Friday, March 22, 2013

Fisher has been a hit in Music City

By Larry Wigge

When you make a trade for a player line February, there can be only one thought in mind.

How will he help us for the playoff push?

On February 10, 2011, the Nashville Predators gave up a first-round pick that year, plus a third-rounder in 2012 for longtime center Mike Fisher -- a veteran of 65 playoff game with the Ottawa Senators, including 20 playoff games in 2007, when the Sens went to the Stanley Cup finals against the Anaheim Ducks.

Originally a second-round pick, 44th overall by the Senators in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Fisher had 167 goals and 181 assists in 675 career games with Ottawa.

The Peterborough, Ontario, native, wouldn't be considered a goal-scorer by trade ... but he would be considered a top six player. Four times, Fisher topped the 20-goal mark in his 10 season in the NHL.

But it's the other things you get from the 6-1, 209-pound center. 

"I know my job and what I have to do, and I have to focus on that," Fisher said proudly. "If your mind is focused on zero points ... it's like golf, when you think about not hitting the ball in the water, you hit it in the water. I'm thinking about what I have to do. Points aren't all there is to my game. It's about contributing in all parts.

"I'm no different player than I ever was. I'm going to be better. It might take a bit of time, but I don't feel my game is that much different than it was."

Fisher registered his eighth and ninth goals in 31 games -- giving him five goals in five games -- in leading the Predators to a 5-3 victory over Calgary March 21. 

Regardless of the numbers, Fisher flies into corners with an almost reckless abandon. If he were a baseball player, he'd be a wall-crasher or a base-stealer with a dirty uniform.

Coach Barry Trotz has learned in just over 100 games with Fisher in the lineup that he'll give every bit of energy.

"His character on and off the ice," said Trotz. "He's hard-nosed. He's sort of like David Backes.

"He can give you some offense. He doesn't cheat. He plays hard. Every night he empties his tank." 

"We were seeking a top-six forward and Mike Fisher was the player we set our sights on," Predators GM David Poile said in a statement. "He plays playoff-style hockey all season long. He plays on the power play, kills penalties, is strong on draws and can match up against any opposing line."

Most general managers just most players by using the eye test. Poile and Trotz both agreed that Fisher was a perfect fit.

"Our players knew him," said Trotz. "He skated in the summer. He's married to Cary Underwood." 

Married to the Grammy-award winning singer, it was either Nashville or Los Angeles, two places Underwood calls home.

Said Trotz, "He's fit in great. It was really a classy move by Ottawa to allow him to come to Nashville. They knew he was a pretty vital part of the Sens." 

Mike Fisher had met Cary Underwood at one of her concerts in 2008. After a year of dating, Fisher, popped the question last December 20, 2009, with a 12-carat ring worth about $800,000.

"We're both obviously excited and very happy," Fisher said.

On July 10, 2010, Fisher married Underwood at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia, with more than 250 people in attendance. Underwood surprised Fisher by having one of their favorite artists, Brandon Heath, sing his song "Love Never Fails" for their first dance.

Who was the biggest influence in Fisher's life? He'll tell you ...

His parents, Karen and Jim. They led by example.

"They never pushed hockey on me," Mike said. "They let me make my own decisions. They've always been very supportive." 

What's was your most extravagant toy?  

"I'd say my Four-wheeler or snowmobile," he said. "They're my kind of toys. Especially the Four-wheeler. I like to drive it around the property, plow the driveway, stuff like that." 

Which player do you most like to be compared to?   

"I like the way Mike Peca plays. Same with Joe Thornton," he said. "But I'm obviously not going to be Thornton." 

What was your favorite team growing up?

"The Leafs," Mike said. "That was back when they had Doug Gilmour." 

There's a little bit of Doug Gilmour in Fisher, though he mightn't be a small as Gilmour.

Yes, indeed. It was putting the ultimate competitor in the lineup filled with Junkyard Dogs, according the Poile.

"The coach can play him in all the situations," he said. "He plays the most important minutes against the opponents best players. He kills penalties plays the power play." 

But most of all ...

"To us, he was a Predators type of player," continued Poile. "He was not a star -- a player who was going to score 50 goals. He's competitive every night. He's hard to play against.

"He's one of those type of guys who you would say is a team player. It's always been his MO whererever he's played. If you've got to go to war, he would certainly be on my team. 

"We wanted to make this deal. It made sense. It's his hard work. His compete level was off the charts. You can win with Mike Fisher."

Said Mike Fisher, "Nashville plays a system that is perfect for my game. It's intensity, hard work, good solid team game. ... It's all about the team and I think I'm going to fit that mold very well. It's a more aggressive style than we played in Ottawa."

A perfect fit. 

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