No Stanley Cup playoff drive should be complete without an image of a bearded, sweating Mike Fisher hunched over with his stick down approaching a face-off. Thankfully, in 2018 it won’t have to be. With the Nashville Predators primed for a meaningful Cup run on the shoulders of goaltender Pekka Rinne and the most mobile and offense-generating group of defenseman in the league, their inspirational leader and grizzled veteran of 11 NHL postseasons has rejoined them. Fish is back.
More Bite For Fang Fingers
The decision to return was based on a fire that burns deep within many high-level athletes like Fisher. “I just thought about the opportunity. How good this team is. About the run last year, and what could be.” Fisher told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “I believe this team is built to win, and has a very good chance. So that’s part of the reason I want to come back.”
Fisher was still learning how to be retired and getting used to a lifestyle without the day to day grind of being a professional athlete and it’s thought the Predators reached out initially with the idea of a potential return. It’s massive news for a hockey community that has fallen head over heels for the Preds’ in recent years and will only fall further with his imminent comeback. Fisher’s trademark style of play and the bite that comes with it for his opponents is certainly going to be embraced by the rabid Nashville fanbase and their “fang fingers.”
Big news out of NSH with the Predators set to announce Mike Fisher @mikefisher1212 is coming out of retirement to return as an active player. Not sure anyone saw this coming, perhaps including Fisher himself.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 31, 2018
In Fisher, the Preds get a cupboard full of those cliche’ worthy intangibles like leadership, character and experience but how will his presence impact their actual on-ice results? In short; Mike Fisher is built for the Predators style of play. His tenacity on loose pucks when he’s forechecking, the physical element that he adds to their lineup and the fact that he’s been an upper-echelon faceoff specialist during his career only bolsters a team that was already considered a Stanley Cup contender.
Concerns of his readiness and “fitness level” can simply be squashed before they go any further because anyone who knows Mike Fisher or has followed his career can be certain that when he steps onto the ice for his first game in 2018, he’ll be ready. This guy is a well-oiled machine who thrives on competition and, as his general manager David Poile also told ESPN, “He made the decision. He has the fire and the will to come back. Every time he sets a challenge for himself, he gets it done.”
The More the Merrier Down the Center
So where does he fit in? It is always a risk to insert a player who might command prime minutes into a lineup that is already functioning so well but Fisher’s familiarity with the Predators systems and his versatility as a forward who can play many roles is an easy gamble for Poile, head coach Peter Laviolette, and the Preds. We’ll likely see Fisher inserted into a support role initially when he’s ready to see game action; the third line of Scott Hartnell, Nick Bonino and Calle Jarnkrok seems to be a line that could use a boost.
Fisher can certainly play the wing if needed but will be at his max impact level playing the middle where he’s free to generate foot speed, be first on pucks and play goal line to goal line. Veteran center Nick Bonino is surely impacted by this move in one way or another as his addition the Predators lineup has been less than spectacular to date and a logical landing spot for Fisher would be a third line pivot role with regular specialty teams minutes down the stretch.
A beloved role model across the league for the past 17 years and one of those players and genuine people who fans just gravitate toward, Fisher’s return will capture the support of many Canadian hockey fans who have followed his career closely since his early days as an Ottawa Senator in the nation’s capital. There will be no grey area as to what the ultimate goal for his comeback will be and his journey to the post-season and hopefully a crack at Lord Stanley’s mug will be this generation’s version of Ray Bourque circa 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche.
The hockey community in the Southeast is already bursting at the seams with Predators fans new and old, but be prepared Smashville, because you’re about to inherit about 36 million new followers from north of the border, so get those fang fingers ready.
Fish is back.