The Nashville Predators are not a team that enjoys scoring goals.
After over 20 years of NHL hockey in the city, this is just an understood fact of Predators fandom. The team plays solid defense, has good goaltending, and wins games via depth and shutting down opponents; this is the model that David Poile and Barry Trotz constructed in the franchise’s infancy, and it still stands today. The team records for scoring are pathetically low compared to every other franchise, and yet Nashville is consistently a playoff participant and often a legitimate contender. Why is that?
It all goes back to Barry Trotz and his love of blocking shots and playing defense. What does any of this have to do with Fun Friday? Well, in typical fashion, I was daydreaming and thinking about the 2019-2020 Islanders, as normal people tend to do, when I had a thought; was that Islanders team the most “Barry Trotz” Barry Trotz team ever (i.e. a team with messy roster talent that played excellent defense and went further than expected, despite clear flaws), or did that honor go to a Nashville team?
After thinking about this and looking up some stats (which helped me conclude that his most suffocating teams were, in fact, in Nashville), I decided to do the only reasonable thing.
I have constructed the most Barry Trotz roster of all time using nothing but single-season sample sizes of Predators.
- Must have a minimum of 500 TOI in a season under Barry Trotz
- Must be good defensively (above replacement) by xGA/60 and isolated impact
- Must have been classified as a grinder, enforcer, elite defensive or shutdown player at some point in their career
Note that I am not worrying about position or handedness: a player is simply a forward or a defender.
- Must be a mix of a veteran starter and a backup who has largely underachieved in their career
- The backup must be well above replacement value
- The starter must have elite numbers
Top Line: 2009-2010 Patric Hörnqvist, 2013-2014 Mike Fisher, 2012-2013 Martin Erat
Patric Hörnqvist embodied the Barry Trotz Predators in his tenure with the team. The final pick in an NHL Draft became an elite play driver who scored 20+ goals every year while playing great defense and adding another dimension as a net front threat on the power play willing to deflect Shea Weber’s slapshots. Fisher barely played for Trotz, but again his style fits very well with the coach and his defensive numbers and production were very good. Martin Erat is another player similar to Hörnqvist who was an icon of the Trotz teams; good defense, 20ish goals per year, and a physical game from a late-round draft pick.
Second Line: 2011-2012 Colin Wilson, 2010-2011 David Legwand, 2009-2010 Marcel Goc
Colin Wilson and David Legwand are two of the most Trotz-esque players to ever walk this Earth, and their elite defensive numbers in these specific seasons landed them on the list. Goc was an import from San Jose who again played very well in a Trotz system and put up great defensive numbers.
Third Line: 2012-2013 Sergei Kostitsyn, 2007-2008 Martin Gélinas, 2008-2009 Radek Bonk
Kostitsyn is another famous Trotz reclamation project who became surprisingly good by underlying defensive numbers in his final year with Nashville. Gélinas came to Nashville to close out a very productive career and ended up thriving in a shutdown role. Radek Bonk also arrived as a veteran and put up solid point totals while providing excellent defense.
Fourth Line: 2013-2014 Paul Gaustad, 2013-2014 Viktor Stålberg, 2013-2014 Gabriel Bourque
It’s time to assemble an all-grit line, y’all. Gaustad and Stålberg were rough offensively and good defensively, but 2013-2014 Bourque was legitimately a great 3rd/4th line player, despite his relatively paltry scoring.
13th Forward: 2008-2009 Antti Pihlström
Pihlström didn’t spend much time in Nashville, but he was an elite defensive forward who probably should have stuck around longer. Because of his short NHL career, I put him low on this list, but he was an ideal bottom-six forward for a Barry Trotz team.
Top Pair: 2010-2011 Ryan Suter, 2011-2012 Shea Weber
2010-2011 Suter is quintessential Barry Trotz hockey; Suter was elite defensively and generated solid offensive numbers alongside Shea Weber to form the best young defensive pair in the NHL. Weber would go on to peak the next year with incredible underlying numbers, 49 points, and 19 goals. These two are the pinnacle of the Trotz regime’s development of defenders, and they were an easy choice for the top pair.
Second Pair: 2013-2014 Ryan Ellis, 2013-2014 Roman Josi
This year was the beginning of the Ellis-Ekholm pairing and their absurdly effective years together; Ellis had a stellar season (his first playing more than 32 games in the NHL) and put up points as well. Josi put up elite numbers in his last season under Trotz and broke out with 40 points, showing everybody that he was clearly the future of the Nashville blueline.
Third Pair: 2013-2014 Mattias Ekholm, 2009-2010 Kevin Klein
Kevin Klein embodies Trotz’s love of large, “shutdown” defenders who don’t contribute much on offense; Ekholm developed into a fledgling shutdown defender in Trotz’s final year at the helm.
Starter: 2011-2012 Pekka Rinne
Rinne wasn’t exactly a grizzled veteran at this point in his career, but he was 28 years old and a well-established starter who played well every night. This particular year was one of the best he had under Trotz, and while it wasn’t as good as his 2010-2011 season, I chose it because he better fit the “experienced starter” archetype with three years of NHL experience under his belt.
Backup: 2007-2008 Dan Ellis
It would be a crime if I didn’t include Dan Ellis’s incredible 2007-2008 season here. He’s the quintessential “Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn work miracles with backups” goalie, and he undoubtedly had the best results of all of the players fitting that motif, even if it was only for one year. Ellis had an unbelievable run that season as Nashville’s starter, leading the Preds to the playoffs, posting ridiculous shutout streaks and basic stats (2.34 GAA, .924 SV%) as well as by WAR having the seventh-best season by a goalie in Predators history.