With Vitali Yachmenev the only Nashville Predator to wear #43 in the team's history, our jersey number series moves to #44, where we meet up with two European defensemen who broke into the NHL with Nashville. One carved out his spot as one of the team's all-time greats, while the second has bounced around from team to team over the last few seasons.
Kimmo Timonen is perhaps the first great Nashville Predators defenseman, a 10th-round draft pick by Los Angeles in 1993 who the Preds picked up in trade five years later. Over the next eight seasons, he established himself as a real game-changer for a team that was gradually building its way towards the playoffs.
In the 2006-2007 season, Kimmo took over as team captain, and led the Predators to their most successful regular season, finishing just 3 points shy of winning the Presidents Trophy for the best record in the league. On a personal level, he tied his career high in goals (13) and set a new mark for assists (42), although of course he left Nashville that spring in the Great Fire Sale in which David Poile was forced to dump salary by outgoing owner Craig Leipold. He, along with Scott Hartnell, was traded to Philadelphia for the 1st-round draft pick that became Jonathon Blum.
Timonen still holds the Predators' career scoring mark for defenseman (and stands 3rd overall behind David Legwand and Martin Erat) with 301 points (79 goals, 222 assists) in 573 games for Nashville, and was named to the All-Star Game three times representing the Preds. Oh, and he also scored on the first penalty shot attempt in franchise history, too (November 18, 1999).
This Teutonic terror was drafted in the 3rd round by Nashville in 2003, and broke into the NHL in January 2009. He actually only wore the #44 for two scoreless games that season, spending the rest of the time with Milwaukee. When he came back the next fall, he switched to #52 for his final two years as a Predator before being traded to Florida. Since then he had a short stint in Vancouver, and has seemingly found a spot in Buffalo, where he's heading into his 3rd season as a Sabre.
He must not have held too much of a grudge against the Predators for cutting him loose, as I remember seeing him entering Bridgestone Arena as a fan during the 2011 playoffs, he was right in front of my wife & I as we worked our way through the Will Call section.
So which of these #44's gets your vote as the greatest in Nashville Predators history? Let the debate commence...