Introducing the First Team All-Nashville Predators…

Thanks to Puck Daddy’s Mt. Puckmore series and the duldrums of the off-season, I decided to put together an all-time Nashville Predators team.

I took every player who ever donned a Nashville sweater (thank you Mr. Diamond) and dwindled it down to the best one center, two wingers, two defensemen and one goalie.

So, to help cure your summer boredom, I present to you the First Team All-Nashville Predators squad.

FIRST TEAM ALL-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 proved just that to the fan base. In his first game in his new sweater, all he did was go out and bag three goals and 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 five years. The 5’8″ playmaker has produced at nearly a point-per-game clip while wearing the sabre tooth tiger on his chest, he missed nearly two years of action and still came back and tied for the team lead in scoring last year (51 pts), he won the NHL’s Masterton Award for perseverance and dedication to the sport, 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 and he plans to retire in Nashville with his family. The skill is there, the production is there and the dedication to the community is there. 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 (704), points (407), goals (152) and assists (255). 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.” Either way you slice it, however, Legwand has earned his 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 123 goals, 229 assists, 352 points and 552 games are second on the all-time franchise list in their respective categories. He’s a pressure performer as well. In the past two playoff appearances, Erat has led the charge, collecting nine points in 12 games. 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. At 28 years old, he’s 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 (even before his infamous Game 5 choke) but, overall, he winds up on the score sheet more often than not and he can play both ends of the ice with consistency. His name belongs among the franchise’s elite.

D – SHEA WEBER: The newest captain is the face of the franchise. He made Dirk Hoag’s Nashville Predators version of Mt. Puckmore, 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, he’s second on the franchise’s all-time list in goal scoring among defensemen and, in a way, he single-handedly gives Nashville respect as an organization among the Canadian media. With 16 goals this coming season, he’ll overtake Kimmo Timonen for the franchise’s all-time goal scoring lead among blueliners. The pride of Sicamous, British Columbia is only 25 years old. 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?

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 Olympics because they were on different teams. He may be fifth on the franchise’s all-time scoring list among defensemen but he’s only eight points behind the fourth place Dan Hamhuis who, by the way, has played in 90 more games. 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.

G – TOMAS VOKOUN: I wanted to pick Pekka Rinne. I wanted to pick him badly. So much so that I considered justifying it with his potential, rather than his history. And Kevin Allen of USA Today didn’t help when he told us on The 303:30 that Rinne was “already in the upper echelon of goalies in the league.” But I wanted to be true to the idea of the All-Time Predators Team so I was forced to pick Tomas Vokoun. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vokoun. I hate that he was traded in the fire sale that was the summer of 2007. But not only do I think Rinne is one of the elite goalies in the NHL, but it would’ve been really cool if every member of the First Team was all current Predators. Vokoun, however, takes his rightful place in Nashville lore. While wearing a Preds sweater, he posted an impressive 161-159-35-11 record, 21 shutouts and three seasons with at least a .918 save percentage. Keep in mind that he was a member of the first eight Predators teams, which, in turn, means he posted a those numbers in the growing pain years that every expansion team goes through. It’s not very often an expansion franchise has it’s franchise goalie during it’s infant years. Matter of fact, the only one that comes to mind of the past two decades is the Florida Panthers’ John Vanbiesbrouck. And, honestly, an argument could be made that he would be “too old” to qualify as a franchise goalie as he was 30 when he was acquired by the Panthers. So, for Vokoun to have been 22 when he was taken in the 1998 Expansion Draft by Nashville, it’s amazing that a franchise goalie could be developed in the chaos that is an expansion franchise. But Vokoun was just that good. It’s tough to imagine the current Predators team without Vokoun in the crease had the fire sale never taken place thus making Rinne expendable. Plus, how do you exclude a guy who was so good that he had his own theme music?!?!

Would you disgree with anybody on this list? Should Paul Kariya have made it? Should JP Dumont? Should Kimmo Timonen? 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?

One Comment

  1. Paul Nicholson

    August 31, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I think an argument could certainly be made for a few others. I think I’d be interested to see the true full team of all-time Preds – at least 4 fwd lines, 3 d-pairs, 1 goalie – not just a starting lineup. Would be fun to put together the real dream team… you’d need shut down defenders, PK specialists, PP specialists, etc. In that version you’d see guys like Zanon and Kariya make the team. Maybe something I’ll tackle eventually…