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2017-18 Player Reviews: Mike Fisher

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How did former captain Mike Fisher’s return work out for the Predators this season?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our series of 2017-18 Player Reviews. We are going alphabetically, so Kevin Fiala should be next in line. But the review for him is still being written, we are going directly to Mike Fisher.

This spring, the Nashville Predators made a few changes while gearing up for their playoff push. New faces went in, old faces went out, and one old face came back in. Mike Fisher, who had officially announced his retirement last July, re-signed with the Preds just before the deadline and made his official return at the beginning of March.

Sadly, his return tour was only a little over two months long, as Fisher himself was injured very early in Game 6 of the second round. The team would keep its season alive for just one game longer.

Fisher has stated that he intends to retire again this summer.

Season Overview

In sixteen regular-season games, Fisher scored two goals (one in his return) and added two assists, while playing an average of a little over twelve minutes per game. Over the course of the twelve playoff games he appeared in, he added one more goal.

His 5v5 shot share during the postseason was a team-high 57.5%, and his expected goals share was about the same, despite starting fully half his faceoff shifts in the defensive zone. This was a complete reversal from the regular season, where only Cody McLeod did worse at both shot quantities and shot qualities than Fisher (42.1% CF, 39.7% xGF) did.

It’s hard to break Fisher’s game down any further because of how little he played. I did look at the passing data for the Preds this year, but Corey Sznajder has only tracked two games Fisher appeared in.

Image is a chart showing the Predators’ forwards’ shot contributions per hour—how many shots at goal they took, as well as how many primary, secondary, and tertiary shot assists they had (passes that led to a shot at goal). Fisher is 12th of 17 on this ra
Shot contributions per hour (forwards only).
Data by Corey Sznajder/@ShutdownLine, viz by CJ Turtoro/@CJTDevil.

In those two games we see that he probably picked up where he left off, making passes a lot more often than he took shots, and neither of those that often. Overall, he was leaned on much more defensively than he was offensively, with mixed results.

Heatmaps showing the Predators’ shots-against with and without Fisher. With Fisher, they allowed more shots from the points, but fewer from all the tasty inside areas.
On-ice shots against heatmaps.
Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

This is pretty good, given what the team was doing without him, but the offense was dead in the water when Fisher was on the ice. He wasn’t helping them win—he was just helping them not lose.

Best Moment

You can’t quite beat the “scores a goal in his first game back from retirement” narrative. It was a solid all-around game for Fisher, too.

Viktor Arvidsson did some fantastic work getting the puck there, and Filip Forsberg made a good recovery, but without Fisher getting to the right place at the right time there wouldn’t’ve been a goal there, and that 4-3 OT comeback win might not have happened.

Worst Moment

I’m honestly struggling to think of any particular worst moment. I had a lot of frustration with him for most of the regular season and in the Avalanche series, but once Calle Järnkrok replaced Miikka Salomäki on his wing things seemed to improve.

By and large Fisher really didn’t seem to impact most games that strongly. He was rusty at the beginning, sure, and he struggled against faster opponents, but there weren’t any overwhelming stand-out moments of failure. He had a really forgettable few months, which is disappointing when you want a player to do well, but could definitely be worse.

Grade: C+

If I were grading Fisher based on the anticipation people had for his return, he probably would have gotten an F, maybe a D– at best. But he’s a 37-year-old who retired after an injury last June, then un-retired and jumped back into a top-level league almost nine months of retirement later. He’s not Jaromír Jágr—heck, even Jágr isn’t as ageless as he’d always seemed. Players who score even just 30 points in their age-37 season are rare, and a lot of the ones who’ve done it in the last decade are, or will be, in the Hall of Fame.

Instead, he did about as well as might be expected. Sometimes he was better, but he was never really worse. If he’d a chance to continue his stronger postseason play, and if he’d been able to against a team as explosively quick as the Golden Knights, I probably would have bumped his grade up to a B–. Unfortunately, C+ it will remain.