Conference final, the young Blackhawks may have more than they can handle.

Richard in Toronto: Hey Darren, do you know what the situation is with the Tony Granato and the Colorado Avalanche? Is he on the hot seat and could Patrick Roy take over next season?

Darren Dreger: Richard, I don't believe anyone knows what's going on in Colorado yet, including Pierre Lacroix. Some in the hockey community believe Patrick Roy will be coaching in Colorado next season, but as of right now, that's an uncertainty. Based on the season the Avalanche just had, I would say everyone in the organization is on the hot-seat, and yes, that includes Granato.

Jeff from Montreal: Hi Darren, with the Habs' offseason expected to be a summer of change, I was wondering who the front runner is right now for the coaching position?

Darren Dreger: Jeff, another good question and I can offer only speculation. There are good coaches available, Tom Renney, Peter Laviolette, Craig MacTavish, and Marc Crawford come to mind. Don Lever and Kirk Muller might be ready for the challenge. But, there's something about the potential return of Jacques Lemaire to Montreal that seems to fit. However, should we be so sure Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey will be back? I believe he will be, unless he has a change of heart, or ownership sells before the start of next season. Regardless, with 10 UFA's, no coach and more questions than answers, there most certainly will be many new faces in Montreal next season.

Cory in Ajax, ON: If the Leafs were to REALISTICALLY move up in the draft, how do you see the situation playing out, with what team, and what players/picks moved? I love your insight and keep up the great work.

Darren Dreger: Hi Cory. Speaking of the Leafs, does former Leaf goalie Glenn Healy still own half the water-front near Ajax? Anyway, I do believe Toronto and Tampa Bay will work to make something happen. Brian Burke squashed rumors this week alleging deals between the two sides are currently being cooked up involving Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle, however I think if the Lightning were to lower their expectation and exclude Schenn from the equation, then anything is possible. However, Toronto has made it clear they believe they will get a good player 7th overall and won't disrupt their building plan to move up.

Randy in Hamilton: Darren - What is the feeling around the league regarding the Balsillie/Phoenix story?

Darren Dreger: Hmmmm. Well, there's a bit of everything floating around the league. Some team owners and senior executives don't like Balsillie's approach and worry about the future if precedent is established and he gets his way. There's empathy for Hamilton hockey fans like you Randy, who have had your hopes tugged on a few too many times. But, there's also disconnect that may split the country based on Balsillie's campaign. A 7th team in Canada would be a wonderful thing for Canadian NHL fans, however what western Canadian hockey fans are telling me is this fight has little to do with another NHL team in Canada and everything to do with Jim Balsillie's desire to own an NHL team in Southern Ontario.

Scott in Halifax: Hi Darren, with the Bruins losing out last night, it will be a tough offseason for Charelli. With Kessel and Krejci needing to be signed, and Savard and Lucic the following year, do you have any idea what the game plan might be and how much these players will be commanding? Any chance of any of them signing at a discount? Thanks.

Darren Dreger: Geez, the carcass is still warm and we're already picking at it! :) Kessel and Krejci are priority and both will get dealt with as such, but to your point, sooner or later Chiarelli and the Bruins are going to face a hard cap crunch. It will be good players will have to be moved, but predicting who, at this point is impossible. Chiarelli is a highly regarded, cap savvy GM, but he's not a magician. If players want to stay in Boston, some of them are going to have to take a discount. Whether they like it or not, a drop in the salary cap will soon make that obvious.

Clark from Kingston: Hey Darren, what is the latest on Jonas Gustavsson, is there any word on which team he is leaning towards signing with?

Darren Dreger: Hi Clark, the Jonas Gustavsson story is a tough one. As you're probably aware, Gustavasson had to leave the World Hockey Championship to re-join his mother, who is ill and battling for her life. Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas and a number of other NHL teams are very eager to wine and dine Gustavsson when he's ready to come over in a courtship similar to what we witnessed with fellow Swede Fabian Brunnstrom. I know the Maple Leafs remain very interested and believe Gustavsson is ready to make the leap to the NHL and could be Vesa Toskala's backup, if things work out in their favor.

