Ah, hockey in the summer, where things come to a grinding halt for about two months in between one long season and another. To fill the void we at Eye on Hockey thought it would be fun to make an all-time team for each of the 30 organizations in the NHL today.
The ground rules: The teams will consist of a center, two wings (regardless of which side), two defensemen and a goaltender. A player must have spent at least 200 games with a franchise to be considered. So Bobby Orr won't be on the Blackhawks' roster or Wayne Gretzky for St. Louis.
The Nashville Predators will be celebrating their 15th anniversary in 2013-14 after joining the league in the 1998-99 season. There have been a lot of ups and downs in the Music City, but there have also been several really solid players who have rolled through town and even a few that are still there.
Making an All-Time Team for the Preds couldn't be counted as an overly easy task, but there were certainly some clear front-runners. The thing about Nashville is that the team has had a hard time luring big-time free agents, so it is an organization that builds through the draft and does its best to keep its top players around as long as possible.
As such, five of the six players on this list were home-grown drafted prospects who budded into long-time stars on the team. Three on the list are still Predators as well. This is a team where loyalty is valued. Both general manager David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz have been with the club from the very beginning. They had a hand in selecting and grooming each player on this list, which is a great testament to the organization.
David Legwand: The Preds have had quality centers like Jason Arnott and Cliff Ronning who have come in and made a big impact, but neither can match the longevity or historical significance of David Legwand with the Predators' franchise.
He was the team's first-ever draft pick, selected second overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft (after GM David Poile traded up to land him) and since the age of 18, Legwand has appeared in at least one game of every season the team has existed. Starting his first full-time season in 1999-2000, Legwand has amassed franchise records in games played (894), goals (200), assists (326), points (526), game-winning goals (39) and shots (1,818).
Legwand has never been the flashiest player, with his best season coming in 2006-07, when he posted career highs with 27 goals, 36 assists and 63 points. Now 32, the center is entering the last year of his contract with the Predators. Arnott may have made the bigger impact over a shorter period of time, but Legwand has been a constant with the franchise and both his longevity and effectiveness deserve to be honored here.
Martin Erat: In just the team's second NHL Entry Draft in 1999, the Predators selected Martin Erat with the 191st overall pick in the seventh round. He went on to a 11-plus-year career with the team.
Erat was traded away to the Capitals at his request last season, bringing an unceremonious end to what was a very bright career in Nashville. As a parting gift however, he netted the Preds highly-touted Swedish prospect Filip Forsberg from Washington, so it's not too bad.
Before he left Nashville, however, Erat placed himself high in the Nashville record books, ranking second all-time in each of Nashville's major offensive categories. Though he struggled to stay healthy, Erat was good for about 50 points a season, finishing with 49 points or more in eight of his 11 seasons with the club. He posted a career year in 2011-12, despite missing 11 games. The right winger put up 39 assists and 58 points as the Predators put forth one of their second-highest point total in franchise history.
Steve Sullivan: This slot was probably the toughest of all to make a choice on. Sullivan ultimately got the nod for what he was able to accomplish in five-plus seasons with Nashville despite battling significant injury troubles the whole way. When he was healthy, Sullivan was a factor in the lineup. So much so that he now ranks in the top 10 in each of the major offensive categories including sixth all time in career points with 263.
The journeyman came to Nashville in a mid-season trade in 2003-04 with the Chicago Blackhawks and proceeded to complete his second best season as an NHLer with 73 points. In 2005-06, he posted his second career 30-goal season despite appearing in only 69 games with Nashville.
Sullivan won the Bill Masterton Award for perseverance in 2008-09 after missing all of the 2007-08 season and the first half of 2008-09 due to a severe back injury. He only played one full 82-game season with the Preds, but managed a respectable 0.83 point-per-game pace, which ranks third all-time for the club.
A fan favorite wherever he goes, Sullivan will always be remembered by the Music City fondly.
Shea Weber: In just eight years, Shea Weber has become one of the premier, if not the best two-way defenseman in the NHL and he's done it all while with the Nashville Predators. The 2003 second-round draft pick has already posted 291 points from the blue line including 108 goals, which is the third most in franchise history.
A bruising defender, Weber also possesses one of the hardest shots in the league. It's no wonder when Weber was signed to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet by the Philadelphia Flyers at the end of last season, the Predators didn't even blink when matching it.
He's locked up until 2025-26, but he's already made an indelible impact on the Nashville Predators. He's also had a lot of highlights in his career, which is summed up fairly well in this video (turn your speakers down, though).
Ryan Suter: There was a ton of debate with what to do with this last spot here. Kimmo Timonen and Ryan Suter really couldn't be any more neck-and-neck when it comes to contributions to the Predators. Timonen left via trade to the Philadelphia Flyers, while Suter skipped out in free agency at the end of last season leaving a sour taste in plenty a Nashville fan's mouths.
That said, Suter really established himself as one of the best defensemen in the league, despite his spot firmly in the shadow of Weber. Both Suter and Weber were among the best defensive pairings in the league over the last decade and were really the faces of the franchise before Suter's departure for Minnesota. Oddly enough, it was Suter who was the 7th overall pick in the draft in 2003, selected 42 slots ahead of his future D partner.
On the all-time list, Suter ranks fourth in games played (542), fourth in assists (200) and tied for eight with 238 points. While Timonen is ahead of him in each category, Suter's defensive play -- which is tougher to quantify, but no less important -- was the main separating point.
Pekka Rinne: This was a lot harder of a decision than I thought it would be, but the Predators have had two really stellar goaltenders in its franchise history. Tomas Vokoun received heavy consideration in this slot, but when comparing head-to-head, Rinne has the edge.
In his five seasons as a primary starter for the Predators, Rinne has turned himself into one of the game's elite netminders. So far, he has stapled himself to the top of the Preds' all-time goalie records. Rinne is No. 1 in career save percentage with .919, goals-against average at 2.36, shutouts with 30. Though he has made 90 fewer appearances in a Nashville uniform than Vokoun, Rinne is locked up until 2019, so that will probably change.
Rinne has been unflappable over the last few years. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. In 2010-11, he made 64 appearances and posted a .930 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average. In the abbreviated 2013 season, Rinne appeared in 43 of his team's 48 games. The following year, the Predators goaltender made a staggering 73 appearances, earning 43 wins and posting a save percentage of .923 and goals-against average of 2.39.
Rinne might just be getting warmed up. Here's one of his most memorable saves, coming from the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kimmo Timmonen, Tomas Vokoun, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, Scott Hartnell.