After trading Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens in a blockbuster deal for P.K. Subban, the Predators are currently without a captain. Weber captained the Predators since the 2010-11 season and played 763 career games for the team who drafted him the second round (49th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Weber was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award, given to the player “who exemplifies great leadership qualities to the team, on and off the ice, during the regular season,” a week ago at the annual NHL Awards.
In 78 games last season, Weber led the Predators’ defense in goals with 20 and racked up 31 assists, too.
Without question, the Predators lost a great leader in the locker room, and whomever is Nashville’s new captain will have huge shoes to fill.
The assistant captains for the Predators last season were Mike Fisher, Roman Josi and James Neal, so they are the likely candidates to have the “C” sewn onto their sweater.
“I definitely see a lot of guys who could be,” Weber said Wednesday in a teleconference when asked about who the next captain should be. “They’ll make the right decision. I think they know who it should be. I’ve spent enough time around that group that I think I know. They do have a great group of core leaders in there. There were some really great guys that made it easy to be a captain, especially in my younger years. When everything was knew to me, I had some good help. I’m going to miss those guys.”
Without Weber, Josi will be the Predators’ top defenseman, and with that comes responsibility. Though Josi has proven to be an elite player, handing the 26-year-old the captaincy of a team poised to win a Stanley Cup may be too much pressure.
Filip Forsberg, who recently re-signed with Nashville to a six-year, $36 million contract, is one of the faces of the franchise. However, like Josi, the captaincy may be too much pressure for a soon-to-be 22-year-old.
That leaves Fisher and Neal.
In just two seasons since joining the Predators, Neal has matured greatly and became the go-to goal scorer the team had envisioned. Neal’s 31 goals last season was his highest total since scoring 40 with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011-12.
Though Neal would suffice as Nashville’s captain, the best leader in the locker room is Fisher. The 36-year-old grizzled veteran has over 1,000 NHL games played under his belt and has been with the club since 2011. He is familiar with essentially everyone in the organization and can handle the pressure that comes with wearing the “C” while allowing more skilled players to just play their game.
Fisher is on the final year of his contract, and the thought of retirement has surely crept into his mind. Regardless, his experience and stellar attitude should be exactly what the Predators are looking for in their next captain.