Nashville Predators Roman Josi: A Norris Finalist?

Mar 24, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators are blessed with two of the top defensemen in the NHL.

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For the better part of a decade one name has been synonymous with the Nashville Predators blue line and that has been the captain

Shea Weber

.  While Weber is unquestionably one of leagues elite two-way defensemen, a terrifying opponent when defending his own end of the ice and an equally daunting opponent on the offensive side of the puck, he’s recently been overshadowed in some respects by his on ice partner in

Roman Josi

.  That’s no insult to the captain so much as a testament to incredible season that Roman Josi has been having.

With five games still remaining on the season Josi has already eclipsed Weber’s previous franchise record of 56 points (23 g, 33 a) on the season for a defenseman with 57 points of his own (12g, 44a)  and he still has plenty of time to time to reach the 60 point mark and beyond.  A career year such as this should garner plenty of attention for the young Swiss when it comes time for the NHL to recognize its standout players from the regular season and Josi should be heavily considered as a favorite among Norris Trophy candidates as the league’s best defenseman.  Discussion about the Norris Trophy is nothing new in Nashville, Shea Weber is a three-time finalist himself, and even that is a controversial topic at best among the fan base.

As usual, the competition is fierce for such a prestigious award but when you place Roman Josi up against his contemporaries it’s not hard to see why he could be considered the most complete defenseman in the league.  Let’s take a look:

  • 4th most points scored by a defenseman – 57
  • Tied for 4th most power play points by a defenseman – 24
  • Tied for 3rd most assists by a defenseman – 44

For being a defenseman’s award the Norris Trophy seems to find its way into the hands of the defender with best offensive upside more often than not but Josi has managed to keep pace with the best of them this season with few exceptions besides perennial contender and former two-time winner Erik Karlsson. So let’s take a look at the defensive side of the puck and see how Josi does there:

  • Tied for 8th for blocked shots  by defensemen – 175
  • 10th place for time on ice per game  – 25:22
  • 14th place for even strength time on ice per game – 19:36
  • 37th place for shorthanded time on ice per game, 32nd among defensemen – 2:42

While perhaps not as impressive as his offensive numbers Josi has demonstrated that he is more than capable of putting his name on the scoresheet while still handling the defensive responsibilities of his position. Obviously, Josi’s stat line speaks for itself.  Among defensemen, he is perhaps one of, if not the most complete players in the league today.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee universal acclaim or recognition and a few key factors will weigh against him when the Norris votes start coming in.

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Ironically enough the one thing that might hold him back the most from unanimous Norris consideration is his own linemate. With a partner like Shea Weber sharing the responsibilities involved with patrolling the blueline it is easy to see why others might relate Josi’s individual success to having a defensive fixture like Shea there to share the workload.  This wouldn’t be unheard of considering that Josi and Weber both had split votes for 4th and 5th place in last year’s Norris nominations and while a repeat scenario is still possible, Josi has managed to build off of last season’s successes and step out of Weber’s shadow. In a similar vein lays the last great hurdle to the young Swiss’ moment in the spotlight: the Predators defensive depth.  With a luxury amount of defensive talent from the likes of Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis, the Predators can more evenly distribute the amount of playing time between their defensive pairings with little consequence to their on-ice play. The end result is a more energized top four defense that can play in all situations.

Its a trivial stat in the grand scheme of things but one that will set Roman Josi apart from his contemporaries in Norris voting.  Josi’s season average for time on ice is a respectable and impressive  25:22 per game, which is a team high, but somewhat pales in comparison to juggernauts like Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and former Predator Ryan Suter who regularly play close to 30 minutes a night.  Out of those three notables, only Drew Doughty plays more shorthanded time on ice than Josi.  Or in other words, only one other player handles more high-risk defensive responsibilities per night than Roman Josi and that’s something that should be taken into consideration when voting for the best defensive player of the year.

Next: Who Do the Preds Want in the Playoffs?

While Josi is already having a career year, the competition for the Norris Trophy will be fierce but not entirely out of reach for the Swiss dynamo.  Five games remain on the schedule and Josi can turn still turn a few heads over that time if he continues to produce at a noteworthy pace heading into the playoffs.  When the dust settles and the regular is over, fully expect Roman Josi to be a Norris Finalist or better for the first time in his career.