Nashville Predators: Where Roman Josi Stands Among Best NHL Defensemen

The Nashville Predators celebrate a second period goal by Roman Josi #59 against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on December 02, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators celebrate a second period goal by Roman Josi #59 against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on December 02, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

In many ways Roman Josi has been the face of the Nashville Predators going back to the President’s Trophy season of 2017-18 and the post-retirement of Pekka Rinne.

The NHL is currently loaded with elite defensemen that have followed the Josi blueprint of being predicated on pushing the offense and using speed to create odd-man rushes. Among active defensemen, Josi is 8th in career points with 601 points.

So it begs the question if the 33-year-old Josi should still be considered one of the best defensemen in the NHL? Let’s say, top-5.

In a way, Josi was ahead of his time in terms of being an offense-first defenseman and he has certainly gotten his fair share of criticism, sometimes warranted, for sacrificing some of his defensive zone play.

According to Bleacher Report’s top-10 NHL defensemen rankings, Josi comes in at a respectable No.4 spot, which honestly kind of surprises me.

To no one’s shock, Cale Makar takes the top spot, but after that there’s probably a lot of disagreement among fans on how the list should be sorted out.

Josi Still Has Gas Left in the Tank to win a 2nd Career Norris Trophy

Allow me to start by saying that with the elite talent pool of NHL defensemen being so deep right now, it will be extremely difficult for Josi to claim his 2nd career Norris Trophy. But that doesn’t mean he lacks the ability to do so.

First and foremost, it helps immensely when a player is already on a team surrounded by elite scoring forwards like Makar is on the Avalanche, Adam Fox is on the Rangers, and Charlie McAvoy is on the Bruins.

Not to take anything away from those three outstanding defensemen who are ahead of Josi on B/R’s top-10, but when you have the likes of players like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, yeah it helps a lot.

For Josi on this new-look Predators team, opening up the offense more under first-year Head Coach Andrew Brunette should hopefully allow for the Predators captain another 60 to 70-point season. He has only surpassed 70 points once in his career, and that was the magical 2021-22 campaign of 96 points.

Ironically, Josi came in second place in the Norris Trophy voting to none other than Cale Makar. The final results were just separated by 25 votes, with Josi receiving more 1st-place votes than Makar.

So just one year removed from that, Josi can undoubtedly remain a top-tier defenseman in the NHL and once again be in the Norris Trophy conversation. My reservation is a deep talent pool and being uncertain on how quickly the Predators offense will get clicking under a new head coach.

How Josi can Lead the Nashville Predators to Playoff Success

With the Nashville Predators going through this tricky transition phase under new leadership both in the front office and behind the bench, Josi is going to be critical in the on-ice leadership.

Josi is currently captain, since 2017, and leading a Nashville defensive corps that also includes veterans Luke Schenn, Ryan McDonagh and Tyson Barrie. Not a bad top-four if you ask me.

Although the likelihood of Josi exploding for near 100 points is pretty low, being that consistent power play quarterback and being leaned on to make the right decision consistently in clutch moments cannot be overstated.

Makar at age 24 and Fox at age 25 are the future of the position and the future is actually now. I have no issue with them being ranked ahead of Josi for that reason of them likely not even have hit their respective peaks yet, while Josi will have to battle father time like all of us eventually have to do.

It doesn’t take away from the notion that Josi is the MVP of the Nashville Predators even at this advanced stage of his career, with only Juuse Saros having a reasonable argument to be put ahead of him.

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Who could be the next future offensive phenom for the Nashville Predators in terms of playing like Josi? Hard to say, but Tanner Molendyk, 2023 first-round draft pick, looks the part and will be fun to watch develop in the coming years.

Breaking Down B/R’s list a little further

What surprised me most about Bleacher Reports top-10 defensemen heading into 2023-24 is how far down they put Miro Heiskanen at No.8. He is a darkhorse top Norris Trophy candidate for 2024 on a loaded Dallas Stars team that should be on the short list of top Stanley Cup contenders.

Heiskanen is right in that class of Makar and Fox in terms of current generation of elite offensive defensemen the NHL has to offer. It feels like he’s waiting to have his breakout year, so I’d put him much higher on this list and consider putting him in the top-5 and moving either Erik Karlsson or Charlie McAvoy out.

Dougie Hamilton ahead of Victor Hedman also seems blasphemous. I get that Hamilton just exploded for 74 points this past season, but before that had never even sniffed 60 points in a season.

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Recency bias much? Hedman has put together an incredible 14-year NHL career and is one of the most well-rounded defensemen in the NHL, even at age 32. So I’d put Hedman ahead of Hamilton.

Hey, at least for once one of these lists doesn’t appear to throw complete shame and disrespect to a Nashville Predators player. Josi at No.4 is pretty generous, but also speaks to the expectation that Josi has what it takes still to join Karlsson as the most recent player to win their second Norris Trophy.

If you really want your mind blown, former Detroit Red Wings superstar Nicklas Lidstrom won seven Norris Trophies over the course of a decade between 2001 and 2011.