I'm suffering from serious Office Pool Remorse right now. Passing on The Rich Peverley Experience, gambling on Sergei Shirokov, taking Dennis Wideman because I forgot the Bruins grabbed Derek Morris explicitly for the first power play unit...it's a long list.
But the biggest spear in my side right now is Ottawa center Mike Fisher. I knew Fisher was going to have a great season, just knew it. Did I take him? Nope. Because I'm a dullard. Even though the signs were all there.
Fisher should have been an easy pick for a bounce-back season because of the essentials he brings to the Senators. The veteran pivot is an all-out hard worker who skates fast and has a pretty good wrist shot. He's gritty and fearless. The fact his 2008-09 campaign was marred by his worst offensive numbers in almost a decade can easily be chalked up to Fisher being snake-bitten; it's not like he wasn't trying.
“He’s still playing hard and doing the little things as he did last year,” said long-time teammate Daniel Alfredsson. “But it seems as though his shots and plays are finding the back of the net more this year.”
Other than a history of injuries – many incurred in the process of being a physical, hard-nosed player – Fisher has little downside as a second-line center and last year’s aberration would have any competitor questioning what he was doing wrong, right?
“Definitely,” Fisher said. “It’s all I thought about for most of the season. I just couldn’t seem to get in a groove. I’ve just tried to put it behind me and start this year with a clean slate.”
And though new linemate Alex Kovalev is known more for his dazzling high-end skill than a consistent effort, the pair has done big things together this year by playing off each other's strengths. After all, with AK-27 a threat to do something evil to the opposition at any given moment, Fisher has been given the space to make his own magic, which helps explain the 26 points in 29 games he has amassed so far.
“He does a great job puckhandling and finding me in the open areas,” Fisher said of his linemate. “It took him a few games to get used to a new team and new guys, but he’s getting better and better.”
Fisher’s numbers put the Peterborough, Ont., native on pace for his best season since junior. Can Fisher tally 75 points this year? As long as he stays healthy, yes. It's sort of a good news/bad news situation in Bytown; while Fisher is hot and Kovalev is warming up, top-liners Jason Spezza and Alfredsson aren't the force they were when Dany Heatley patrolled the wing with them (sorry Sens fans, but it's true).
Ironically, Ottawa now has more depth in its top-six than ever, especially with Milan Michalek almost on-pace for 40 goals, but still the offense isn't the same as when it was a one-line team. Nevertheless, the Sens are in a playoff position right now and are doing so without their No. 1 goaltender, Pascal Leclaire.
With Fisher back in the saddle and youngsters such as Peter Regin also showing some good drive in the opponent's zone, what once looked like a bleak season is starting to brighten up.
I don’t know if the Senators are a threat in the East, but we can certainly talk about them being there when the second season begins in late spring.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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