Let’s be real here: he could be a watch salesman in Switzerland, a hockey player, or an Abercrombie and Fitch model. He’s soft-spoken like a banker, chooses to stay out of fights like his homeland, and has very few holes in his game, unlike Swiss cheese. One could even say he skates smoother than Swiss chocolate.
Have I overdone it with the Switzerland references?
Who else would I be referring to other than Roman Josi, the eighth captain of the Nashville Predators?
Josi is unique in almost every sense of the word; he’s the defenseman of the future. He skates and shoots like a forward, yet occupies a defensive position. Peter Laviolette’s system enables him to jump in on the attack, which benefits the team tremendously. His luck in pairing with a defensive defenseman in Ryan Ellis allows him to do so- the Predators essentially have a fourth forward on the ice if all things go according to plan.
Every story needs to be told in some form or fashion, and his story to captaincy is one of patience and composure.
Based in the capital of Switzerland, Josi began his professional career with the Schlittschuh Club Bern organization at the raw age of 17. He spent two years in the Swiss Juniors before becoming a full time member of Bern SC, and was selected 38th overall in the 2008 NHL draft.
The Swiss defenseman played 116 total games in Switzerland, scoring 18 goals and racking up 59 points. That experience helped him quickly gain the spotlight in Milwaukee, as he immediately made a name for himself. His debut season with the Admirals was his best one, considering he netted 6 goals and tallied 34 assists. He made his first NHL appearance in 2011, and netted his first goal against Dan Ellis of the Anaheim Ducks.
After a brief 52 game stint in the NHL, Josi began the next season in Switzerland (due to the lockout) for 26 games and banged out 6 goals. The next season, he went to the Predators full time, and hasn’t missed a season in the NHL since.
Erik Karlsson, a defenseman who was taken before Josi in the 2008 draft, can personally attest the level of talent Josi has played with his entire career in the NHL.
Josi took a clear role when he landed a full time job in Nashville: set up Shea Weber on the power play. Weber’s bombs from the blueline was a staple to the offense- the booming defenseman was still in his prime, and goaltenders would’ve preferred a Josi slapshot over a Weber slapshot.
The duo combined for 154 power play points in four and a half seasons played together- overall, Weber retained the spotlight because he held the title of captain during their time together. Josi was overshadowed, but his time came soon enough.
After the pitiful Game Seven against the San Jose Sharks in the 2015-2016 playoffs, David Poile traded the beloved Weber for P.K. Subban, a provocative ambassador to the sport who was not as inconspicuous as Weber. Long time assistant captain Mike Fisher was granted the title, and Josi was given the assistant captaincy along with James Neal. The trio of captains led the team to the Stanley Cup Final, and Fisher retired after a Game Six loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Josi had a tremendous postseason that year, netting six goals and tallying 8 assists. He netted Nashville’s first Stanley Cup goal in Bridgestone Arena, and sealed a decisive victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game Three. Not to mention, he had grabbed at least 12 goals in his first six full seasons in the NHL. When Poile protected Calle Jarnkrok over Neal in the expansion draft, Josi was the clear cut choice for the next captain.
He missed the first couple of games in the 2017-2018 campaign and brought himself back into the lineup with thunder. He led his team to a President’s Trophy in his first year, but did not display his worth in the playoffs. However, when push comes to shove, Josi has always risen to the challenge, and this year proved that.
A Fourth Forward
As I mentioned before, I hypothesized that Josi is essentially a fourth forward. Here is an example of why I think that.
I took his full season, and compared it to Nick Bonino, (a traditionally defensive oriented forward), and Ryan Johansen (a traditionally offensive oriented center).
On Ice- Corsi For %
On Ice- High Danger Chance For %
Individual- High Danger Chances
This data can be misinterpreted, so allow me to clarify: Josi produces almost as many individual high danger chances as the Predators’ “shutdown center” who starts on the third line. When compared to a first line center (whose line mates both scored over 25 goals), Josi does not seem as productive- however, considering how the JOFA line plays and produces points regularly, Josi does not necessarily need to generate offense for that particular center. For a center like Bonino, Josi may need to jump in on the attack more frequently.
Josi, in a way, is a defensive forward for lines that produce goals, and an offensive forward for lines that are not the JOFA line. Here is his Corsi For percentage for every line, and what those lines look without him.
1st line (33-92-9) with Josi: 53.97% //1st line without Josi: 56.08%
2nd line (64-8-15) with Josi: 51.25% // 2nd line without Josi: 50.01%
3rd line (10-13-51) with Josi: 48.23% //3rd line without Josi: 48.11%
4th line (17-19-11) with Josi: 48.77% // 4th line without Josi: 50.54%
Josi tends to generate more offense with the second line and third line because he has to. He CAN play his traditional defensive role with the first line, and almost has to play his traditional defensive role with the fourth line. Not to mention, Josi scored more goals than Calle Jarnkrok this year, and the sample size for games played is too small for both Boyle and Simmonds. That’s why the fourth line looks more lopsided.
Based on total shot attempts, Josi clearly adds an offensive element. I don’t even need to get as complicated as high danger chances or percentages on total shot attempts. Josi scored 15 goals for the Predators in the regular season, which ranked him 6th in the league from defenseman goals, and 1st on the Predators.
All stats aside, it’s imperative that Josi continues to contribute offensively. Considering how sporadic forward production outside of the JOFA line is, Nashville could use offense from the defense.
Also, he’s due for a contract upgrade at the end of the year. Do you think he has a Swiss bank account? It would be pretty cool if he did.