Nashville Predators All-Decade Awards, Round 2
The fun awards, and the controversial ones.
Continuing from our last batch of awards, we begin with three fun, light-hearted awards before getting into some very controversial individual awards. If you missed our first article featuring some team highlights from the last decade, you can read it here.
Onto the awards!
Winner: 2017-Present Away Sweater
Runner-Up: 2009-2011 Third Sweater
The Winter Classic sweater debuted on the first day of 2020 so, for those curious about its omission, it does not qualify,
The current away sweater is simplistically beautiful. It looks exactly how a hockey sweater should, with a beautiful yellow shoulder yoke with detailed yet clean lines. For an away sweater, it’s as good as it gets.
The runner-up, the old navy and black third sweater, may be more beloved by fans, but it’s not as good of a sweater. The black and navy checkerboard pattern is bizarre and really ruins an otherwise clean sweater. If the black was ditched and it was just navy and white, I would be more persuaded to make it a winner.
Oh, and the third sweater had a laced collar. You always earn bonus points for a laced collar.
Let’s never relive either of these hashtags again, shall we?
Best Off-Ice Drama
Winner: Dennis K. Morgan
Runner-Up: Ryan Suter versus David Poile
The singer of the national anthem through the regular season, Dennis K. Morgan felt slighted and overlooked when the 2016-17 playoffs rolled around and the Predators started bringing in musical stars to perform the anthem. After the postseason, Morgan stated that he felt betrayed by the Predators and wanted to cut himself off from any and all association with the franchise. His disappointment began when Carrie Underwood, superstar and wife of then-captain Mike Fisher, sang the anthem instead of him.
Speaking of drama and betrayal, when Ryan Suter opted to sign with the Minnesota Wild instead of the Nashville Predators, general manager Davide Poile has comments so eviscerating that it’s really a shame Twitter wasn’t as big then as it is now. As he was offering more money than Minnesota in order to keep Suter, Poile was under the belief from comments made by Suter throughout the previous season that he would re-sign with the Predators. That was not the case, and it ignited a feud that never seemed to be truly resolved.
Winner: W Filip Forsberg, C Ryan Johansen, W Viktor Arvidsson, D Shea Weber, D Roman Josi, G Pekka Rinne
Runner-Ups: W Craig Smith, C Mike Fisher, W Patric Hornqvist, D Ryan Ellis, D Mattias Ekholm, G Juuse Saros
While the winning selections were relatively straightforward, the runner-ups were much more difficult. Craig Smith was a shoo-in, but the choices for his other winger came down to Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, and James Neal. Considering his performance on some terrible Predators teams and his additional season over James Neal, I went with Patric Hornqvist. A team without a real center for a long time, the second spot came down to a battle of the Mikes between Fisher and Ribeiro. Since one ended up captain and the other deservedly vanished into the ether, I went with the former.
As for defense, P.K. Subban is the odd man out here because both Ekholm and Ellis were Predators for the majority of the decade. Juuse Saros rounds out the corps.
Winner: Peter Laviolette
Runner-Up: Barry Trotz
With only two head coaches this decade, each will walk away with an award. If one compares the talent present on Trotz’s Predators teams this decade to that which Peter Laviolette had, it is clear that Trotz’s accomplishments, while lesser, were arguably more impressive. And while that may be the case, I believe that Laviolette taking the Predators as an 8-seed, sweeping the 1-seed Blackhawks, and taking them to the Stanley Cup Final was much bigger for the franchise.
Winner: Jordin Tootoo
Runner-Up: Rich Clune
Both Tootoo and Clune battled their inner demons while in the NHL, combating various forms of addiction. In Nashville, David Poile was instrumental for both players in becoming clean and sober individuals. In Jordan Tootoo’s biography, he credits David Poile for where he is today. Rich Clune tells a similar tale.
Winner: Roman Josi
Runner-Up: Craig Smith
Over the decade, Roman Josi made the best case for the Lady Byng. While people, and especially referees, are catching on to how Josi cross-checks opponents all the time, he used to garner meager support among voters for the Lady Byng. Considering a defender hasn’t won the award since 1954 and we think he was robbed a few years ago, we’ll award Roman Josi the Lady Byng he deserves.
Meanwhile, Craig Smith only averaged just over 0.4 penalty minutes per game over nearly a decade as a Nashville Predator. Moreover, he never dives and gives the game the respect it deserves.
Winner: Mike Fisher
Runner-Up: Calle Jarnkrok
The official description of the Selke award is that the “Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.” Using this definition, Mike Fisher will win over Calle Jarnkrok. If you take a trip down to Natural Stat Trick or Hockey Reference, your jaw will drop when you see just how many shots Mike Fisher blocked as a Predator. Heck, from 2015-2017 he blocked 138 shots in 5v5 hockey as a 35/36-year old while still having good possession numbers. Fisher also never shied away from a battle in a corner and played excellent classic defensive hockey.
