|Nash in the locker room (Japan 2007)|
From Theo Fleury to Sean Avery, the pest is a role some play to perfection.
Tyson Nash was one of those guys during his playing days with the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes.
The self-proclaimed “former 4th line pigeon” is now the Coyotes’ TV Color Analyst and he stopped by MayorsManor to help us preview tonight’s game with the Kings.
In the interview below we talk former King Eric Belanger, a recent trade, his apology to Fleury, being compared to Avery, why the Kings will win the Pacific Division…and yes, we play word association.
MM: What’s the biggest difference between what Dave Tippett is doing with the Coyotes this year compared to his first season in Phoenix last year?
TN: Obviously, with the players we have you have to coach a certain way. We don’t have the high talent that maybe the LA Kings have. So, he puts a system in place that fits for this type of team and that’s a defensive type of system. It’s no different than last year really. It’s a team that relies on their goaltender heavily and they play with a lot of structure, keep everything really tight and play that real suffocating style that seems to be very effective.
MM: Besides the 27 points, what has adding Eric Belanger meant to the team this season?
RN: He’s been a real nice addition. He’s a guy that plays real well in all three zones. He’s great on the face-offs, he can play the power play and he’s great on the penalty kill as well. He plays in all different type of situations. He’s a Dave Tippett type of player and adds a little bit of sandpaper to this roster. So, he’s been a real nice addition. He adds a little bit of offensive firepower too (because) he can play on your first line or your fourth line.
MM: How about the addition of the ageless wonder Ray Whitney?
TN: He’s just been amazing, absolutely amazing. He has 10 points in his last seven games and what he means to the team that was last in the power play last season – it’s still not unbelievable on the power play, but everything that we score on the power play revolves around Ray Whitney and Keith Yandle. But, Ray is just amazing. They plays he makes. He’s been real nice fit on that line with (Martin) Hanzal and (Radim) Vrbata. We’re luck to have him.
MM: Scottie Upshall was just traded. What do you think about the deal?
TN: Well, it’s always tough to give up offense at this time of the year, especially for a team that doesn’t score a lot of goals. But, this team is all about defense – with the loss of Ed Jovanovski, not sure when he’s going to be back and the status of him next year, with being unrestricted, if he’s coming back. So, this kinda shores up our back end and adds a little depth. Obviously you have to give up something good to get something good. That’s what happened, there’s no sugar coating it. It’s a huge loss for the Coyotes offensively. But, (Rusty) Klesla been a real nice addition and got his first goal (Tuesday) night and showed a lot or resilience in his first game in over a month.
MM: Paul Bissonnette leads a fairly public life through his tweets. What’s something we may not know about Biz Nasty?
TN: Well, I think everyone pretty much knows it all. He’s pretty vocal. the guy is a piece of work. I think it’s refreshing, that’s definitely one way to put it. I think hockey players are great guys, they have a lot of character, they’re funny and I think people really don’t get an opportunity to see that a lot of times. He’s putting it out there, sometimes a little bit too much. But, people are really obviously taking a liking to it. He has over 50,000 followers right now (on twitter). So, it’s great for our team. He’s putting people in the seats because of it too. They come to watch Bissonnette and see what he’s all about. It’s almost like they have a personal relationship with they guy. Growing up I would have loved to talk back and forth with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier if we had twitter back then.
MM: Well, it probably would have been Marty McSorley, not Gretzky or Messier.
TN: Esa Tikkanen, that was my boy. I loved him. Or Kenny Linseman. That would have been right up my alley.
[note: Bissonnette, Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth have a spirited debate here]
TN: We always talked about putting a team together. In fact, during the lockout we put the old (Kamloops) Blazers back together and played an NHL all-star team for a big charity game in Kamloops. We ended up losing by a goal. But, I’ll tell you what, we had so much talent. The guys I was able to play with, as a young kid, to learn from, was huge for me. It was very instrumental in where I went in my career and the lessons I learned. You’re like a little sponge at that age. To play with Darcy Tucker, Shane Doan, Darryl Sydor, Jarome Iginla, Scott Niedermayer and the list goes on – I was very fortunate.
MM: Speaking of lessons learned, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser was a guest on the MayorsManor podcast recently and he told a story about arranging for you to apologize to Theo Fleury for something you said during a game. Can you briefly talk about that and when was the last time you spoke to Theo?
TN: Well, that was probably the last time I spoke to him – on the ice, after Kerry made us go apologize to each other. It was a good life lesson. Being the player that I was was totally different from what I was like off the ice. It was always hard for me. But, I also recognized, and Joel Quenneville pounded it home to me, that in order to stay in the league this is how I had to play. I had to be one the most hated guys in the National Hockey League. And that was something I took pride in. I think every player wants a job and a role to do. So, at the end of the night after a game, you can very easily tell if you did your job or if you didn’t do your job. Sometimes you had to cross the line to get people’s attention. Obviously, I crossed the line too far there. It was a good wake-up call. I really appreciated it from Kerry. It was a good life lesson. There’s some things that just aren’t talked about and you have to have some respect at some level. No matter what the circumstances are. Again, it was a good life lesson for me.
MM: On that topic – of lines that should or shouldn’t be crossed – some have compared you to Sean Avery, or Avery to you. Is that an OK assessment in your mind?
TN: Yeah. I think so. Like I said, you do what you have to do. I think off the ice we’re very different in the way we live our lives and go about our business. But, on the ice, you do what you have to do. My role, whether I liked it or didn’t like it, it was something I had to do to stay in the league. I played a long time in the American Hockey League and that was it for me. I would do whatever it took to stay at the NHL level. So, you do what you have to.
MM: At the end of their careers some guys go over to Europe to play. You went to Japan of all places. What was that experience like?
TN: Amazing. It was unbelievable. You’re treated like a king over there. I was known as the ‘Japanese Assassin.’ They didn’t play a very physical brand of hockey, lets just say that. They’re very skilled, they’re very fast. Not much hockey sense. But the physical side of it was non-existent. So, when I came over there with my game, even the fans in our own building were just totally shocked. They didn’t know what to think of the way I played. Thank goodness I had a guy in my corner, Jamie McLennan, to explain to everybody what I was all about. I think at times they thought they were getting Rick Nash, instead of Tyson Nash.
Let’s play some word association with some guys you played with and/or against…
Keith Tkachuk – heavy
Doug Weight – skilled
Chris Pronger – mean
Derek Morris – great first pass
Sean Burke – big five hole
Curtis Joseph – veteran
Mike Ricci – nose
Brett Hull – slapper
Darcy Tucker – rat
MM: Last question – tell us why the Coyotes will win the Pacific Division and then why the Kings will win the division…
TN: The Coyotes will win the Pacific Division because of goaltending. The LA Kings will win the Pacific Division because of depth at scoring.
That’s it. Thanks to Tyson for spending some time on MayorsManor.
Next up, Kings-Coyotes tonight at 7:30pm PST.
Interview with Kerry Fraser – talking Theo Fleury / Tyson Nash incident