Peter Denton The Hockey Writers
Roman Josi is Key to the Predators Playoff Chances
Roman Josi and captain Shea Weber are the Nashville Predators’ go to guys for defense. Shea Weber makes regular all-star appearances, is a regular Norris trophy candidate, and receives votes for the Hart trophy. But Josi, in his fourth year in the NHL, has continued to improve across all four years, with no clear end in sight.
Josi’s Past Playoffs, Not Indicative of Expectations This Year
The last time the Predators went to the playoffs was in 2012, with a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings (after two previous first round losses to Detroit), followed by a tight 1-4 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Josi’s Stanley Cup playoff debut wasn’t what he would have hoped for. No points in ten games, when his season average that year would have put him at three in as many games. Recording zero points with three expected should happen less than 5% of the time, meaning that he really did struggle under the increased pressure.
But this was a 21 year old’s first NHL season: he had only played 52 of 82 games in the NHL at 18 minutes a game, and spent significant part of the season with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. His second NHL season was also a short one, but he played in 48 of 48 games of the shortened season. By the time Josi played a full season in the NHL, he was showing the signs of the consistency the Predators have come to expect from him. His time on ice per game was within thirty seconds of Weber’s, and he broke a half a point per game that season, an increasing trend that continues into this season.
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Josi’s Big Year
This year Josi has led the Predators’ defensive squad in points (55), assists (40), and goals (15, tied with Weber). Coach Peter Laviolette has noticed this too by giving him more minutes than any one else on the team, beating out Weber by six seconds a game, who, in turn, is six and half minutes a game ahead of Seth Jones in third. With Josi’s increased skills come increased responsibilities on the ice, as shown by his huge playing time – fourth in the league (former Predator Ryan Suter is first in time on ice this year). Josi’s ice time not only gives him a chance to run up his point total, but also more time to continue to continue to grow as a player. In fact, his average points per game has gone up from 0.61 in the 2014 part of the season to 0.73 in the 2015 part.
In the Shadow
Some sports writers out there claim that Josi is just living in Weber’s shadow, and he may have been when the two were initially paired up. But watching their play together, especially in the second half of this season, confirms that he is holding on his own as a key contributor to the Predators as we head into the playoffs. In fact, a number of authors have suggested that he may be a Norris trophy dark horse candidate.
I don’t see how Josi could beat out Weber or the likes of P. K. Subban or Kris Letang for the Norris trophy. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t stand tall on his own, isn’t continuing to improve, and won’t be an important part of the Predators playoff push.
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