Meanwhile, Calle Jarnkrok played defensive hockey in a new-era way. Instead of getting his nose dirty all the time, Jarnkrok played suffocating defense for most of the decade. It became well-known that Jarnkrok was one of the best Predators statistically in defense, with excellent isolate graphs that advanced stats gurus drooled over. While his defensive play has dropped off as of late, he still earned his runner-up nomination.
Winner: Seth Jones
Runner-Up: Craig Smith
When drafted, Seth Jones was heralded as a player who could be a future captain, a superstar, and a Norris candidate. That’s all been true, as the assistant captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets is arguably the best defender in the NHL. In his rookie season, he posted 25 points in 77 games, all while playing on his weak side. As a right-handed shot, Jones was forced to play left defense for the significant majority of the season. That’s an incredibly tall task for a 19-year-old rookie, so he wins the Calder.
For those who thought that Eeli Tolvanen was hyped up, there has been no Predators rookie buzz, nay mania, than occurred like what happened around Craig Smith. Smith was a fourth-round draft pick, nothing spectacular, but he absolutely dominated rookie, development, and training camps. Barry Trotz was notorious for sticking players in Milwaukee for a few seasons regardless of how good they were (another reason Laviolette wins the Jack Adams over Trotz), but Smith won Trotz over and became the third Predator to make the team out of training camp. He rewarded Trotz with 14 goals and 36 points his rookie season.
Winner: Pekka Rinne
Runner-Up: Juuse Saros
The most straightforward award here, Pekka Rinne actually won the Vezina this decade and was the lead man between the pipes all decade. After Rinne, Juuse Saros has been the understudy for years, so he wins the runner-up.
Winner: Shea Weber
Runner-Up: Roman Josi
Back to challenging awards, Shea Weber barely beats out Roman Josi for the Norris award. While Weber started to falter near the end of his tenure in Nashville, he was completely dominant until 2016. He dwarfs everyone else in franchise history in career power-play goals with 80; the next closes is Kimmo Timonen with 48. He also is still fourth in career game-winning goals, offensive point shares, and defensive point shares. Additionally, he was excellent at playing the body—unlike Josi who, while he has a lot of great areas in his game, probably cross-checks a bit too much to make up for his lack of elite strength.
Nobody wanted to face Weber in a corner. Nobody wanted to block a Weber slapshot. No player wanted to play against Shea Weber in his prime. He never finished outside of the top ten in Norris voting as a Predator this decade and finished in the top five four times, including three times as a finalist.
Roman Josi follows in Weber’s footsteps and, while he is now having his best season to date, none of his seasons eclipse the prime of Shea Weber earlier in this decade. Josi’s offensive savvy, phenomenal transition game, and situational awareness are better suited to the modern game than Weber’s skills, and recency bias works in Josi’s favor, but his peak still was never as high as Weber’s.
Winner: Pekka Rinne
Runner-Up: Shea Weber
In a contest not as close as it may appear, Pekka Rinne wins as the backbone of every success the Nashville Predators enjoyed this decade. Without Pekka Rinne, it’s hard to imagine where the Predators would be as a franchise. Meanwhile, we know how it was without Shea Weber: just fine. Nobody was more important to the Predators than Pekka Rinne, and I look forward to having kids one day and showing them his statue outside of Bridgestone Arena.
Winner: Pekka Rinne
Runner-Up: Shea Weber
In a three-way race of Rinne, Weber, and Mike Fisher, I opted for the two players who really ignited the tradition of community outreach present within the Predators’ locker room. After Barry Trotz became heavily involved with Tennessee’s Best Buddies program, Rinne and Weber both decided to get involved. Weber and Rinne found a best buddy, Mike, and took him out to games, went bowling with him, and formed a friendship beyond mere charity.
While Shea Weber and Barry Trotz are no longer Predators, their contributions and work with Tennessee’s Best Buddies program echoed through every incarnation of the Predators since their departures.
Now, the Predators host an annual Best Buddies Prom in addition to a plethora of other charitable and community programs. P.K. Subban initiated his Blueline Buddies program to bring underpriveleged families and members of the police force together in addition to his annual Christmas giving platform. Members of the Predators also host an annual Christmas party to help refugee families enjoy the holidays. Countless visits have been made on behalf of the Predators to the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Nashville truly has a luxury in the charitable, community traditions within the Predators’ locker room, and that can all be traced back to Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber.
As for picking a winner, well. Pekka Rinne wins out as Weber was traded partway through the decade. However, both men deserve our thanks for their legacy left in Nashville.