Mike Fisher calls the Nashville Predators a ”perfect fit” after a frustrating season with the struggling Ottawa Senators.
His trade to the Predators this week was like a parting gift to Fisher, who moves to a city that not only has a playoff-contending team but where he already has a home with his wife, country music star Carrie Underwood.
Ottawa general manager Brian Murray set his rebuilding movement in motion this week when he sent the 30-year-old centre to the Predators for a 2011 first-round draft pick and a conditional 2012 selection. Fisher had played his entire 11-year NHL career in Ottawa, which drafted him 44th overall in 1998.
”I never requested a trade,” Fisher said Friday on a conference call. ”I loved it in Ottawa.
”But if I were to be traded, I felt Nashville was a great fit for me.”
He said it not only is convenient for his personal life but ”it’s a great team where I feel I’ll be a perfect fit on the ice.
”Brian knew that, he’s a good honest guy. There were other teams, but I think he wanted to do what’s good for me and I’m thankful for that.”
In Nashville, Fisher will likely be a top-line player on a team whose scoring leader is defenceman Shea Weber with 34 points. He is already the top goal-scoring centre on the squad with 14, ahead of Marcel Goc’s nine, and third-highest overall behind Patric Hornqvist (16) and Sergei Kostitsyn (15).
He already knows some of the personnel. Fisher played under Preds coach Barry Trotz for Canada at the 2007 IIHF World Championships, where he skated with Weber and injured Nashville centre Matthew Lombardi. He has also skated with some of the Predators in the summer while preparing for training camp.
Mostly, Fisher feels that Nashville’s hard-working two-way game will suit a player who had career highs of 25 goals and 53 points last season and is also a strong defensive centre and penalty-killer.
”Nashville plays a system that’s perfect for my game,” said Fisher, a candidate for the 2006 Selke trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. ”It’s an intense, hard-working team game.
”I think I can fit that mould. It’s a more aggressive style of play than we had in Ottawa.”
They’re glad to have him in Nashville, where one headline announced the team had traded for ”Carrie Underwood’s husband.” They already have a No. 12 jersey ready for him and will offer upper bowl seats at the Bridgestone Arena for $12, and two for $112 in the lower bowl, when he plays his first game Saturday night against Colorado.
Fisher leaves a team that was last in the NHL’s Eastern Conference to join one that is in playoff position in the tight Western Conference. The Preds have made the playoffs five times in their 11 NHL seasons, but have never advanced beyond the first round.
Operating on a tight budget, the club is more used to seeing valued free agents leave than in landing a highly regarded player ahead of the trading deadline. Now they’ve added another piece to a team built on strong goaltending from Pekka Rinne and a pair of top-flight defencemen in Weber and Ryan Suter. And he is not a rental. Fisher has two years left on a contract that pays US$4.2 million this season.
In Ottawa, the watch is on to see who leaves next, with impending free agents Chris Phillips and Alex Kovalev most likely to go. But the first-round pick will help a team whose own first-rounder promises to be in the top-five at least.
”Everything happened so quick and it was such a frustrating year, especially the last month and a half,” Fisher said of the Senators, whose loss to Calgary on Wednesday was their 11th in a row. ”It’s been no fun at all.
”This is a fresh start. It’ll be great for my confidence. It’ll be a transition. I’ve never done this before. I just want to step in and do what I can on the ice. It’s been a tough year. They need to get rid of salary there and rebuild and for me, it’s an opportunity to play for a great team.”
However, he still wonders what went wrong.
”I thought we’d have a good, solid team with a chance to make the playoffs,” he said. ”Especially signing (Sergei) Gonchar as a free agent.
”But we got off to a bad start, we had a few injuries, guys having off-years and we didn’t mesh as a team. I can’t believe what happened. It was definitely the most frustrating season I’ve ever played. It was a hard year, things going wrong and trying to fix it. Its hard to explain.”