Sat Sports Splash Talks Preds W/Greg Moshopoulos
WJZM 1400 KY Saturday Sports Splash Host Justin Swallows featured head writer of Prednecknation @GreekGoalie35 on his radio show to talk all things Preds & preview tonight Vs Oilers-
Justin is in BoldGreg Moshopoulos in Italyics
I’d like for you to open up here with a little bit of background information on yourself. What did your journey to becoming one of this area’s top NHL columnists look like? And what ‘s the story behind what you guys have created with PredneckNation.com?
Honestly it was simply a matter of being at the right place, at the right time. Our captain Crazy Charlie Saunier needed some help with the site after breaking his back and I offered my services and I had some experience writing about the New York Rangers. Our approach on prednecknation is that you can go to any number of sites to get pre-game and post-game recaps. That’s not what we we’re all about. we’re not an affiliate of the team. What that means is that we can have unfiltered views and express our opinions freely without worrying about having sponsorship or team access taken away. It gives our readers and listeners real water-cooler talk without coming off as a shill for the club.
The Preds officially opened the regular season on Thursday night with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes… What does the report card look like from the opener? What did you see that you really liked, and what did you noticed that may have concerned you a little bit?
The team couldn’t have looked any better to start out. If it wasn’t for Cam Ward, they’re probably up 3 or 4 after the first. They pressured Carolina into turnovers and had a solid forecheck that led to scoring chances. There’s no secret that one of their biggest issues last season was their ability to hold on to leads. It was a problem late in the regular season and obviously in the playoffs. For this team to take the next step, they need to have that killer instinct and put teams away. After Arviddson’s goal, the Preds led 13-3 in shots on goal, and were outshot 23-12 the rest of the game. That can’t happen if they expect to be a true contender.
Let’s talk about the breath of fresh air that head coach Peter Laviolette has been for this franchise. As a fan I’m relatively new to the sport of hockey, but it’s evident that this team’s style has become so much more aggressive under his tutelage. Compare the way coach Laviolette’s style and overall philosophy to that of former head coach Barry Trotz? How has this team gone from being relatively boring to one that I can’t stop watching?
What’s interesting about Laviolette is that if you know your stuff, you could see his hiring coming. He was fired THREE games into the 2013-14 season with Philadelphia. If you translate that into say… football terms.. .that’s a kin to firing your head coach before halftime of your first game. Simply unheard of. By December of that same season, you can see the writing on the wall that Trotz wasn’t going to survive past that season. And look, Barry Trotz had a great run here in Music City, but it was time to go in another direction. I called it back then that Laviolette would be next in line, given his history with GM David Poile and the US National Team. Not to mention this team needed a shot in the arm, a style that completely contrasts with what we’ve been used to since the team’s inception.
As we talk about style of play I want to mention the overall physicality of this team. I feel like in the past especially in the post-season the preds have gotten outmuscled a little bit. That’s another aspect that seems to be changing. To what extent have you noticed a transition out of that seemingly finesse style? And what are the factors that play into becoming a more physical hockey club?
I think you can contribute the physicality as a combination of coaching and personnel. For years, the Preds were known as the scrappy, pesky group that would defend their own zone and look to counter attack, but they were undersized and would often get pushed around, particularly, like you said, in the playoffs against bigger teams like San Jose and Detroit. When you play an up-tempo, aggressive style that Laviolette preaches, and have the size and physicality to back it up, you become a very dangerous team that nobody wants to play on a nightly basis. They don’t sit back on their heels often because they’re always looking to attack. I don’t think it’s any surprise that so many players had career years under the first year coach.
Continuity is something that’s becoming a real rarity in professional sports. With constant roster turnover it’s sometimes hard for fans to stay current with their favorite teams roster, but that is far from the case with this version of the Nashville Predators as they bring almost all of their key contributors back from last season. What are the significant roster changes that have been made by the preds coming into this season? And how would you grade the Nashville front office on their overall ability in terms of being able to buy low and sell high?
It’s really a fantastic job by poile to keep this much of the roster in tact, especially considering only 5 forwards on the main roster had contracts heading into this season. In fact, among the top 9 forwards on the current roster, only Neal and Forsberg were on the team and signed. So what appeared to be a major question mark, has become the foundation of a stable team. Only a few newcomers to the team this season, mostly with the intention of strengthening the team’s third line, which was woefully ineffective last year. Poile brought in Cody Hodgson, who was bought out by the Sabres after an awful season. He was signed to what we like to call a “poile special’, one year, 1.05M deal, the same deal he signed mike ribeiro to a year ago. The hope is that Hodgson can return to his 20-goal form and have the motivation to do so on a team that isn’t tanking like Buffalo was. Steve moses was brought in after leading the KHL in scoring to another low-risk high reward contract. Now he’s starting the year in Milwaukee to get accustomed to the smaller ice surface here in North America, but he’ll be with the big club soon enough. Barret Jackman is a 13-yr veteran brought over from St Louis to be a stabilizing, physical presence on the blue line and to allow young Seth Jones to roam free a bit and continue improving his offensive prowess.
I think it’s interesting in the NHL how guys seem to constantly make giant leaps from ambiguity to greatness. Last season Filip Forseburg made that jump for the Preds and I think at this point he’s arguably the teams most consistent contributor. What does the average path of talent progression look like in this league? And in your mind who are the Predators that have the potential to make that leap from solid to special this season?
