|Senators' center Mike Fisher finished the 2006-07 regular season fourth in scoring on the team with 22 goals in 68 games.
Yogi Berra once said; “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
The baseball legend could have been speaking to the importance of setting goals. Ted Williams put it another way when he said; “A man has to have goals -- for a day, for a lifetime -- that was mine, to have people say that I was the greatest hitter who ever lived.”
Mike Fisher believes in setting goals, as well as scoring them. While his goal this season is not as lofty as the one set many years ago by Williams, improving himself in every aspect of the game is a target that is both meaningful and achievable for the Ottawa Senators center.
Now entering the prime of his career, the 27-year-old native of Peterborough, Ontario, ended the 2006-07 season fourth in team scoring behind the Senators’ big three -- Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. The second-line center enjoyed a career season with 22 goals and 26 assists in 68 games. He would have contributed more offense had he not missed 16 games in December and January with a knee injury. Fisher also set new production standards in the playoffs, scoring five goals and 10 points in 20 postseason games, while helping lead his team to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I want to continue from where I left off in the playoffs,” Fisher said. “I want to be a leader on this team and lead by example on the ice. Every year I want to get better both offensively and as a team guy. Those are my personal goals. As a team, we want to learn from the experience of last year. The guys are excited about this year and we want to get going.”
Statistics don’t reflect the full value of the 6-foot-1, 210 pound center. Fisher hits the ice with abandon and creates offense while providing outstanding defense. On most nights, he plays head-to-head against the opposing top center and those stars have to be aware that Fisher is strong without the puck and creates offense once he gets it.
“I really try to play an all-around game,” Fisher said. “I’ve improved my defense the last few years. When I got here (in 1999) I had to play more defensively and more physical to stay in the League and then worked my way up to be more offensive. A lot of guys get into the NHL by playing with energy. The defensive game is a huge part of it. When I came into the League, I was a third- and fourth-line player and I had to be able to shut down other lines. Eventually, the offensive game will come and that’s what happened with me.”
Nursing a groin injury over the summer derailed his standard conditioning regimen, but it also afforded Fisher time to probe deeper into setting his goals for 2007-08. True, the injury has made it a different start to the season than in previous years. But if anything, Fisher is hungrier than ever.
“It has been a little different with not getting into training camp,” says Fisher. “Groin injuries are tough and they can nag. It has been a frustrating summer, but my recovery from the injury has been progressing and I feel ready and good to go. I know what I feel. I want to get my legs going because I haven’t skated a whole lot this summer, certainly not as much as normal. But that comes back quickly and I’m looking forward to it. It has been a little while. I definitely missed it. I’m hungry to get going and get back in action.”
How will Fisher assess his development this year?
“I try to break it down into different areas that I can improve upon,” says Fisher. “I consider my production. But sometimes you can over-analyze things and get away from just being mentally tough in every single game. You definitely can over-think on the ice. That is especially the case when you are going through a slump where you are thinking of things you are not doing or should be doing -- you over try and that makes the situation worse. But when you are in your zone and playing your best, you’re not thinking about all of those things. It just happens so quickly. It instinctively happens because you are mentally ready. As players, you try to get into that zone where you don’t have to think too much, you’re just doing it and focusing on those good things. The good things usually continue to happen when you are in the zone.
“But offense and defense go together,” Fisher added. “I try to be as good defensively as possible and play smart. When the opportunities are there offensively, they may come because of good defensive play. That means being smart and not cheating in certain areas of the game. I try to use my speed to create offensively opportunities and that’s how I’ve been able to improve each year. Of course, the fortunes of the team go up and down throughout the year and as a player, you are going to rise and fall in step with the success of the team. The most important thing is for the team to be playing well. When the team has success, the individual players have success too.”
A large part of the Senators’ success is predicated on the ability of Fisher to continue his development into a future Selke Trophy nominee. Unlike sound defensive performers who put a paltry amount of points on the board, Fisher doesn’t fall into the trap of being overly cautious in the offensive zone.
“Our system allows for guys to be in the offensive zone as long as we have other guys supporting each other,” says Fisher. “When the chances are there, I think that I can be a good offensive player. I’m not going to always sit back and wait, either. You’ve got to be smart, take your chances when you can and if that’s the case, somebody is going to have to back you up. My goal is definitely to put up more offensive numbers this year. I think I can improve that area, for sure. I want to score some goals and contribute more offensively. It comes down to being a guy that can contribute in a lot of different areas -- the power play, on the penalty kill and in 5-on-5 situations. That’s my goal this year.”