Former Nashville Predators captain Mike Fisher said it best in his retirement letter: “Endings are always tough, but I believe when something ends, there are new beginnings, new opportunities and new things to be excited for, too.” Granted, he was probably talking about all of the things he will be doing now that he has retired, but it is also a new beginning for the Predators with new opportunities for greatness. With coming so close to bringing home the Stanley Cup last season, the fire to win will most definitely be within the organization and the players to finish what they started with their stellar Stanley Cup run, coming all the way from being the lowest seeded team to being runner-up. But, a big part of that was the leadership, leadership that included Fisher. After announcing his retirement on August 3, Fisher opened the door to new opportunities and a new chapter to look forward to in the Predators organization- a new captain.
It’s no secret Fisher had amazing leadership skills, bringing the team to their first Stanley Cup final in the 19-year history of the franchise, but there are five candidates who have solid arguments for why they should be donning the “C” on their jersey for opening night at Bridgestone Arena.
While only 23-years-old, Forsberg has a strong argument for being the captain, or at least an alternate captain this coming season. Over his five seasons with the Predators, the Swedish left-wing has had three seasons of scoring 25 or more goals, with 90 goals total over the past three years. His consistency is undeniable and it’s fair to say he’ll only get better with the coming years. But, to add to that, thehockeynews.com contributor Jared Clinton says Forsberg has been able to “flash two-way ability and prove his worth in every scenario. He’s a lead-by-example type.” That was a quality people always admired about Fisher- he led by example. Sure, he’s not the most experienced NHL player being he is very young, but players like Connor McDavid and Gabriel Landeskog wore the captain’s letter on their jerseys at just 19 years old, so for a 23-year-old to be named captain wouldn’t be unheard of. While he is a dynamic offensive threat with a lot of talent, Gary Haggis of isportsweb.com explores a few potential issues with naming Forsberg captain. Being a lead by example type means that Forsberg “doesn’t seem to be very outgoing on the ice. He stays quiet, and does what he needs to do to win.” Sure, keeping your head down and doing your job is great and it gets the wins, but being vocal and getting the team going is a skill that’s necessary for a successful captain. Given a few more years and some more experience, Forsberg could make a great future captain.
The 26-year-old Ontario native has been with the Predators since the 2009 draft where the Predators picked him in the first round. Since the 2011 season, his first in Predator gold, Ellis has racked up 46 goals and 95 assists for 141 points. Not bad for a defenseman. But, Ellis’ offensive production isn’t the only reason why he was honored with being named an alternate captain in February or why he is definitely in the running to take over for Fisher. According to Haggis, Ellis has “one of the best personalities on the ice a coach could ask for. He is constantly getting his teammates fired up with his reactions and his tough play. He sticks up for his teammates.” Ellis is the type of guy that his teammates can count on regardless of the situation. If the Predators are losing he can get them fired up and roaring to go and if they’re winning he’ll praise his teammates while making sure they don’t take their foot off of the gas pedal. He’s a guy who you can always count on to put it all out there for his team. According to bardown.com he is “fearless and wears his heart on his sleeve game after game.” Even head coach Peter Laviolette said Ellis has “emerged as somebody that we count on not only for his play, but for his leadership.” The kind of dedication and pure love Ellis has for his team and city as well as his solid offensive and defensive abilities all make for a winning combination for a captain.
While Vancouver-born Johansen has only been with the Predators since the 2015 trade that had him and Seth Jones swapping teams, he has quickly become the team’s number one center, locking down another eight years and$64 million with the Predators as of July 28, the longest and biggest offer the team has ever given out. According to Adam Vignan of Tennessean.com, that kind of commitment means “Johansen will be Nashville’s prized center for the foreseeable future and an indispensable member of the roster.” Johansen is a consistent 60-point scorer, usually getting the most ice time, and even with his injury during the 2017 playoffs, he still managed to put up 13 points in 14 games. According to Adam Gretz of fanragsports.com, he is an on-ice threat because he is a “possession-driving, two-way center” who has done nothing but impress management, coaching, and the fans. But, the two main reasons for potentially not choosing him as a captain are as follows: he apparently had some serious attitude problems when playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets which is a quality a captain should not possess, he should be able to rally a team, not give them the cold shoulder or act arrogant. The other reason is that Johansen is very new to the Predators organization; this past season was his first full with the team and there are plenty of qualified guys who have been with the Predators for much longer than Johansen. The ranks of alternate captain may be more suitable for now.
