However, retirement from the NHL is not out of the realm of possibility for the 37-year-old Fisher. After all, he’s been playing for 18 seasons at the highest level of hockey, and with a family waiting for him at home, who can blame him if he wants to hang up his skates? Whether he decides to retire or not, roles will need to be filled in the locker room leadership committee one way or another.
There are two scenarios that will play out for the 2017-2018 Nashville Predators, one seamless in transition, the other more complex. We’ll start with the first.
Remember, these are just opinions, and healthy discussion is encouraged! Also, while only two players wore the “A” on the ice, there were three designated alternate captains as part of the leadership group in 2016/17: James Neal, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.
It’s quite simple. James Neal is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights after the expansion draft, and who better to fill a leadership position than PK Subban? Exactly.
Scenario 2: Mike Fisher retires, Predators find themselves in need of a Captain and an Alternate Captain.
This is where things become complicated, but these decisions can change the face of the franchise for the better or worse. We’ll start with the candidates for Captain, as that is the most crucial role.
Roman Josi (A)
Ryan Ellis (A)
The two most obvious candidates are the two current Alternate Captains in Josi and Ellis. The fact that they are on the same pairing as each other during the 2016-2017 season wasn’t an issue with the Predators during the 2016-2017 season, and shouldn’t be in the coming year. PK Subban will be given a bigger role, but to what capacity will still be determined. With all of that said, here is the case for each.
Josi, at age 27, is the most likely member of the Predators to receive the duty of Captain as he is not only a world class defenseman but a staple in the locker room. While not necessarily outspoken, his is more of a “lead by example” type, and was a major factor in the Predators run to the Stanley Cup Final both on and off the ice. He’s not as outspoken in some of the public’s eyes, and that might be the reason some think he doesn’t receive the C.
It almost feels like we’ve watched the evolution of Ryan Ellis over the last few seasons, from a promising rookie that could deliver a crushing hip check to the bearded colonel that can fire a slap shot like it was shot out of a cannon. If you haven’t seen his unofficial Twitter page, treat yourself. The biggest question is this: Is the 26-year-old ready for such responsibility? While capable, his role is best served as Alternate Captain. He’s crucial as a power play defenseman, and more often than not leads the attack when the Predators find themselves on the man advantage, but leading the team might be more than he needs right now.
Finally, there’s 28-year-old PK Subban. Subban is definitely the most outspoken player for the Predators, if not the entirety of the NHL. After finishing his first year with the club, the former Norris Trophy recipient is in a strong position to take the team and lead them into the future. He talks a big game, he plays a big game, and he’s earned an established role in the organization that led to Nashville’s late season and post-season success. Even Pekka Rinne praised the effectiveness of his speech after the Game 6 loss to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals as emotional and motivational.
If things progress with a Mike Fisher retirement, PK Subban could be the next Captain. He’s the right age, the right mentality, and potentially the right man for the job. While it may be uncommon for a player to leap frog Alternate straight to Captain, it isn’t uncommon. If Fisher does come back for another year,or two, Subban could still be in line to receive the Captain’s job, he would just have to settle for Alternate for the upcoming season.
In the scenario of a Fisher retirement however, that just leaves the last “A” that was then held by Ryan Ellis (only worn on the ice if the captain or two other alternates were not playing). There are three candidates likely to receive that “A,” and all of them are forwards. It has to be a forward. Three defensemen already hold leadership positions, (no matter who gets Captain, PK could get an Alternate assignment).
Those forwards are Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Calle Jarnkrok, in my opinion. Realistically, this spot will be filled by Ryan Johansen. His performance in the playoffs, and subsequent injury, showed what the team is and is not when he is out of the lineup. The JOFA line just wasn’t the same without Joey. Look for him to get the “A.”
After much deliberation, consideration, and reorganization; our scenarios feature two very different sets of leaders on the ice. Captain Fisher, Ellis, Josi, Subban make up Route A; while Captain Subban, Ellis, Josi, and Johansen are a possibility for Route B. Either way, both routes lead back to another crack at the Cup. Neither group will accept anything less.
(Editor’s Note: Remember, this is the opinion of one writer. Respectfully comment below on your thoughts and let’s have a healthy discussion!)