Today's entry makes for an interesting debate - we have the first captain to lead the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup playoffs, against perhaps the most popular player in team history, who recently left town to join the Preds' arch-rival in Detroit...
Part of the Preds' haul in the 1998 Expansion Draft, Johnson put up his best offensive totals during that 1998-1999 run, hitting the 50-point mark for the only time in his career as a speedy, defensively responsible center who exemplified the spirit of "Predators hockey". In the fall of 2002, he took over the captaincy from Tom Fitzgerald and led the team to three consecutive seasons of franchise growth, which included the Predators' first-ever playoff berth in 2004. Coming out of the Great Lockout of 2004-2005, he then led Nashville to its first 100-point season and another playoff spot during the 2005-2006 season.
A heart condition caused him to retire from playing in September 2006, however, as he was about to suit up for Detroit, the team with which he started his career. With the Predators, he still ranks 5th in Games Played (502), 9th in Assists (145), 8th in Total Points (238) and still leads the franchise with 11 Shorthanded Goals, one ahead of David Legwand.
If you're not familiar with Tootoo's story, I'd wonder what the heck you're doing here. The first player of Inuit descent to play in the National Hockey League, Tootoo made the transition from junior hockey to the NHL back in 2003 and endeared himself to fans with his energetic physical game and willingness to scrap with anybody. The sound of Tootoo Whistles whenever he hit the ice served as just one sign of his popularity among the fan base.
After wearing #55 and #14 early on, he switched to #22 for the 2006-2007 season. Over the last few years, he started to contribute more offensively and hinted at the potential to make an impact in a larger role, but injuries and inconsistency dogged his play. Following a stint in the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse program in 2010-2011, he put together his best offensive totals last season with six goals and 24 assists, before leaving as a free agent to join the Red Wings.
He leaves Nashville ranked 7th in Games Played (486), and 1st in Penalty Minutes (725).