While Subban is just finished up his first season with the Predators after the blockbuster Shea Weber trade that had him going down south instead of returning to the Montreal Canadiens, the argument for Subban is a simple one. It’s no secret that, like Ellis, Subban has a big personality and can get his team fired up is any situation. It’s also no secret that he is heavily involved in the community and is “one of the faces of the NHL” and, according to Haggis, if Nashville wants to grow their fan base and their name in the hockey world, “then Subban will be the new captain of the team.” Bardown.com staff have said the list of qualities he’d provide as captain include, but are not limited to him being “dynamic, outgoing, and lovable”
According to Steve Cook of predlines.com, Subban is the type of guy you’d want representing your team “on and off the ice.” That is where the second leg of his argument comes in because there’s no denying he’s a very talented player. Bardown.com staff described his play as “with an unparalleled energy on the backend that the NHL has rarely seen before, and is undeniably one of its fiercest competitors.” It’s high praise and it is well deserved; he works very hard and always has, but he always manages to keep it light. Off the ice he has already made strong connections in Nashville’s community with constant charity work and it has made him one of the most loved athletes in the sport and arguably the most marketable player Nashville has. He’s just a stand-up guy. If nothing else, Subban deserves to wear an “A” this season and, maybe in the future to take over for the man he was traded for.
Finally, we have come to the man most people consider to be a shoe-in for the next captain of the Nashville Predators- 27-year-old, Swiss-born Roman Josi. When Weber left last season, it was argued Josi should have been awarded the captaincy but was beat out by Fisher. Now that the spot is vacant once again, it only makes sense that he would be given the leadership role.
As Jared Clinton of thehockeynews.com put it, “Over the past several seasons, Josi has gone from relative unknown to one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, and this past season’s run to the Stanley Cup final was his coming out party for the entire hockey world to see.” This “coming out party” included six goals and 14 points in 22 playoff games for the defenseman, while marking almost 26 minutes of ice time per game. There is no arguing he’s a talented defender, one who is a product solely of the Predators system.
While he was overshadowed by Weber during his time with the Predators, he did not go totally unnoticed, finishing one place behind his captain for the Norris Trophy in the 2014-2015 season, he reclaimed that fifth place spot the following a repeat stellar season in 2015-2016. He was also awarded the honor of alternate captain for the whole of the 2016-2017 season and, with the loss of James Neal in the expansion draft, Josi is officially the team’s longest-tenured alternate captain and one of the most capable of the next step in a leadership role.
Talent aside, Josi has the organization behind him because he has been with them from the very beginning. After being drafted by the Predators in 2008, he worked his way up through the minor league and claimed a spot on the 2011 roster. He has been in Nashville for all of their progression, beginning with not making the playoffs in 2012, through post-season defeats in early rounds, all the way to this year’s Stanley Cup final. He has hockey skills and sense, but he also has the drive and passion to push Nashville to a win. Having to watch his team struggle season after season and finally get so close and then losing is going to light a fire inside of him that he will pass onto his team.
Josi also possesses two of the most important attributes a captain can have: firstly, he is loved by his teammates and fans and also has their respect. Secondly, much like Fisher, he knows when to keep quiet and play his game. One of the issues with Subban is that he is known for having a big mouth and causing a bit of unnecessary drama, harmless as it may be. With Josi, it’s never an issue because, as Mike Wade of predlines.com explained, “Be it a warm up skate or a playoff game, Roman Josi is a quiet, diligent leader who will inspire teammates to focus on the task at hand and stay away from needless distractions.” He is a guy the team can always count on.
The trust the organization has in him is plain to see- he has led in ice-time for all of the past three seasons, he’s an alternate captain, and he is loved by his team and the fans.
With three years left on his current contract and being young enough to sign another big deal, he’s a captain they would have around for years to come. With the predator’s defense being its “most identifiable characteristic” according to Adam Vingan of Tennessean.com, the list of reasons to give Josi the captaincy keeps adding up.
While all five of these men have solid arguments for a captaincy, it seems Josi is meant for the job. He has put in the hard work and the time with the organization and has been there through thick and thin. He has been the guy they can count on day in and day out and has proven he can lead this team. Here’s to Josi and the rest of the Predators and hoping whoever is named captain can bring them back to the Stanley Cup final and bring home the prize this time.