The worn-out cliche says timing is everything, and perhaps it rings true today in Nashville. Somehow, the Nashville Predators emerged from the 2013 draft with defenseman Seth Jones, the No. 1 ranked player available in this year’s draft, according to the Central Scouting Service.
Anyone who follows the Predators understands the need for offense, so some may be disappointed that Nashville ended up drafting yet another defenseman. However, this isn’t just any blueliner. Seth Jones is a cornerstone type of player. He is a franchise defenseman, a guy you build your team around, the type of player who helps organizations win championships. This is not your standard draft choice. Jones is the type of player who only comes around every five or ten years. He has legitimate Hall of Fame potential. How many players can you really say that about? Any disappointment will quickly dissipate once Jones quickly emerges as a difference-maker for the Predators.
It took a series of unlikely events for Jones to end up in a Nashville sweater yesterday. Below are four things that led Seth Jones to Nashville:
Ryan Suter Chooses To Leave
The Seth Jones to Nashville story actually started ten years ago in the same city. The 2003 draft was held in Nashville, Tennessee, five years after the Predators joined the National Hockey League, and the host city used the No. 7 overall pick to draft American-born defenseman Ryan Suter. The Wisconsin kid joined forces with 2003 second round pick Shea Weber to form one of the top defensive pairings in the league. Depending on how each finishes his career, the duo may go down as one of the best defensive pairings in NHL history.
Naturally, Nashville planned to keep Suter and Weber together, but Suter’s decision to test the free agent market and sign with Minnesota completely altered the Nashville Predators. Nashville went from a Cup contender to a team scrambling. Weber, the club’s captain, even signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers after Suter left. Nashville, of course, matched the offer sheet, but the organization was clearly shaken.
Suter’s departure set a tone for a strange season in Nashville. It’s highly unlikely the Predators finish with the fourth-worst record in the NHL if Suter decided to stay with the team that drafted him.
A Lockout-Shortened Season
Seth Jones probably isn’t a Predator without the league’s lockout that ended earlier this year. Obviously, we can’t predict what would have happened over an 82-game season. But the Predators clearly were not built to handle the rigors of a 48-game season in 99 days. The team was overwhelmed with injuries this season, losing the likes of Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, Hal Gill, and others during the season.
Memorial Cup is Played After the World Junior Championships
Nathan MacKinnon was the talk of town after the Memorial Cup, even scoring a hat trick against Seth Jones’ team, but it wasn’t that way all season. Earlier this year at the World Junior Championships Seth Jones was everyone’s favorite prospect. Especially after helping lead the American team to a gold medal. MacKinnon played at an incredible level during the Memorial Cup, but he certainly took advantage of tournament timing.
The Right Clubs Were Choosing Ahead of Nashville
The Predators ranked Seth Jones as the No. 1 player in the draft this year. In order for Nashville to select the number one player on its board one of two things had to happen: the Predators must somehow trade up or the three teams ahead of them must each pass on the always coveted franchise defenseman. Luckily for the Predators, Colorado, Florida, and Tampa Bay were the three clubs choosing ahead of them. What if Dallas hadn’t gone on a five-game winning streak late in the season and finished in the bottom-three? Think they would pass on the kid who grew up in Texas? What if the Edmonton Oilers – who always seems to own the first overall pick – had won the lottery again this year? What if a team like Buffalo or Philadelphia had been selecting ahead of the Predators?
Most assumed Colorado would take Jones once they won the draft lottery. Jones had previously lived in the Denver area when his Dad played for the Denver Nuggets and the Avalanche have a clear need for defensemen. But once Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy took over it was clear they wanted to add a franchise forward with the top overall pick. Florida also had a need at forward. The Panthers have depth on defense after spending high draft picks on the blueline, including the No. 3 pick on defenseman Eric Gudbranson in 2010. And Tampa Bay was looking to add to its offense after parting ways with captain and long-time face of the franchise Vincent Lecavalier earlier this week.
Seth Jones may be the future face of the Nashville franchise. He may even lead the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. If so, no one will care that the Predators drafted yet another defenseman.
In time, Nashville fans will probably even be thankful for the time Seth Jones fell into their laps.
Brian Roe covers the Nashville Predators for The Hockey Writers. Brian brings a unique background that included writing for Hockey’s Future, interning for ESPN Radio, and working for the Dallas Stars Hockey Club. He is also the founder and lead writer of NHL Intel. Brian holds a journalism degree from Abilene Christian University.