When talking about veteran leadership in hockey, I think there’s a common misconception about what role experienced players fulfill on a team. More than just rousing locker-room orators, true veterans impart experience and work ethic on the ice in what is their most pivotal role: leading by example. When the team seriously needs a kick in the pants, the vets provide a morale boost by picking up their own pace and goal production. For the Preds right now, that kick is coming from alternate captain Mike Fisher, who’s working hard to exemplify the kind of character the Nashville Predators need.
Fisher has performed with fervor in the last seven games. He has scored five goals and added three assists to his stat-sheet. He’s currently second on the team with nine goals (just behind Gabriel Bourque with 10), fourth in total scoring with 18 points, and a +8 overall. Given the Predators’ offensive slump most of this season, Fisher’s recent showing has been vital. But the effects resonate deeper than just scoring goals, helping to snap a four-game losing streak and invigorating many of his teammates.
Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat are the two who are benefiting most from Fisher’s recently rediscovered offensive power. All three players suffered with their respective games early in the season and had difficulty finding the net. This led to Coach Barry Trotz’s decision to split up their line, one that has served as the Nashville Predators’ top line for the past few seasons.
Kostitsyn, who has been one of the Preds’ top scorers and defensively-minded forwards, has had a particularly trying season. After his recent faux-pas against the Edmonton Oilers and subsequent one-game benching, Trotz made the decision to put Kostitsyn back on a line with Fisher and Erat. And it seems to be working. Since reuniting the trio for last Thursday’s game against Calgary, all three members have ramped up production. Fisher has two goals and two assists in the last three. Erat has scored a goal and added six assists. Even Kostitsyn has saved some face, scoring a goal and an assist in a rematch with Edmonton.
Hopefully, this trend will continue and the team will feed on Fisher’s energy, creating more opportunities all around. The next 15 games are going to be vital in the Nashville Predators’ chance to acquire a playoff spot. They are also going to be some of the team’s most difficult games facing the Detroit Red Wings twice and the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks four times in the month of April. Team energy and morale are going to play a heightened role in the final third of the season. As an NHL veteran, Mike Fisher is completely aware of this fact and is stepping it up as a leader.