Leader of the Pred pack

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- Jason Arnott was 10 the last time he captained a hockey team.

Yet after the mass exodus of players in Nashville this off-season, the Predators decided to promote the former Edmonton Oiler.

And so far this season he's responded well to it, leading the team in scoring heading into last night's game against the Oilers.

"We were looking for someone to lead us this year," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "Last year just watching Arnie, where he was, we saw that he's a guy who has a lot of influence in the dressing room. He's been around good organizations in the past, and I felt that he was a guy that could take on a leadership role."

FREE AGENT FROM DALLAS

Arnott is in his second year with the Predators. He signed as a free agent after spending the previous four seasons with the Dallas Stars.

Originally, he was the Oilers first pick - seventh overall - in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.

After four full seasons in Edmonton, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in the middle of his fifth season.

"He's embraced being the captain as we've gone along here," Trotz said. "He's turned out to be a really good leader. I talk to him on a daily basis just to sort of direct him, and I think he has some leadership skills coming out.

"His game is probably as good as I've seen in this league for a number of years. He's really stepped up and embraced the challenge of all the difficulty we've had to go through this year."

Arnott credits Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish for playing a role in his development. As a rookie with the Oilers, Arnott played with MacTavish, who was then captain of the team. The veteran took the rookie under his wing and would often have him over to dinner.

"I remember he (MacTavish) came to practice and he was probably the hardest working player every day," Arnott said. "He had a lot of respect from all the guys and he was a good guy.

"He was hard on guys when he had to be, but he was a good guy in the dressing room as well as off the ice."

This season the Predators are struggling with consistency, having lost a number of key members of their team from last year. They're a younger team and heading into last night's game were sitting last in the Central Division.

"It's tough, I think everybody in here knows that we have a totally different team then we did last year," Arnott said. "I think last year we won games on just the talent we had in here.

"There were games we probably had no business winning, but we had so many guys that could score. It's a different atmosphere, a different attitude, but we just have to change our roles and play a little different."

RELIED ON HEAVILY

For Arnott, that role is now being the player to confide in. It's the first time since perhaps his early days in Edmonton that he's been relied on as heavily as he is now.

"For the team it's hard because we've had a lot of ups and downs this year," Arnott said. "We have a young team who are still learning how to go through slumps and how to go through those situations.

"Those situations are tough, but for the most part, it's been a lot of fun this year. The guys have been great - we have a lot of good guys in here - so it makes it easier to be a leader with guys like that."


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