First, I would absolutely love to echo everything Bobby had in his Fisher piece Wednesday afternoon. Check out his thoughts here.
On Wednesday around lunchtime, the Predators made one of their vague announcements about a press conference that afternoon. After much speculation on Twitter from fans, the news slowly leaked that a “comeback” was forthcoming.
Mike Fisher has returned to the Predators.
The Return of Mike Fisher
Truth be told, I genuinely wondered whether Fisher would retire last August. He was leaving at a high point after winning the Western Conference, but something just seemed unfinished. Those were his exact words in the press conference on Wednesday.
The phrasing used in the press conference really struck me… his “unfinished business” is this season as the Predators compete for the Cup. To me, this shows us that David Poile is going all-out for Lord Stanley’s Cup. He may not have sought out the high-scoring winger some think the Preds require, but he bolstered the forward depth with an important figure.
It appears that Fisher will sign a contract between now and the trade deadline. He’s skating on his own, and based off the photos the Predators PR team put out, he looked overjoyed to be back at Bridgestone.
We can speculate that Fisher will fill a need at forward if a trade is made before the February 26th trade deadline. Perhaps Pontus Aberg is on the trade block as part of a package for a scoring winger? Or Colton Sissons? We don’t know at this time. It’s safe to say that Nashville would probably implode if Poile somehow swung a deal to get James Neal back, but that kind of wizardry just is unfathomable at this time.
While it will be weird to not see Fisher with a letter on his sweater, there will be one heck of a Smashville Standing “O” when he steps back out on the ice. Probably crying, too…mostly from me and the really emotional girl who sometimes sits behind me.
Aside from the leadership that Fisher provides, what does the gorgeous Mr. Underwood add to the Predators? I took a closer look.
A Brief Review
The bottom line is that Mike Fisher is a known quantity. He knows the system and his teammates. We know how he plays and his history with the Nashville Predators.
Fisher was crucial in the 2016 playoffs, scoring the “it’s 1 am and Bridgestone is rocking and nearly exploded” goal against San Jose to force a Game 6.
I will never forget that moment. We sat in the stands, trading our adult beverages for coffee as the night wore on (thanks, Dunkin). By the second OT intermission, we continued to speculate how Brent Burns managed to be on the ice so much and sleepily glanced between our watches and the exhausted players on the ice. I had even gone as far as to text my boss and say that I would be taking the day off. Somehow...somehow…Mike Fisher managed to scoop a rebound around Martin Jones, and I’m sure folks outside thought that a bomb had exploded inside the arena. We screamed and cheered and celebrated hard, swept along in masses of gold-clad fans, fatigued, yet elated.
We could be in for more Golden Moments with Mike Fisher back in a jersey this season.
Last season, Fisher put up his best points total since the 2011-2012 season. He had 18 goals and 24 assists, good for 42 points in 72 games played. Seven of those goals were scored on the power play. He had four assists in the playoffs last season.
We lost Fisher to injury in the Western Conference Final, likely due to a concussion. He suited up for all six games against the Penguins, possibly sacrificing his health for the chance to win the Cup. That speaks volumes. Fisher is willing to put his body on the line for the Nashville Predators, and that’s the mark of a true leader.
In the 2016-2017 season, Fisher played primarily with Craig Smith, Austin Watson, and Kevin Fiala. He’s a reliable centerman who still has some legs on him. I can’t count the number of times I mentioned how Fisher still had legs last season, especially during the playoffs.
A Not-So-Secret Weapon
Like Scott Hartnell, Fisher crashes the net and forces the goalie move in order to make saves. He has the ability to tip-in or redirect shot attempts from the point. Fisher isn’t massive, but he can hold his own against big defenders to ensure pucks go in the net.
In terms of special teams, the addition of Fisher is huge. He is a proven penalty killer, leading the Predators in shorthanded ice-time last season. This is why a fourth-line role is perfect for him as he suits up in gold again.
Check out this heat map. Fisher parks himself in front of the goaltender. His shots come from very close in, and honestly, the Preds can use more of that.
Here’s a similar heat map showing Fisher’s shots on the power play:
I can certainly see a role for Fisher on the fourth line, moving Colton Sissons to his wing alongside Austin Watson. Miikka Salomaki could also play with Fisher, as could Frederick Gaudreau. There are options, folks.
Imagine with me for a moment - and this doesn't even consider a possible trade deadline acquisition:— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) January 31, 2018
New Roles and Responsibilities
Per the press conference, it’s not easy to say what Fisher’s new role on the team would be. He hasn’t skated in games this season, and getting his body conditioned will be crucial to his success later in the season. His health will be important as the season continues. As discussed above, Fisher brings a physical element to his game and is willing to mix it up in defense of his team. He led the team in hits with 160 last season.
Fisher’s average time on ice was 16:37 last season, lower than previous seasons due to injury and age. Mr. Underwood is 37, and it’s understandable for him to have limited minutes. If he wishes, Laviolette can pair Fisher up with the strongest lines the league has to offer. I am confident Fisher has the physicality to shut down any line on any team. Remember this?
Four powerful centers in Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, and Mike Fisher spell success for this team. One has to imagine how other teams will react to the Predators having a ridiculously strong center core. Don’t forget that players like Calle Jarnkrok, Sissons, and Gaudreau can also serve as centers. The forward depth in Nashville is formidable.
This is a proven leader returning to a team that’s clearly full of leaders. Fisher will only add to our incredible locker room. If he pots some crucial goals, Fisher’s return will be that much sweeter.
He’s Nashville’s fifth-leading goal scorer. He’s a respected hockey player and a truly kind person. He has played over 1,000 NHL games. I honestly can’t think of a better addition to this hockey team right now.
One has to wonder how this will affect other Central teams as the trade deadline draws closer. Will they also try to procure forward talent? With the Central Division as tight as ever, we can easily assess that forward depth for the Predators is exactly what’s needed.
All this doesn’t include how much more handsome this team gets with Fisher’s return. *faints*
We have to thank current Captain Roman Josi for encouraging Mike Fisher to return to the ice, David Poile, and Fisher’s better half, Carrie Underwood. He mentioned she would ask him every few days whether he was going to return to skating… (I’m not crying, you’re crying) … from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, Carrie.
Fisher: To be honest, Carrie was asking me every day what I was going to do. She wanted me to (come back)... and she usually is right. #Preds— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) January 31, 2018
All stats and graphics are courtesy of hockey-reference.com and hockeyviz.com.