Friday Face-Offs, 2/11/2011

The big news for Predators fans was yesterday’s trade that brought Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators to Nashville for their 2011 1st round draft pick and a conditional 2012 draft pick.

Predators Import Mike Fisher from Ottawa

My first reaction to the trade was that it was “horrible” (twice actually).

Was I overreacting?  To a point, yes.  From all appearances, Mike Fisher is a prototypical Predator in style.  He’s an extremely hard worker and a very good two-way player that can chip in 20 – 25 goals a season.  He also brings significant playoff experience to the table as well as size.  Finally, he’s a player of very high character.

Beyond that, what will Mike Fisher bring to this Predator club?  Since Mike Fisher is no rental, there are two parts to that answer- this season and then the following seasons.

For this season, Nashville has definitely improved itself down the middle.  Prior to Fisher being acquired, Nashville was icing only two centers with the offensive skills to be considered “two-way” players in David Legwand and Marcel Goc.  Out of necessity due to injury, Nick Spaling (and previously Chris Meuller) had to man the pivot on Nashville’s third scoring/two-way line.  Spaling is a fantastic role player, but his current spot in the lineup isn’t the role in which he excels.

The first change will likely be the move of Spaling back to Smithson and Ward’s line, reuniting an extremely good forechecking line that frustrated and dominated opponents practically every night.  Ultimately, I think you’ll see Fisher centering Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat as he’ll bring more size to that line and increase their ability to score over that of Marcel Goc.  Goc would then center a line of Steve Sullivan and either Dumont or Svatos.  Initially, however, Trotz may ease Fisher into the lineup by leaving the top two lines intact and letting Fisher center Dumont and Sullivan.  Either way, Nashville will ice three respectable two-way lines that can play against any line and contribute offensively.

From a power play standpoint, Fisher likely moves right into the second unit to provide another big body in front of the net and scoring presence.

Next season, however, will be interesting.  Working on the assumption that Lombardi returns, that leaves Lombardi, Legwand and Fisher to man those three scoring line pivots.  That’s incredibly formidable.  It also leaves Marcel Goc and Cal O’Reilly seemingly out in the cold.  David Poile somewhat addressed that issue in stating that any of the centers could shift to wing, and he’s right.  The problem is that only one wing spot would seem to be open at all if Steve Sullivan is not re-signed (I’m also assuming that Ward is not re-signed either allowing Tootoo to slide into his spot, and that Sergei Kostitsyn will be re-signed). I don’t think you’ll see Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson, Martin Erat, J.P. Dumont, or Sergei Kostitsyn lose their spot on those scoring lines.  Nashville also might like what they see from a healthy Marek Svatos down the line as well.  It’s going to be very tough, barring additional moves or offseason losses, for a forward prospect to force their way onto the team next season.

So, if Mike Fisher has all those good qualities as a player and a person, why would I overreact and call the trade “horrible”?  I see this as low risk move with likely low rewards.  It’s low risk because there’s no doubt that financially the Predators can handle contract with no impact to potential contracts to Shea Weber or Ryan Suter.  David Poile also didn’t have to part with any roster player or prospects.  All Poile had to part with was a very late (he hopes) first round pick for a draft in which he’s got two 2nd round picks and a conditional pick in the next draft.

I see it as a likely low-rewards move because I think it makes Nashville’s chances to get out of the first round better, but not overly so.  My overreaction was based upon my frustration in feeling that Nashville is still not ready to take an even more moderate level of risk for a higher reward.  They have an enormous stockpile of talent with which to barter.  Yet, they will ultimately be forced to move some of those players like they did with Mike Santorelli and Rich Peverly, and because it was forced, not get a maximum return.

To be fair, I’m not sure that Nashville could have done much better.  With the injuries, acquiring a center became a critical need.  Mike Fisher really was one of the top centers available, maybe the top center available.  There are really only two other potential options with Jason Arnott and maybe Tim Connolly (Buffalo is likely not a seller at this point though, hence the maybe).  The beauty of both of those is that they would be rentals, even though their styles don’t fit as well as Fisher.

In the end, they’ve improved the team for this season likely at the cost of one or both of Marcel Goc and Cal O’Reilly.  It’s a significant improvement this year due to the injuries down the middle.  It’s not a significant improvement down the middle from last season with Arnott, Legwand and Goc.  Of course, Arnott was hampered by injuries too.

The Week That Was

Overall, Nashville had a good week with two solid wins against the Red Wings.  Of course, in the middle of that Wings sandwich was a horrible loss to Edmonton.  Everyone knows that this team needs to learn to beat those teams they are supposed to beat.  I’ll leave it that.

The Week Ahead for Nashville

Tomorrow night, Nashville starts a very important four game home stand.  Every team they will play is very much still in competition against Nashville for one of the coveted playoff spots.

Nashville must take advantage of their heavy schedule of home games the rest of the way, especially against those right on their heels (or slightly above) them in the standings.

  • Saturday, 2/12 – vs. Colorado @ 7pm CST (no TV)
  • Tuesday, 2/15 – vs. San Jose@ 7pm CST (FSN)
  • Thursday, 2/17 – vs. Vancouver @ 7pm CST (no TV)
  • Saturday, 2/19 – vs. Phoenix @ 7pm CST (no TV)

2011 NHL Trade Deadline: Monday, February 28th

You are invited to follow me on Twitter (@SingletonPreds).  For game recaps of all Predators games, check out my HockeyIndependent colleague, Mark Willoughby (@TheViewFrom111).

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About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Buddy Oakes, David Singleton. David Singleton said: Friday Face-Offs, 2/11/11: Mike Fisher http://j.mp/eAkLtn [...]

  2. hockeynut says:

    David,

    This is a very low risk trade with a potentially very high reward.

    Center depth is a hard thing to achieve. True, they don’t have an elite playmaking center but who does.

    Centers that can adapt to wing are a dime a dozen. Try finding a wing that can play center. Not so easy.