Look, we all knew last year's 39 point campaign was an above average performance for 34-year-old Mike Fisher, right? We knew he wouldn't follow up an almost career best 0.66 points/game with a similar or better rate this year, right? No way he would get nearly 20 goals for the 3rd year in a row, right?
And he didn't. Big deal.
No matter how you slice it, for what Fisher was asked to do this year, he had a decent year. He was plugged in as the third-line center, working mostly with Colin Wilson, Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith, and Miikka Salomaki. The Predators' assistant captain played in 70 games, helping to guide some young talent into playing the game the right way.
(stats from hockey-reference.com)
And in the playoffs, Fisher was one of the Predators' best weapons. He compiled seven points (5G, 2A) in 14 playoff games and his line was simply fantastic. When paired with Wilson and Arvidsson, his line went beast mode up and down the ice. Then, when James Neal took shifts with Fisher and Wilson, the line got even better. Fisher was an important cog in this team making it further than they ever had before in the playoffs.
The problem with Fisher is that all signs point to an even sharper decline next year. What's to come may not be pretty, unless somehow Fisher finds a third or fourth gear. Take a look at his shot generation from two years ago (on the right) to this past year (on the left).
(graphic from www.sportingcharts.com)
Fisher just isn't getting the shot production we would expect from a guy like a him--a guy that has made his living in the center of the offensive zone.
Fisher is known for creating space in the more dangerous areas of the ice, not with his stick skills, but with his physical skills. On top of that, Fisher just isn't shooting as much as he used to. This year he totaled 98 shots, which is 13 fewer than last year (in 11 more games) and 79 fewer than two years ago. While that's probably because he had hungry young players ready to shoot from the outside (Arvidsson), Fisher still sports nearly an 11.7% career shooting percentage--that's damn good for a third-line center. Shoot, Fish!
Like I said: no one really expected Fisher to match his production from the previous two years. But even considering that he definitely did NOT do that, he still had a good year.
Best Moment of the Season
The correct answer for Fisher's best moment of the season is "Mike Fisher Night" which occurred on Monday, March 21. For those that were present at the Bridge that night, and for those that watched on TV, it was clearly the highlight of Fisher's season.
First, he was honored before the game for playing in his 1,000th NHL game. Every bit of it was great: the ceremony, the video tribute, Carrie Underwood, the fans ovation, Fisher's parents, and of course this moment with his son Isaiah:
Everything was just great. For one of the most beloved Predators in recent history, it was a night to remember already.
And then Fisher went out and played a heck of a game, helping the Predators beat the Kings 5-2. He also scored the most Mike Fisher-like goal of all-time. On the power play, Fisher crashed the net after his initial shot was blocked, skying over Norris trophy winner Drew Doughty to hammer home the loose puck past Jonathan Quick. It was just great.
Worst Moment of the Season
Fisher did not have a great start to the season. In the first 20 games, Fisher collected only four points, had 19 penalty minutes, and was shooting only 7.4%. Though Fisher wasn't the only reason, the third line just wasn't working. In those first 20 games, the Predators were staying afloat despite the lack of secondary scoring from guys like Fisher, but this caught up with them in November and December. The Predators fell out of contention in the middle of the season, which prompted the trade for Ryan Johansen.
Fisher slowly built a respectable second half of the season, eventually leading to a fantastic run in the playoffs. But that start was pretty bad.
Trending Up or Down?
Trending down. As we talked about, the veteran just doesn't seem to generate the shots you want him to. While guys like Arvidsson and Salomaki benefit from his unselfish play, Fisher's stock is on the way down. He's an undeniable leader on the team, which is going to be very important on next year's Shea Weber-less team. But, unless he is able to rejuvenate those legs, there won't be much room for a guy like Fisher beyond next year.
FINAL GRADE: C+
The entire OTF staff will put their thoughts together and voice their opinions on player grades at the conclusion of this series of articles.