It came as no surprise when Roman Josi was named the newest captain of the Nashville Predators. After all, he was the logical successor upon Mike Fisher’s retirement (the first time, as it turned out) and it seemed that big things were ahead for the then 27-year-old. (Happy belated birthday, Captain!)
One of the the things we knew heading into the season was that the absence of Ryan Ellis for a good chunk of the season was going to shake up the pairings for a while.
Josi began with a couple of games alongside Matt Irwin and had a cup of coffee with Samuel Girard, but Mattias Ekholm ascended to be the captain’s right-hand man for the first half of the season.
Once Ellis returned, order was restored to the universe — or at least the top two pairings.
Josi registered 53 points (14 goals, 39 assists) in 75 regular-season games, including equaling his career-high by scoring seven power-play goals for the second consecutive season.
He also took a career-high 253 shots on goal and finished with 11 multi-point games in the regular season.
The best thing about Josi just having turned 28 is that he’s right in the prime of his career. He’s a consistent offensive contributor who is shooting more than ever before and still really rounding his game out defensively.
It’s the second part of that sentence that makes the rest of this hard to write, but more on that in a bit.
Josi went on an offensive tear during a nine-day stretch in February, racking up 12 points in five games. It was the final game of that five-game streak that was a gem, however, as he provided five assists in that wild comeback victory in Winnipeg on Feb. 27.
Oh, and there’s this beauty of a game-winner in Brooklyn against the Islanders:
This is where it gets a bit painful. There wasn’t simply one defining negative moment. It was a collective of performances during the postseason that simply made you ask “what’s wrong with Roman Josi?” To me, there were times when he was the worst player on the ice, and that’s certainly uncharacteristic.
It seemed like every time he made a mistake, it ended up in the Preds’ net. Perhaps that’s being a bit too dramatic, but it sure felt that way.
Was it an injury that caused his poor play in the playoffs? There weren’t any signs of it, nor were there any announcements to that effect, which makes it all the more mind-boggling.
He went on to play for Switzerland in the World Championships and claim a silver medal, more impressive if what was reported earlier this week turns out to be true:
There was a report from @SwissHockeyNews a couple of days ago that Roman Josi played the World Championship Final with a broken hand.— Robby Stanley (@RStanleyNHL) June 6, 2018
I’ve been told Josi is expected to be fully ready for #Preds training camp in the fall.
But that has no effect on the grade I’m about to give him.
I wavered a bit on this grade. I originally wanted to give him a C+ because of his disappearing act in the postseason. But then I went back to the beginning of the season and remembered that he was one of the anchors in Ryan Ellis’ absence that helped the team get off to a good start.
He was one of the key cogs in a historic regular season, and that can’t be discounted, but when he was needed the most, he was off his game the most. Perhaps he’s still learning about what it takes to be a captain in the NHL and that aspect of his game can certainly improve with time.
He’s now 28 years old, and one can believe that the best is still ahead of him. But what I want to see from him is a fire like no other after what happened against Winnipeg in the playoffs. Does he let that motivate him into taking the next step and truly becoming a leader, or will that “C” on his chest stand for something less than what he really could be?
Only time will tell.