Welcome back to Fun Friday, this time with 100% less analytics stuff and 50% more fun. Last week was a bit technical for some people’s taste, and I can totally understand that; lots of numbers, spreadsheets, and linked articles isn’t exactly entertaining, and considering the name of this column I need to change that.
My first thought was to do an all-time team, but I felt like those were all kinda exhausted during the league’s shutdown (lots of top-five lists and such to fill the content void while there was no hockey being played). Instead of doing the typical “who’s the best player/what’s the best roster,” I decided to create a roster of the most entertaining Predators in history. This assembly factors in scoring and good play, because hockey would be boring without it, but it also includes personality, style, how fun their name/nickname is, etc.
With that out of the way, let’s meet our players.
Left Wing: Steve Sullivan
Steve Sullivan’s impact on the Predators fanbase is difficult to quantify, but one thing is clear: he’s the player that most fans of the generation preceding me identify as “the guy who made me a Preds fan” or “the player who made me love hockey.” Sullivan was speedy, small, tough as nails, and a strong scoring presence on teams that never really stood out on offense.
He’s probably the player that’s most synonymous with “The Predator Way” that Barry Trotz laid out as the franchise’s doctrine on day one, and despite some intense competition on the left wing I felt he deserved this spot for being a player that earlier Preds fans watched for night after night.
Center: Ryan Johansen
I feel like this pick is going to draw some ire, but I really can’t understand why. Johansen has been a very, very good player for Nashville for the past few years, and while we may have some negative recency bias due to an underwhelming 2019-2020 season, I’d be hard pressed to name another center in franchise history who’s as fun as him. The Slow-Hansen shootout goals, the “screw this I’m out” OT winner celebrations, and his rapid shift from “hey, that guy’s pretty good” to “holy crap that’s a wrecking ball of a 1C” in some of his postseason showings all put him this high on the list.
Right Wing: Alexander Radulov
*angry screeching in the distance*
Yeah, yeah, I know that putting Radulov here is going to make some folks angry. I get why. But are you going to look me dead in the eyes and tell me he wasn’t the flashiest, most electrifying right winger in the history of this franchise? Because I’d stare you down and call you a liar. Look at these highlights and tell me I’m wrong.
That second goal is absolutely jaw dropping. He was 21. Certified. Fun. Player.
Right Defender: P.K. Subban
This was a tough pick for me, because Shea Weber is enjoyable to watch for a very different (and almost equally entertaining) set of reasons, but I had to go with P.K. Subban because.... c’mon, it’s P.K. Subban.
When he came to Nashville in exchange for Weber, nobody I knew was mad and everyone was excited; that says a lot about the skill, swagger and personality Subban brought with him. He scored big goals, he did fancy moves, he established a strong following here in Nashville that still loves him even now (the “Come Back P.K, I Still Love You” fan club is headed up by yours truly and Bryan Bastin). I think Subban could have an argument for being the most entertaining NHL player in recent history, and while his time in Nashville was relatively brief, it was eventful, enjoyable, exciting and, for lack of a better word, fun.
Left Defender: Roman Josi
He’s the best defender in the world, folks. That’s really all that I need to say, but I’ll continue gushing. Josi is one of my favorite players to watch for a lot of reasons, but the chief one is his skating. Mesmerizing edgework, dazzling acceleration and puck carrying through the neutral zone, sequences where he’s literally untouchable for minutes at a time; he’s just a treat to watch move, and that’s without including his skill. The captain is simply a spectacular player and he’ll likely go down in history as one of the best players to ever lace ‘em up for Nashville.
Goalie: Pekka Rinne
Pekka is a legend in town and the face of the franchise, but he’s also one of the most absurdly athletic NHLers of all time. People that tall shouldn’t be able to move like he does, and Rinne has always been a showstopper throughout his career because he continually laughs in the face of what a big goalie should be capable of.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s an angel off the ice and has a father-son/mentor-pupil relationship with Juuse Saros that makes for excellent Instagram content. He also scored a goalie goal, which was literally the happiest moment of my life.
|1||Steve Sullivan||Ryan Johansen||Alex Radulov||1||Roman Josi||P.K. Subban||Starter||Pekka Rinne|
|2||Filip Forsberg||Jason Arnott||Viktor Arvidsson||2||Kimmo Timonen||Shea Weber||Backup||Tomas Vokoun|
|3||Paul Kariya||Mike Fisher||Jordin TooToo||3||Dan Hamhuis||Ryan Ellis|
|4||James Neal||Colin Wilson||Joel Ward|
Hartnell just missed the list because he wasn’t especially fun while he was in Nashville; he only really became the Scott Hartnell most people know and love when he went to Philly in the Peter Forsberg deal. Because of his lack of fun moments while he was a Pred, he didn’t make the list.
Hörnqvist was an extremely productive player and was well liked because he scored a lot of goals, but his style of play didn’t really make you lose your mind with incredible individual plays. He’s one of the best forwards in franchise history and one of my favorite Predators, but I couldn’t put him on here because aside from his pugnacious personality, he wasn’t more entertaining than his competition.
Fiala pulled off jaw-dropping dekes and scored amazing goals, but he never did so with regularity and it was always difficult for me to fully enjoy watching him. Much of that was a product of Peter Laviolette, but some of it was that Fiala had some growing to do before he could reach his full potential, which we’ve seen realized in Minnesota. That, his lack of personality, and his relatively brief time in Nashville hurt his case.
David Legwand was the captain, so as a kid I loved him unconditionally. I thought he was the best player in the world for a little while because I was a goober who didn’t really understand what I was watching. In retrospect, he was just a decent NHLer most of his career, and not one who played with much style, so I couldn’t put him on here.
(it also didn’t hurt that he had the best years of his career in Nashville and scored some goals)
Dumont was the guy I had the most difficulty leaving off of this list, but with the competition at right wing he ended up being the odd man out. I wouldn’t have any trouble sliding him in over Ward or Tootoo or anyone on there, but due to some of my personal bias he got left off.
What does your all-fun team look like? What did you agree with/disagree with? Be sure to leave feedback below. Thanks for reading.