Today’s trade for Mike Fisher
makes a strong statement both on the ice and in the locker room. On the ice, Fisher instantly becomes the Preds highest scoring center. He’s been a consistent 20-goal scorer, passing the mark in four of the past five seasons, and his 14 goals trail only Patric Hornqvist
(16 goals) and Sergei Kostitsyn
With Mathew Lombardi’s injury in Game 2 of the season, the skilled depth at center has been challenged. Cal O’Reilly did an admirable job blunting the effects of Lombardi’s loss, but O’Reilly was lost to injury in early January. Adding Fisher allows the Preds to go Fisher, Legwand, Goc down the middle with Nick Spaling
or Jerred Smithson anchoring the shutdown/match-up line. When O’Reilly returns and if Lombardi returns this season, the coaches have options. Goc, Spaling, and Smithson have all played wing before. Fisher has played the wing in international competitions for Team Canada.
The Preds now have the collection of centers to help take advantage of the depth off the wing. Hornqvist has continued to be a reliable scoring line option, as have Martin Erat
and Steve Sullivan. Kostitsyn (23 years old) and Colin Wilson
(21) have stepped up as dangerous young wingers. Marek Svatos has elite offensive skill and J-P Dumont is a proven veteran (reaching the 40-point mark in each of the last nine seasons and eclipsing 60 points in three of the last four campaigns). Joel Ward, Matt Halischuk
, Spaling, Smithson have all played key checking line roles on the wing this season.
Coach Trotz and staff have real competition in practice for ice time. And a multitude of line combination options available to them. Fisher fits into many of those options. He’s consistently been among Ottawa’s leading penalty kill forwards (he was a finalist for the 2006 Selke Trophy – awarded to the league’s top defensive forward) and among their top power-play contributors (scored 10 power-play goals last season), as well as a consistent even strength performer (he tied for Ottawa’s team lead in even strength goals last season and was tied for team honors in even strength goals again this season).
Off the ice, this move makes a loud statement. It shows that the coaches and management feel the team is ready to take the next step and compete for a lengthy playoff run. That message goes a long way in the locker room. But Fisher is not a “rental” player. He is under contract for the next two seasons (through the end of the 2012-13 season). He is a player that not only provides a boost this season, but will be counted on as a key component next year and beyond. And Fisher's a leader – he was an Alternate Captain in Ottawa and has played in 75 NHL Playoff Games, including a Stanley Cup Finals.
And don’t discount the impact of pulling the trigger on this deal two-and-a half weeks before the deadline. The Preds will get eight more games out of Fisher this year – and 10 additional practice days to firm up line combinations.