Josi Norris

If the Nashville Predators spent their 25th Anniversary season proving the naysayers wrong and performing above expectations, much of the same proved true for captain Roman Josi.

Getting off to a relatively quieter start in the opening days of the 2023-24 campaign, No. 59 would spend the rest of the campaign performing at a characteristically elite level and making another strong case for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top "defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."

In almost too many ways to count, the description matches Josi to a T.

“We all are a little bit biased, but I certainly think he's earned it and he deserves it,” Predators forward Colton Sissons said. “He’s just a massive reason why we're in the spot that we’re in and in the postseason. He’s been leading the way and just doing tremendous things on the offensive side of the ice… You see what he does night in and night out. So I hope he can get another [Norris Trophy], because he's certainly been the MVP of probably the NHL in the last half.”

With Josi poised to become a finalist for the trophy, there are a number of factors to evaluate and comparisons to make.

Let’s get started:

Against the League

Josi finished the 2023-24 campaign leading all NHL defensemen in goals (23), power-play goals (9), shots on goal (268) and shot attempts (602), second in even-strength points (51), tied for second in game-winning goals (5), third in points (85) and points per game played (1.04), tied for fourth in power-play points (33) and fifth in assists (62).

“I haven’t been on too many teams with a D-man that contributes this much offense, it's crazy,” 15-year veteran Predators forward Ryan O’Reilly said. “It's amazing how much he does and how elusive he is on the ice, that for sure he should be in contention. He's been a big piece of why we've had success this year and a big part of our offensive production. It's amazing what he's done, and not just putting [the puck] in, but the big goals he’s scored for us too and the big plays he's made for us. It's definitely very impressive.”

Since Nov. 26, Nashville’s captain led all League defensemen in every scoring category, recording 73 points (20g-53a) through the 63-game span.

Points by NHL Defensemen Since Nov. 26

Roman Josi
Evan Bouchard
Adam Fox
Cale Makar
Quinn Hughes

He was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on March 4 after posting seven points (3g-4a) in three games and Second Star of the Week on April 15 after posting another seven points (2g-5a) in three games.

From March 10-28, Josi recorded a season-high eight-game point streak (4g-10a) that included four multi-point performances. On March 28, he became the 37th defenseman in NHL history, and the eighth active, to record 500 assists. Of those 37 defensemen, 21 are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Against the Competition

There’s no denying Josi’s impact on the ice this season. However, there’s also no denying the stiff competition he faces in the Norris Trophy race.

Going off the most recent writers’ poll, Josi’s co-finalists for the prestigious award will likely end up being Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes and Colorado’s Cale Makar, both elite defenders in their own right.

However, Josi still holds the edge over the two in many areas.

This season, Josi led Makar and Hughes in hits (46), blocked shots (151), zone entry denial (46.2%), blocked shots per 60 minutes (1.34) and blocked passes per 60 minutes (2.22).

Defensive Play vs. Huges, Makar

Blocked Shots
Zone Entry Denial
Blocked Shots/60
Blocked Passes/60
Roman Josi
Quinn Huges
Cale Makar

On, Josi appears twice among defensive pairs in the Top 20 (playing a minimum of 200 minutes together) in expected goals percentage; Josi and Ryan McDonagh are tied for eighth at 59.4 percent and Josi and Dante Fabbro 18th at 56.3 percent.

Hughes and Makar are not featured in any pairing cracking the Top 20.

Per NHL Edge, the Predators spent less time in the defensive zone and far more in the offensive and neutral zones when Josi was on the ice than the Avalanche did when Makar was. Compared to Hughes and Vancouver, the Predators also spent less time in the d-zone, more in the neutral zone and just 0.2 percent less time in the offensive zone with Josi on the ice.

Zone Time Percentage vs. Hughes, Makar

Offensive Zone Time
Neutral Zone Time
Defensive Zone Time
Roman Josi
Quinn Hughes
Cale Makar

O Captain, My Captain

When it comes to defensemen, none had a larger impact on their team’s success than Josi this season.

Without their captain, it’s hard to imagine the Predators going on the same 18-game run that pulled them out of a four-point deficit in mid-February and ultimately earned them the Western Conference’s first Wild Card spot and the ninth postseason berth in their last 10 seasons.

From the start of the franchise-record run on Feb. 17 to the end of Nashville’s campaign on April 15, Josi posted 36 points (12g-24a), the second-most among his teammates and the most among NHL blueliners.

Within that span, Josi also ranked first among all League defensemen in goals, points per game (1.29) and shots (97), tied for first in power-play points (13), second in even-strength points (23), third in assists and tied for sixth in plus-minus (+15).

On Jan. 20, he scored his 167th career goal to pass former captain Shea Weber for the most by a defenseman and the third-most in team history. His three multi-goal performances this season were additionally the most among NHL blueliners.

His 23 goals this season accounted for 8.6 percent of Nashville’s total markers and his 51 even-strength points made up 9.6 percent of his team’s total, both the highest marks among all League blueliners.

Of course, Josi’s impact on the Predators lineup extends beyond the statistics.

“It's been a lot of fun playing with him and learning from him,” Fabbro said. “He's very offensive, but he's also getting his own end and he leads by example that way. And I'm just so impressed with the way he handles himself day-to-day, coming in for workouts, after workouts, after ice. The way he takes care of himself away from the rink was definitely a big eye-opener for myself and definitely something that I knew I needed to improve on. And I think I just looked at a guy like that and it was easy to take things from what he's doing well and apply it to myself.”

“He’s been incredible,” rookie forward Luke Evangelista said. “I've never been on the ice with a player like him, honestly. Every time you're on the ice with him, the puck could come to you at any moment. He sees plays that other guys just don't see, and obviously his scoring as a D-man is just insane.

“He's got such a unique skill set, and I'm really rooting for him. I hope he wins it.”

If Josi wins the Norris Trophy, it will be his second time doing so. Nashville’s captain first won the award following the 2019-20 season, a campaign which saw the defenseman record 65 points (16g-49a) in 69 games.

Josi is the only defenseman in franchise history to receive the award.

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