As opposed to the NFL,you’re typically not going to see many guys get drafted and debut on the team the same year. There’s always a few exceptions at the very top of the draft as we’ve seen most recently in Nashville with seth jones. But even Forsberg spent a year in Milwaukee to hone his skills before having his coming out party a year ago. I know it’s only one game, but I think seth jones is showing he’s taking that next step. He was heralded as the best Dman prospect since Chris Pronger, and when you consider the blue line talent across the league, that’s incredibly high praise. He’s heading into a contract year and I suspect that he’ll be extra motivated to get that first mega-contract as opposed to getting a bridge deal for less term and less money.
Coming into this season we’ve heard a lot about the mixture of young talent and veteran leadership within the Preds lineup. We just talked about some of the young guys realizing their full potential… Who are some of the older veterans that you feel still have something left in the tank?
well the biggest question going into the season was if the preds have enough at center to compete with the chicago’s and anaheim’s of the western conference. Both ribeiro and fisher are 35 so age isn’t on their side. However, I don’t think anybody expected fisher to be as productive as he was last year coming off a torn Achilles. He instantly gave the team a boost upon his return, particularly on a PP that was atrocious while he was out. Many argue we still don’t have a true #1 center, but look, Ribeiro’s numbers were comparable to that of Jason Spezza, Anze Kopitar and even Jonathan Toews. Ribeiro just has great hockey sense and seems to always find the open guy and when you have linemates like Forsberg and Neal, he becomes a dangerous person on the ice.
Speaking of veterans… Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne has proven over time that on any given night he can be the best net minder in the league. However, Pekka’s going to turn 33 this season, and he’s had some major health issues. How well will he be able to hold up throughout the grind of the season? And do you trust back-up goalie Carter Hutton well enough to give Rinne a significant number of nights off?
well as I wrote about in my season preview, I would ideally prefer Rinne maxes out at 60 games. I don’t think that’ll happen, but that’s my belief. Like you said, he turns 33 next month and has been plagued by injury the last 3 years. Although last year’s injury only kept him out a few weeks, there’s no arguing that he wasn’t quite himself after that. That being said, do I trust Carter Hutton for 20+ games? Mmm.. not if we’re looking to win a division. I can picture rinne probably winning 40 of 60 starts, and if hutton can win half of his starts, we have a chance, but that’s asking a lot from him. The preds have 12 back to back scenarios this year, so Hutton may only get a handful of starts outside of those.
Tonight at 6 the preds square off against the Edmonton Oilers. Break down that matchup for us. What are the matchups with tonight’s game that we should have our eyes on? And what do the Oilers do well that should have preds fans concerned?
it’s no secret that Edmonton has had a young, talented crop of forwards for a few years now. But when you have a team that’s missed the playoffs 9 straight years, you’re bound to land some top-end forwards, guys like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and obviously the latest new-comer, the much heralded Connor McDavid. This team is still undergoing quite a bit of change, now being coached by former Sharks bench boss Todd McCLellan under new GM, Peter Chiarelli, formerly of the Boston Bruins. They added Andrej Sekera on the blue line and traded for former Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot. Talbot impressed many around the league with his play after filling in for injured Henrik LUndqvist in new York but time will tell if he’s ready to be a full time starter. McClellan is big preacher of puck possession from his days in Detroit, so look for them to play aggressively, much like the PReds. But the talent disparity on the blue line should give the PReds another win over Edmonton, a team they swept last year.
Your claim to fame is poignant prognosticating. You’ve become accurately known as Moshtrodomous due to your ability to predict the future… Pull out that crystal ball here, and let Preds fans know what they have to look forward to. How do you see this season playing out for the guys in gold?
I think that anything short of the western conference final is a failure. I expect the preds to be in the conversation for central division champs along with st Louis, ultimately I think the preds will raise their first banner next fall with that division crown. Aside from dallas, nobody else in the division improved their roster from a season ago. Now, do the preds raise another banner? I think that will come down to if they remain healthy, but there’s no reason to believe they won’t be challenging for the Cup.
Our way of thanking you for taking time out of your busy schedule for our show is to provide a platform for all of the great work you’re doing. So, as our time together comes to an end… Let Nashville Predators fans know why PredneckNation.com should be one of the sites they visit on an hourly basis…
Listen, like I mentioned before, you can get stats from anyone. What differentiates us from the rest is that we aren’t afraid to make our opinions known. Real talk if you will. Another reason is simple… we just know our stuff. Charlie and I have been watching or playing hockey for 30 years each and have seen the game develop and progress.. You can never replace experience when it comes to insight and analysis of hockey. Not with fancy analytical numbers, not generic talking heads, and especially not with former minor league baseball players as play by play announcers. We always come strong and we cater to the fans that want more from their preds coverage. We have a full one-hour pregame show for every weekday home game on WNSR 560am and 95.9fm because we have a passion for hockey and choose to talk about it. So, you can follow us at prednecknation and at prednecknation.com. our captain, Charlie Saunier at Crazycharlie 615. Our new writer Brandon Felder, formerly of The Predatorial, a fantastic new addition, you can follow him at Brandon underscore felder . and myself… At Greekgoalie35 for all of your Preds and NHL news.