For the first time in his career, Ottawa Senators
forward Mike Fisher
feels like he truly belongs.
Not that he didn't feel productive his previous nine seasons in Ottawa, but it's tough to generate continuity when you play alongside a different set of linemates every third game.
"I feel like I've been playing more of an offensive role and I'm not just a guy who can play good defensively," Fisher told NHL.com. "I think coming into this year, (Ottawa coach) Cory Clouston knew that I could be an offensive guy and that's kind of translated into something where the team's played well and I've been able to capitalize on some opportunities."
It hasn't hurt that Clouston has boosted Fisher's confidence even more by giving him more time on team's 20th-rated power-play. Of course, the one other benefit has been playing with offensive stars like captain Daniel Alfredsson
and free-agent pickup Alex Kovalev
for much of the season.
"Throughout my career, I've never had one year where I played with steady linemates, other than Peter Schaefer
for a couple years straight," Fisher said. "I've always been a guy that's kind of played on any line -- second or third and early in my career, fourth, so I've adjusted to that."
While that may have been an issue early on in his career, Fisher, the team's alternate captain, is no longer concerned with who's in and who's out when it comes to formulating lines.
"Early in your career, you always worry about what line you're on, but now I know that if I'm playing my game the way I can that I can make other people around me better," he said. "We've got a deep team and you're going to playing with good players regardless so you just have to go out there and get it done."
Now in his 10th NHL season, all with the Senators, Fisher also has a better appreciation of the game and the importance of good health.
"I've been through a lot of injuries over my career that have been frustrating but that makes you appreciate playing and being healthy even more," Fisher said. "I've been able to remain healthy for the most part this season and have been feeling great."
Fisher is second on the team with 21 points, including 10 goals, in 23 games. He leads the team with 4 game-winning goals, is tied for the team lead with 5 power-play goals and is second with 59 hits.
"I'm just trying to have fun again and last year wasn't very fun, losing all the time and not making the playoffs," Fisher said. "This year, I just wanted to get back to playing, having fun and relaxing and not putting too much pressure on myself. I think, collectively, we've done that and have had success. It's been a good start, but there's a lot of games left."
Fisher revels in his role as one of the League's premier defensive-forwards. He exhibits speed, an impeccable understanding of the game and, as we've now come to learn, some offensive flare. Perhaps forgotten is the fact Fisher also possesses one of the hardest shots on Ottawa's roster -- it was clocked as high as 105 miles-per-hour.
"Shooting is one part of my game that I've improved since I first entered the League," he admits.
"I feel like I've been playing more of an offensive role and I'm not just a guy who can play good defensively."
-- Mike Fisher
Fisher's play has basically come full circle as early in his career he'd earn minutes containing the opposition's top line. And while he'll still fulfill that role on occasion, he's also become one of the hunted.
"When you're playing a lot of minutes against the top lines, it's tough to remain physical all the time, so you try to be more positional," Fisher said. "Sometimes, when I go on a little scoring streak, I do actually feel as though I haven't been physical enough, but you have to conserve your energy because the physical side of the game takes so much out of your body. It's a matter of being smart, not overdoing it and learning to pick your spots."
Something Fisher has perfected over time.
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org