Prior to the pre-season double-header at Bridgestone Arena today, the Nashville Predators officially named their leadership team.
Roman Josi is now the seventh captain in the franchise’s history and is just the second Swiss-born captain in NHL history.
Since Mike Fisher retired during the summer, the Preds have been without a captain and there was much speculation over who would receive the honor of wearing the “C.” Furthermore, with alternate captain James Neal being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft, a second question was raised: who will wear the “A’s” in 2017-18?
In addition to Josi, Ryan Ellis has been named “Associate Captain” and Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm have been named “Assistant Captains.” Pekka Rinne, PK Subban and Nick Bonino have also been mentioned as being a part of the leadership group.
Quick math suggests that about 35% of the final 23-man roster is in the leadership group.
Josi, 27, was the overwhelming favorite by most of the Nashville media to get the honor each time the topic was discussed this summer. He’s been an alternate captain for the past two full seasons in Music City and has worn the “A” for his native Switzerland in numerous international tournaments. Not to mention he’s signed through June of 2020, has put up career numbers each season (sans last year when he missed games due to injury) and is a cornerstone of the franchise’s future.
Of course, there were other hints too. On opening night of the Tennessee Titans NFL season, the Preds players in town were asked to plant the sword on the 50-yard line. There were many there but the player who actually did the deed? Josi.
Another hint was what General Manager David Poile told David Boclair of The City Paper just days before Weber was traded to Montreal — even before Fisher was called upon for the role. Poile called his 2008 second round pick “a potential captain” in the League.
Ellis, who most Preds experts tabbed as the only other logical choice aside from Josi, is no stranger to leadership either. Not only did he captain his junior club, the Windsor Spitfires, to the OHL Conference Final in 2011 but lead Team Canada to silver at the World Juniors that same year. More recently, Ellis was named to the Nashville leadership group just this past February with Head Coach Peter Laviolette saying “we’re only allowed two ‘A’s.'” Then, after his brilliant, selfless play during the Cup Final run, many thought Ellis had a realistic shot to don the “C.”
An out-of-the-box option was Rinne. At first glance, he actually makes the most sense. He’s the longest-tenured player in Nashville, he was drafted by the Preds back in 2004 in a round so late that it doesn’t exist anymore and he cut his teeth with Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, for three years before finally earning a full-time NHL spot with the big club in 2008. He’s a two-time All-Star, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and owns all the major goaltending categories in the franchise’s record book. Off the ice, he’s instrumental in the community, having launched the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund benefiting Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt with former captain Shea Weber back in 2013.
Unfortunately, the NHL has long frowned upon goaltenders serving as team captains for various reasons so it would’ve been quite a statement by the team to name Rinne the man. So much so that, in the summer of 1948, the NHL instituted a rule to forbid goalies from wearing the “C” and, along with it, performing typical duties of a captain such as talking to the officials about penalty calls, lining up at center ice for ceremonial face-off’s before games, etc.
Subban has worn a letter before, having been an alternate captain in Montreal for two seasons prior to the trade that brought him to Nashville.
Johansen donned the “A” with the Portland Winterhawks, his junior team, back in 2010-11 but this will be his first letter since.
The blockbuster trade of Shea Weber for PK Subban two summers ago saw the captaincy go vacant for the first time in seven seasons. Veteran center Mike Fisher was then named captain and led the Preds to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. A couple months ago, Fisher decided to hang up his skates, once again leaving Nashville without a player wearing the “C.”
His countryman, Mark Streit, captained the New York Islanders for two seasons back in 2011-12 and 2012-13.