Who would make the First Team All-Time Nashville Predators roster?
- Updated: August 15, 2011
Last summer, in the doldrums of the off-season, we published our “First Team All-Time Nashville Predators” roster. This year, for the same reason, we decided to update the squad.
Basically, we took every player who has ever donned a Nashville sweater and dwindled it down to the best center, two best wingers, two best defensemen and the best goalie.
This list is debatable, for sure. But that makes for good conversation, no?
FIRST TEAM ALL-TIME NASHVILLE PREDATORS
LW - STEVE SULLIVAN: On February 16, 2004, the Preds made arguably the most important trade in franchise history. Yes, even more important that the Peter Forsberg deal three years later. For two second round picks, Nashville acquired it’s first star. And, in case there was any doubt, Sullivan wasted no time proving it to the fan base. The first game in his new sweater all he did was go out and bag three goals and add an assist against the high-powered San Jose Sharks. For an encore? He tallied six points in the next two games, giving him an amazing 10 points in his first three games with the Preds. After tallying 30 points in 24 games with Nashville, it could be argued that he single-handedly carried the Preds to their first ever playoff berth. Fast forward seven years. The 5’8″ playmaker produced at nearly a point-per-game clip while wearing the sabre tooth tiger on his chest. He missed nearly two years of action with back issues but managed to come back and contribute. Because of his perseverance, Sullivan was awarded the NHL’s Masterton Award, becoming the first Nashville Predators to ever win post-season NHL hardware. If that wasn’t enough, upon becoming a free agent in the summer of 2009, he elected to re-sign in Middle Tennessee when he could’ve went elsewhere with a better chance to win the Stanley Cup. In June of this year, he was informed he wouldn’t be offered a new contract in Music City. The fanbase knew it was time but was saddened nonetheless. While he plans to retire with his family in Nashville, he’s put himself in a great position to win that elusive Stanley Cup next season thanks to his new one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Given all of his accomplishments, all of his stats and all of his intangibles, Sullivan is a no-brainer for the First Team.
C - DAVID LEGWAND: Another date that will live on in infamy for the Predators organization is June 27, 1998. On that date, the Preds made their first draft selection in franchise history: a second overall pick that saw Detroit, Michigan-born Legwand take the stage. Since that fateful day, Legwand is the sole remaining original-Predator, is the career franchise leader in games played (768), points (448), goals (169) and assists (279). While he catches the ire of many fans due to his high contract ($4.5 million/season) and low offensive production (averaging 41 points/season since signing that contract), he can be relied on for his defensive responsibilities and has been coined more of a “shut down center” than an offensive center. He’s the best of both worlds in the playoffs, however. In his last two trips to the postseason, Legwand has collected 16 points in 18 games. However you feel about him, Legwand easily earns a spot on the First Team with longevity, production and the fact that he was the first ever draft pick by the organization.
RW - MARTIN ERAT: What is there to say about “Spinderella?” The Czech winger’s 140 goals, 262 assists, 402 points and 616 games are all second on the all-time franchise list in their respective categories. For even more perspective, Erat is just 36 points behind Legwand for the all-time franchise lead in scoring. And he’s posted those kinds of numbers in 152 less games. Erat is a pressure performer as well. In his last 21 playoff games he’s tallied 15 points. And that’s not even mentioning that he sacrificed his body on several occasions during last year’s playoff run (lost a few teeth, was the victim of a late hit, etc.). Furthermore, when the Preds were battling to get into the playoffs in 2008-09, he registered a plus-4 rating while collecting seven points in the final four games. When the season starts he’ll be 30 years old, still considered in the prime of his career. He’s one of the highest paid Predators players and he skates (and spins) like the wind. Anytime he’s on the ice, the former seventh round pick is a threat to generate scoring chances and can bring the crowd to it’s feet on a moment’s notice. Is he a sniper? No. Is he a superstar? No. What he is, however, is a steady 50 point man on a team who cherishes anybody who can score over 40. His decision making can be suspect sometimes but, overall, he winds up on the score sheet more often than not and he can play both ends of the ice with consistency. The kid from Trebic, Czech Republic certainly belongs among the franchise’s elite.
D - SHEA WEBER: The captain is the face of the franchise. Period. He’s a two-time All-Star, he’s a Norris Trophy finalist, he’s got one of the hardest shots in the NHL, he’s a 40+ point guy from the blueline, he’s a power play quarterback, no Preds defensemen has ever scored more goals (80) and an NHL salary arbitrator believes he’s worth $7.5 million. With his 17 goals last season he overtook former Preds captain Kimmo Timonen for the franchise’s all-time goal scoring lead among blueliners. The pride of Sicamous, British Columbia is only 26 years old and is just now entering the prime of his career. What will his accomplishments and stats look like when he’s 30? What about when he’s 35? Is he the first legitimate shot at the Hockey Hall of Fame for the Predators organization? Before we start thinking about that, let’s get him locked up long term first. The fact that he’s a restricted free agent again next season doesn’t sit will with anybody in Middle Tennessee.
D - RYAN SUTER: Weber’s “first Lieutenant,” Suter is not only paired with Weber here on this list but on a nightly basis. Weber and Suter go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like salt and pepper. Like Ke$ha and Jack Daniels. The two players are so inseparable that Predators fans found themselves doing double-takes during the 2010 Olympics because they were on different teams. He’s third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list among defensemen (192 points) and, of all the blueliners who have played in at least 80 games for Nashville, only Marek Zidlicky and Weber have a higher point-per-game scoring average in their Preds careers. Suter, part of “The Big 3,” has benefited from Weber’s presence but it could certainly be suggested that Weber has benefited from Suter’s presence more. Either way, it’s very exciting to know that the two best defensemen in Nashville Predators history are not only playing on the same team, but they’re actually skating together as a pairing. There’s a reason why they’re known around the NHL as the league’s best.
G - PEKKA RINNE: Current Washington Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun held this spot last season, with Rinne as a close runner-up. Real close. But, after guiding the Preds to their first ever playoff series victory, after a Vezina Trophy nomination and after taking fourth in the Hart Trophy voting, Rinne has officially toppled the mighty Vokoun. Rinne is one of the elite goalies in the NHL, he’s posted a 95-54-18 record, his save percentage since signing his current contract is a ridiculous .930, he’s second on the franchise’s all-time list in wins, he’s a single shutout away from Vokoun’s team record in that category, he has the highest career save percentage and goals-against average of any Preds goalie ever and, more importantly than any stat, he single-handedly keeps the offensively-challenged Predators in every game. When you rarely score goals (the Preds scored just 219 goals last year, tied for the least among playoff teams) you need a goaltender who can stand on his head on a nightly basis. Rinne does just that.
Would you disagree with anybody on this list? Should Paul Kariya have made it? Should Tomas Vokoun still be atop the goalie class? Should Kimmo Timonen be heading up the all-time blueline? Arguments could be made for all of those guys and a lot of others. So, if you were putting together an all-time Preds team, who would be on it?