Age is relative thing for the Nashville Predators.
At 24 years old, defenseman Shea Weber is hardly a boy among men in the locker room. Plus, he already has experienced more than many of his teammates and that, franchise officials decided, qualifies him for more responsibility.
With that in mind, Weber was introduced as the new team captain Thursday during the Predators’ annual ‘Skate of the Union’ event at Bridgestone Arena and became the youngest to hold that position.
“We have a nucleus of young players that is now driving our franchise,” general manager David Poile said. “The leader of that group is Shea Weber.”
The announcement was greeted with heavy applause and a standing ovation from the crowd estimated at close to 1,000 that gathered to hear from many of the top team officials.
“I was surprised at first, but I was excited,” Weber said afterward. “It’s a big opportunity. Obviously it’s a huge honor. … To be able to be captain to be with this group of guys that I’ve been with for a while now is a huge honor.
“… I’m not a real rah-rah guy. I try to lead by example, and if something needs to be said, I’ll say it.”
Weber succeeds Jason Arnott, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils several weeks ago and who had held the position since the start of 2007-08 and becomes the first player ever drafted by the Predators to wear the ‘C.’
A second-round pick in the 2003 draft, Weber has appeared in 320 games for Nashville in addition to the 2009 NHL All-Star game. He also was a key part of Team Canada, which won the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics.
“Shea is a great success story,” Poile said. “He was not a first-round draft pick, but he has played in an All-Star game and has won a gold medal with Canada at the Olympics. He’s on everybody’s list of the top young defensemen in the league.”
He is the fifth captain in franchise history.
The previous four – Tom Fitzgerald, Greg Johnson, Kimmo Timonen and Arnott – all were 29 or older at the start of their first season in that spot. None, however, oversaw a locker room with so many who followed a similar path into the organization.
Depending on some decisions, it’s likely that half or more of the players on this season’s roster will be Predators’ draft picks, and virtually all of those were taken in the years following Weber’s selection.
“(Weber) does things right, and players recognize that,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… He is the first captain of the Predators who was drafted (here), went to the development camp, went to Milwaukee, played in Nashville and is going to be a prominent player not only with our team but in the league.
“… He had such a big impact and a lot of presence.”
Now, he also has the most prominent voice in the room.
“The timing really seems right,” Poile said. “It looks like this season we’re going to have a dozen or more of our own draft picks on the team. I like the fact that we will have that large a number of players who have never worn another jersey.”
Finally, one of those sweaters will be adorned with a ‘C.’