The Nashville Predators’ 2019-20 season is all but over. Given the lengthy suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that we are now approaching late April with no end in sight, not only is Preds’ season likely over, so to is their chance at a 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff run.
We’ve already discussed the next steps for the Preds. David Poile has many big decisions to make this summer in his effort to improve the roster for next season. This includes shopping around for new defenseman to replace the ones he’s likely to lose, as I wrote about last week.
But before we say goodbye to the Nashville Predators’ 2019-20 season, let’s hand out some player awards.
Calder (Top Rookie): Dante Fabbro
Dante Fabbro hasn’t had a spectacular season, but he’s been by far the best rookie of all qualifying players. He played in 64 games this season and solidified himself as a top four defenseman, albeit one with flaws in his game and plenty of room for growth. He will finish with five goals and six assists, which is lower than you’d want for a blueliner with an offensive mindset.
But Fabbro did very well considering the cirumstances. He stepped into a top four role and held his own for the first two months of the season. Then the Preds lost Ryan Ellis for over a month, throwing the entire unit into turmoil. He played with both Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, and though each partner has very different skill sets, he adapted well.
His season highlight is this power play goal from the Winter Classic, where he scored off a nice feed from Matt Duchene.
That’s great positioning by Fabbro to come down and anticipate the back door feed from Duchene. Beautiful finish, too.
Calder runner-up: Colin Blackwell
Norris (Top Defenseman): Roman Josi
There’s no other option here. Roman Josi has had arguably the best season by a Nashville Predators defenseman in history, given everything else that’s happened this year and the numbers that he’s put up. He’s routinely been the Preds’ best player on the ice and has been incredibly consistent on a very inconsistent team.
In 69 games, Josi put up 16 goals and 49 assists to lead the team with 65 points. There was a brief moment where it looked like he would challenge Paul Kariya’s all-time season points record (85) but that obviously won’t happen now.
His season highlight (tough to choose from) is this game tying power play against Tampa back in October. Check out this full highlight, especially the part where he collects the puck out of mid-air about six seconds prior to the goal.
That’s amazing, and Josi did things like this all season. You can find similar highlights to that one in several dozen games this year.
Norris runner-up: Mattias Ekholm
Vezina (Top Goaltender): Juuse Saros
This is just more evidence that Juuse Saros has taken the reins from Pekka Rinne. Saros was clearly the better goaltender from this season, especially late in the season when the Preds were finally starting to put it all together.
Saros finished with a 17-12-4 record and a .914 overall save percentage, compared to Rinne’s 18-14-4 record and .895 overall save percentage. He started one less game (34) than Rinne (35), but appeared in four more games (40) than Rinne (36). We have plenty of time in the coming days to lament the end Rinne’s career in Nashville, but for now we can celebrate the maturity and growth of Saros. He’s the better goalie right now and will be moving forward.
His season highlight is the 2nd of his consecutive shutouts against the Dallas Stars on March 7th.
He made 37 saves in Dallas that night, which was part of his stellar run of shutout hockey that came to end the following Tuesday against Montreal.
Lady Byng (Sportsmanship/”high standard”): Rocco Grimaldi
Rocco Grimaldi proved himself an asset in Nashville’s lineup late last season. Then this year, he cemented his spot with speed, aggressive forechecking, and improved scoring ability.
The Lady Byng is about all around sportsmanship combined with a high standard of hockey playing ability. For the Nashville Predators, Grimaldi fits the description better than most. He finished with 10 goals and 21 assists for a career high 31 points, all while generating only 10 penalty minutes in 66 games. He was a consistent force at both ends of the ice for the Preds, which earned him a two-year contract extension back in February.
Grimaldi has several season highlights, but I will go with this beautiful goal against New Jersey. Watch how he chips past former Preds bluliner P.K. Subban to spring the breakaway, then finishes with a clinical deke and backhand.
On top of all this, Grimaldi was a consummate professional off the ice, despite the team’s frustrating losses and inconsistent play. On more than one occasion, Grimaldi spoke out honestly about the team’s performance after games, showing that his relative inexperience in the league was not going to stop him from taking on a leadership role.
Lady Byng runner-up: Calle Jarnkrok
Selke (Top Defensive Forward): Calle Jarnkrok
Calle Jarnkrok had another quietly productive year for the Preds. While 34 points for a forward doesn’t sound like much, his utility and small cap hit proves his value to the team every night. What other $2 million forward out there produces like he does and also plays invaluable defensive minutes every night?
While defensive hockey, especially from a forward, is hard to appreciate from a fan’s perspective, what Jarnkrok brings every night should not be understated. Here’s a look at his on-ice defensive zone impact from Hockey Viz. Note the expected goals threat impact of +0% is better than the team’s expected goals threat impact of +5% (the lower the number is, the better).
I will say this award was a close call between Jarnkrok and Nick Bonino. Bonino has been solid all around this season, especially because of his offensive output. I went with Jarnkrok due to his unique utility as a winger and center, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone that said Bonino deserved this award for the Preds.
Selke runner-up: Nick Bonino
Hart (MVP): Roman Josi
[see Norris Trophy winner text above]
All joking aside, there’s no contest as to who the MVP of the Nashville Predators has been this season. It’s Roman Josi. He’s been the best player on the ice almost every night, carrying the team through injuries, losing streaks, and coaching changes.
Quite possibly the worst part of the NHL season being suspended indefinitely is that Preds fans didn’t get to see Josi accept an actual award for his accomplishments at the NHL awards show in June.
— Featured image via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports —