This past weekend, the NHL honored its greatest players by releasing a list of the 100 best players in NHL history. These players were recognized at the All-Star festivities in what was probably the best part of the weekend. In honor of this ceremony, we want to recognize five of the best Nashville Predators of all time. The team does not have the history of some of the older teams, so a list of the 10 best players would be difficult to compose, let alone 100, so we settled on a top five. Added to the NHL in the 1998-99 season, the Predators have seen 261 players wear the team’s jersey. These are the best among them.
The Best Nashville Predators of All Time
To narrow down the list of players eligible, we started with players who dressed for at least 200 games with the Predators. This rules out all-time greats such as the likes of Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg, who spent time with the club, but really made their careers elsewhere. We also looked at most points scored for the team and gave priority to career numbers versus a big year or two. The Predators have yet to win a Stanley Cup, so that was obviously not a factor, but we did consider awards and nominations. Finally, we considered the player’s impact on the club as far as leadership and formulation of the team’s identity. The players come in no particular order with no ranking, following suit with the NHL’s list. All stats listed are points scored while with the Predators.
Legwand makes the list due to his longevity with the team and his relative effectiveness. Taken second overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Legwand went on to play almost 1,000 games with the club. He currently holds team records for games played, points, goals and assists. With Legwand, the Predators made seven playoff appearances. His best season came in 2006-07 when he scored 63 points in 78 GP, with 27 goals. Over his 14 seasons, Legwand averaged .59 Pts/GP. While certainly not an elite player by league standards, Legwand meant a lot to his team, and helped to develop a franchise that got used to making the playoffs.
GP: 956, G: 210, A: 356, Pts: 566
Seasons with the Predators: 14.5
Awards while with the Predators: none
Arnott earns a spot on this list by edging out Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont. Arnott started his career with the Edmonton Oilers, and came to the Predators after seasons in New Jersey and Dallas. He served as team captain from 2007-2010. On signing Arnott, Predators GM David Poile mentioned Arnott’s leadership qualities: “We signed Jason in the summer of 2006 for his on-ice contributions, but we were also very interested in him for his leadership and experience.” Arnott’s most productive season with the Predators came in 2007-08 when he scored 72 points in 79 GP. Arnott is the closest thing the Predators have seen to a point-per-game player. While he could not bring a Cup to Nashville, Arnott certainly closed his career productively in 3.5 seasons with the Predators.
GP: 275, G: 107, A: 122, Pts.: 229
Seasons with the Predators: 3.5
Awards while with the Predators: NHL All-Star (2008)
The Nashville Predators are known for their elite defensive corps, and this may have started with Finnish blue-liner Kimmo Timonen. After being drafted in the 10th round by the Los Angeles Kings, Timonen was traded to the Predators for future considerations. He made his NHL debut at the age of 23 on his way to eight seasons with the Predators. He is fourth among Predators’ scorers all-time with 301 points in 573 GP. Timonen served as captain in the 2006-07 season. In 2007, the Predators traded him to Philadelphia, along with Scott Hartnell, for the Flyers’ first-round pick. With this pick, the Predators selected Jonathon Blum, and likely wish they had hung on to Timonen. He continued to produce in his seven seasons with the Flyers and finally won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2015.
GP: 573, G: 79, A: 222, Pts.: 301
Seasons with the Predators: 8
Awards while with the Predators: NHL All-Star (2004, 2007)
Weber was the one easy choice for this list. Weber was loved by fans for his on-ice performance and his off-ice professionalism. The big defenseman was drafted 49th overall by the Predators in 2003 and made his debut in the 2005-06 season. Over 11 seasons with the Predators he racked up enough points from the blue-line to move into third in franchise scoring behind forwards Legwand and Martin Erat. Weber served as captain of the team from 2010 until his departure last summer. During his time in Nashville, Weber finished second in Norris Trophy voting twice. Upon his return to Bridgestone Arena this season, the Predators paid tribute to Weber and it was clear he is one of the team’s most beloved players both on and off the ice.
GP: 763, G: 166, A: 277, Pts.: 443
Seasons with the Predators: 11
Awards while with the Predators: Olympic Gold Medal (2010, 2014), NHL All-Star (2009, 2011,2012,2015,2016), Mark Messier Leadership Award (2016)
Rinne is the only current Predators player on this list. There was debat between Rinne and Tomas Vokoun, but ultimately we decided to go with Rinne because he has spent his entire career in Nashville, and will likely retire as a Predator. Rinne’s $7 million per year salary is proof enough of his value to the Predators, second highest on the team after P.K. Subban‘s $9 million. Rinne is aging, and his numbers are tailing off a bit, but he has stolen his fair share of games for the Predators in his time. When Rinne is strong, the Predators are one of the scarier teams in the league. Although he has struggled with consistency, Rinne has been elite at times. He has three Vezina Trophy nominations in his career, finishing as high as second in 2010-11.
GP: 485, W: 257, GAA: 2.38, SV%: .918
Seasons with the Predators: 10.5
Awards while with the Predators: NHL All-Star (2011, 2015, 2016)
The Best is Yet to Come
Through almost two decades of hockey, the Predators have seen their fair share of good players, but the best iterations of the team are likely to be those of the present and future. This list will soon be outdated, but for now it works as an homage to the development of a franchise in an unlikely market and the players who helped grow hockey in Nashville.