For the last few seasons, the Nashville Predators have had what most viewed to be the best defensive pairing in the league in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Now that Suter is gone, all eyes have turned toward Roman Josi as the man who will have to step into Suter’s role of being Weber’s primary defense partner.
Josi has shown flashes of brilliance in his young NHL career so far. He was arguably Nashville’s best puck-moving defenseman last season even when Suter was still donning a Predators uniform. However, his all-around game is obviously not yet on the same level as Suter’s.
Last season when Weber was out of the lineup due to injury, Josi was able to play with Suter for a few games. That experience was invaluable for him, and he is expecting the same type of learning experience if he is chosen to play alongside Weber. Suter and Weber, while obviously being two of the most talented defensemen in the league, were also two of the smartest, and that left an impact on Josi.
“I saw it last year when I played with Suter a couple games. Those guys are so good. They make it easy for you, and they help you out in every situation. That’s going to help me out a lot for this year and for my career, too, to play alongside guys like that. You learn from them in practice and every game. It’s a great opportunity for me,” Josi said.
Josi was able to learn little details from Suter while they played together that will make him more successful heading into this season. Suter’s ability to stay calm, make great passes from the point and be a world-class shut-down defenseman made him one of the most respected defensemen in the NHL, but other things that he and Weber did made them stand out to Josi as well.
“Just the way he talks on the ice and the way he helps you out as a D-partner. If you made a mistake, he was always there. He wanted to take the puck and he wanted to take charge of the game. That’s just the kind of things they do,” Josi said.
Weber and Josi are both offensively capable defensemen that will probably also anchor the power play unit for the Predators this upcoming season. However, Josi’s defensive play will be the real key to the Predators’ defense corps this season. Josi had moments where he wasn’t sharp defensively in his rookie season and has worked on that area of his game for the past several months.
Just as they will likely be spending a lot of time together on the ice, Josi and Weber are also spending lots of time together off the ice. Josi is actually currently living with Weber. Nashville’s captain has been known to lend a helping hand to some of the younger players on the team, and the young 22-year-old Swiss defenseman is the latest benefactor.
“I’m just trying to be helpful to the young guys. Older guys were good to me when I first came in the league and helped me out, so hopefully I can help the young guys out as much as I can,” Weber said.
Weber and Josi will have to establish chemistry on the ice together in a short period of time before the season kicks into high gear. They will have less than a week of training camp to become familiar with each other before the Predators open the season on Jan. 19, reportedly at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Camaraderie off the ice will likely be just as important as chemistry on the ice, and that’s something that has always been a strength for teams in Nashville.
“I think it’s always been a part of our culture here as Predators. I think we’ve always had good team chemistry, and guys like each other off the ice as well as on,” Weber said.
The Predators will be placing a lot of responsibility on Josi in just his second NHL season, but they are confident in his ability to handle that pressure. The potential is there for him to become a star at the NHL level, much like Suter. He will be thrown into the fire, however, as he will be facing top-level competition from each team’s best players.
Of course playing with Weber, arguably the best defenseman in the world, should make that job a tad easier.