Matt in Chatham, ON: The Ovechkin/Crosby debate has once again emerged in full force. With many pointing to Crosby being the difference maker in the series. What is your thoughts on whom you believe to be the better NHL player today? And if Crosby and Ovechkin switched teams - in your opinion, would the results have been different?

Darren Dreger: Today, Sidney Crosby is the better player. Head to head he proved that on one of the grandest stages the NHL has to offer, game 7. Of course, supporting casts are what championship teams are made of, but the Capitals, up front had a significant amount of fire power, so for me it came down to the simplest ingredient; who wanted it more. I've said on air, this series, this playoff run is personal for Crosby. He wants to show the world last year wasn't a fluke and this Penguins team can be a Stanley Cup Champion. The bonus, or added incentive for Crosby was the fact he had to upstage Ovechkin along the way and he did. Today, Crosby is better.

Nathan from Yorkton, SK: In the Detroit-Anaheim game last night, Cleary's winner should have been disallowed! He pushed Hiller's pad, knocking the puck in. According to the rule book pushing the goalie into the net to score would result in a disallowed goal. What are your thoughts? I know the TSN panel agreed to allow it, but in my opinion it was not legal!

Darren Dreger: Nathan...checking in from God's country. Nice. Good to hear from you. Well, all I can tell you is Bob McKenzie's hip pocket has the worn outline of the NHL rule book. It's Bob's bible. And if memory serves me, he quoted directly from said rule book to ensure there was no misunderstanding of why the goal was allowed. The bigger issue may come in the suggestion the puck was under Hiller's pad, even for a split second and should have been whistled dead. I believe it was a good goal.

Brett in Ottawa: What is the condition of Rod Brind'Amour after getting hit by the puck on the bench last night?

Darren Dreger: We're not sure yet. I spoke to Paul Maurice this afternoon and he hadn't received word, but did say he believed his veteran forward sustained a pretty nasty cut.

Chris in Ottawa: Hey Darren, I am predicting a final the same as last year between the Penguins and Wings. But of either Chicago or Carolina, which team do you believe has the better chance of pulling an upset?

Darren Dreger: Chicago beating the defending Stanley Cup champs qualifies as a bigger upset, no question. Would I be shocked if the Hawks pull it off? No. Keep in mind Khabibulin was better than Kiprusoff in round one and he was better than Luongo in round two. He isn't going to cave in the Conference finals and the young stars in Chicago evidently don't know how to quit. It may take 7 games, but I do believe Chicago has the horses to knock off the Champs.

Jason in Calgary: Hi Darren, do you think the Canucks will be able to re-sign the Sedin twins and if not, where could they end up?

Darren Dreger: Jason, anything is possible with a creative mind and sharp pencil. The Sedin's, according to their agent are hoping to double their salary to a whopping $7 million per season per twin. Now, that's an open market expectation. However, I doubt the Canucks will get much more of a discount than $6.5 million per. Mike Gillis, assuming he wants to re-sign the Sedin's may have to steal a page from Ken Holland's play book and construct a mammoth offer of 10-12 years to satisfy the twins financially, while lowering the cap hit with a number that drops dramatically in the final few years of the deal.

Shawn in London, ON: You really gave up a golf game for this? How many shots would you have had to give Pang?

Darren Dreger: Don’t bust my chops, Shawn, I’m a slave to the craft. :) Yeah, right...Truth is, Panger is an awesome golfer. Hits the ball a ton and has a fantastic short game, so he's the one dolling out the shots when we play. Of course, the man lives in Arizona, is a member at some swanky Gretzky-friendly country club and has a year round synthetic putting green in his backyard.

Darren Dreger: Folks, I have to fly. I'm on That's Hockey tonight and I'm also on coffee detail, as per Gino Reda's rotation schedule prominently displayed in the Reda Lounge at TSN. I'm sure I'll be back again at some point in the Conference finals, so keep the emails coming! Cheers - Darren.

Moderator: This concludes our question and answer session with TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger. Thanks to everyone for taking part!

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