Nashville's de-facto #1 center has long had to battle through nagging injuries. Does the lengthy NHL lockout provide reason to be optimistic about Mike Fisher's readiness for the upcoming season?
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Recovery from shoulder surgery in May 2011 delayed the start of Fisher's campaign, but despite playing only 72 games he put up the second-best offensive numbers of his career. In the playoffs, things dried up a bit, and he contributed just one goal and three assists in 10 games.
Fisher's off-ice charitable endeavors earned him the 2012 NHL Foundation Player Award, only the second time a Nashville Predator has brought home a trophy from the league's annual awards event (following Steve Sullivan's Masterton win in 2010).
Considering the fact that he was battling through an upper-body injury when traded to Nashville in February 2011, and had surgery that off-season, one has to wonder whether the extended break due to the lockout may be a blessing in disguise for the 32-year-old. We may well see the strongest, healthiest Mike Fisher yet in Nashville, which bodes well for a player who prefers to drive the net and isn't shy about making contact in the offensive zone, as seen here:
Having Paul Gaustad on hand for a full year to serve as the team's faceoff specialist may lighten Fisher's defensive workload, too. In 5-on-5 play last season, Fish was on the ice for 143 more faceoffs in the defensive zone than the offensive one, leaving him with some pretty steep ice to climb just to get scoring chances.
Nashville has never been known for having an All Star-caliber #1 center, so nobody's looking for Fish to score at a point-per-game pace, but is it realistic to expect him to lead the team in scoring?