NASHVILLE — General manager David Poile and coach Peter Laviolette noticed how the Predators picked defenceman Roman Josi to drive a sword into the field before the NFL’s Tennessee Titans’ home opener with the NHL team serving an honorary role pregame.
Seeing what Josi’s teammates decided made selecting the Predators’ eighth captain in franchise history that much easier.
“Roman has played with and mentored under two of our best captains ever in Shea Weber and Mike Fisher,” Poile said Tuesday. “He was also always part of the leadership group when those two guys were captains.”
Josi, 27, replaces Fisher, who retired last month . The native of Bern becomes only the second player from Switzerland to be named a captain in the NHL. Mark Streit, named captain of the New York Islanders in 2011, was the first. Poile called Josi not only one of the NHL’s best defencemen but a terrific ambassador for hockey.
“Roman is our Roger Federer,” Poile said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s always very classy.”
Laviolette said the decision came down to Josi and defenceman Ryan Ellis. Currently recovering from off-season season, Ellis was named the associate captain. Defenceman Mattias Ekholm, forward Filip Forsberg and centre Ryan Johansen all are alternate captains in moves announced before a doubleheader kicking off the Predators’ preseason schedule.
The coach said Josi’s growth, maturity and character as a person, player and teammate make him the perfect fit as the Predators’ next captain.
“He has the ability to lead men, which we’ve experienced in the past few years and certainly last year,” Laviolette said. “He has the work ethic both in games and in practices to set the right example for our group. He has the respect of everybody in our organization as well as his peers in the league.”
The Predators drafted Josi with the 38th pick overall in the 2008 entry draft, and he played in the 2016 All-Star Game in Nashville. He also was a full alternate captain last season under Fisher.
Josi also is one of five defencemen to score at least 40 points in each of the last four seasons, setting a team record with 61 points in 2015-16. Josi scored 49 points in helping Nashville reach its first Stanley Cup Final . During the playoffs, Josi led Nashville defencemen and ranked second on the team with 14 points in 22 games. He also set a franchise record with for most goals by a defenceman in a post-season with six.
The new captain thanked both Poile and Laviolette for the opportunity and his general manager for comparing him to Federer.
“It’s a huge honour to be the captain of this team,” Josi said. “I got the chance to play under some great captains in my time here, obviously with Shea and Fish. They were two great leaders. There’s definitely a lot I can take from them.”
Josi talked a couple weeks ago about how much all of the Predators learned from Fisher as a great role model and what an honour being a captain would be. On Tuesday, Josi wasted no time either in making clear what the Predators want now after losing the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh in six games in June.
“Obviously, we want to take that next step,” Josi said. “Last year we got really close, but we didn’t reach our ultimate goal.”