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2018-2019 Player Reviews: Roman Josi

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Today we look at the current captain of the Nashville Predators, Roman Josi. With 56 points this season, Josi had his highest season point total since becoming half of a defensive pairing with Ryan Ellis. Nonetheless, Josi has more duties than just scoring points, as he also has a reputation as one of the best overall defenders in the NHL and is still learning how to be a captain. How did he do in all of his roles this season?

Criteria

In grading any player’s season, it is crucial that there is an understanding of how we are evaluating him. Similar to how I evaluated Dante Fabbro and others, there are five pieces of critera that will be used to determine Josi's grade: development, decision making, footwork, positioning, and offense.

In grading his development, the main consideration is going to be how far Josi has come over the past season. How close was he to meeting what expectations were set forth for him?

For decision making, the focus is going to be on how well Josi can see the ice. Does he make the right passes? Does he abandon the offensive zone at the right moment or pinch too hard? Is Josi in the correct position in the defensive zone?

Positioning relates a little to both decision making and offense, but primarily we are looking at what spots on the ice Josi sees and maybe fails to see. Is he taking advantage of open ice? Is he failing to mark his responsibilities?

Footwork is an easy and much more technical element to grade, partially because it manifests itself so clearly in a player’s overall game. Proper use of edges and a quick first three strides are going to directly impact a player’s speed and acceleration.

Finally, there is offense. Rather than just creating a “shooting” category that would unfairly punish a defender’s grade, this category is going to evaluate Roman Josi’s offensive instincts. Does he jump into play at the right moments? How helpful is he when joining the rush?

Development

Roman Josi entered the season as the second-best defender on the Predators’ roster, but still was a top-ten defenseman in the NHL. Already 28 years old at the start of the season, Josi’s development was relatively over. At that age, Josi should be just entering the back half of his prime.

Sure enough, nothing new really arose out of Roman Josi’s game this season, as it was business as usual. That business of course is that of smooth passes, nice transitions, and excellent positioning. Neither his physical nor mental game seemed to change much at all.

A role that Roman Josi is still relatively new to is that of captain, and it appeared that he did not develop much in that category either. Josi seems very attached to the “lead by example” mantra. A stoic’s dream, he never seems to get emotional on the ice, but whenever the team needed to get fired up after a tough call or bad goal, he was out there working hard.

Josi did not appear to rally the team. In fact, P.K. Subban was really the only player who would yell up and down the bench to get his teammates back in the game. It is well documented how the Predators have the mental toughness of wet paper whenever something fails to go their way and, while Josi certainly carries himself as a model professional hockey player, he still needs to figure out how to motivate his teammates when times are tough.

When crunch times come and the playoffs beckon, desperate teams somehow can find a way to win. While head coach Peter Laviolette shares the burden of needing to better rally the Predators, Roman Josi, as captain, needs to inspire his teammates to play more desperate hockey.

Grade: C

Decision Making

Roman Josi’s decisions really pay off in the offensive zone.
hockeyviz.com

Per usual, Roman Josi exhibited excellent decision making on the Predators’ 1A defensive pairing with Ryan Ellis. Josi was a monster in the defensive zone and performed excellently in the neutral zone. His breakout passing decisions were smart and served as a core strength of his game.

Grade: A

Positioning

Another pillar of Josi’s game, as despite his offensive instincts Josi is rarely out of position. Because of his great awareness and speed, he is able to compensate in ways that many defenders cannot when he joins the offensive rush. It’s a well-documented aspect of his game that even his opponents have commended him for, as did Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets in his the Player’s Tribune article.

Oddly enough, the Predators have struggled a little bit in the defensive zone when Roman Josi has been on the ice.
hockeyviz.com

However, it is interesting that opponents seemed to have a better time in the Predators’ defensive zone when Josi was on the ice. Now, this is probably due to the relative comparison with the Subban-Ekholm shutdown pairing that was so effective, but it nonetheless appears a little worrisome.

Grade: A

Footwork

As one part of Josi’s game bleeds into another, his footwork is what really makes everything come together. Out of every member of the Predators, he is head and shoulders the best at making smooth, quick power turns and crossovers to change direction. More than outright speed, which Josi also has, this ability of his to change directions on a dime is what makes him able to play the offensive style he excels at.

Despite being 28 years old, Josi has shown no signs of a decrease in his speed. Hopefully it only happens once he’s long into being on the other side of 30.

Grade: A

Offense

Unfortunately for Roman Josi’s grade for offense, the power play falls into this category. To be perfectly blunt, Josi was terrible on the power play this season. His failures and indecisions with the man advantage became the examples used for why the power play failed, namely awful one-time shots from way up in the point. Even worse, Josi would often raise the puck three or more feet off the ice on these one-timers, making it impossible for the puck to squeeze through traffic.

Additionally, Josi suffered from a severe lack of innovation, rarely if ever faking a shot or using his excellent footwork to fool a defender into opening up a shooting lane like P.K. Subban does so well. Instead he stuck to the bland formula that never worked.

Finally, of all the Predators’ defenders guilty of firing slap shots from the top of their umbrella system, Josi was perhaps the biggest offender. Going back to Subban, he often would take slap shots from the top of the umbrella too, but only after stalling or faking a defender out to open a lane. Josi fired slap shots with zero regard to those defending him. The reason that one does not fire a slap shot from the top of an umbrella is because, if the shot is blocked by the first defender, the puck is going to bounce back with so much speed that a shorthanded breakaway can manifest itself before the defense could even react. Typically, a team should look to fire low, hard wrist shots from that (or any) position on the ice.

Nonetheless, despite his passing prowess and his ability to jump into play off the rush, Josi still lacks poise when shooting. He needs to settle down and relax. Not every shot has to come right off of his stick. Roman Josi is an intelligent player, so he needs to shoot like one.

Grade: C+

Final Grade: B+

Despite not earning any grade in the B-range, Roman Josi finishes with a B+ for his season’s grade. Now, for those of you with pitchforks for Josi receiving C+’s in two categories, remember that this is a report card for Roman Josi based on his season, not a report card based on his season compared to those of other players. He is still very much a top-ten defender in the NHL. However, as a player, Josi must make better decisions and show more creativity on the points and, as a captain, he needs to learn how to motivate his teammates and get them to show some desperation when the Predators need some.