Yesterday, in an interview with 102.5 The Game, Nashville Predators’ General Manager David Poile shared that Center Mike Fisher could return to the ice in the next two-weeks. Fisher has been recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon in which he had surgery on in early July. He was expected to miss 4-6 months for recovery, so returning in two-weeks would put him at the front end of that time frame.
Where will Mike Fisher fit in?
Needless to say, having the team’s alternate captain, 4th leader in points (20G, 29A, 49P) and 5th best Individual Fenwick of the 2013-14 season will be great for the Predators. Fisher’s return also brings an interesting situation, where will he fit into the equation? Coach Laviolette will need to find a way to utilize having an additional center with proven experience without disrupting his current offensive success.
Fisher spent most of last year on the Predators’ top line centering combinations of Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, and sometimes others. Clearly Fisher won’t be getting any ice time with Hornqvist, but my guess is that it’s also unlikely he will center a line with Wilson or even Eric Nystrom who he also saw time with last season.
Fisher could fall into that second line center position, replacing Derek Roy between Matt Cullen and Craig Smith. Together that group combines for 6 goals, 12 assists, -1 +/- and an average of +4.7 Corsi +/- per game. I think Laviolette definitely has to consider trying Fisher on this line, he could be an improvement to the currently goalless Derek Roy. This would cause Roy to drop to the third line, which a change of company could turn around his 14-game scoring slump.
If Laviolette wanted to keep his top-six forward combinations, Fisher could slot into the role of third-line center between Olli Jokinen and Colin Wilson. Imagining Fisher as a third-line center seems silly after he was the top-line center last year but seeing him play with a skilled player like Jokinen and a young, improving player like Wilson could be very interesting.
It may take a few tries to find the best line combinations for a roster that includes a healthy Fisher, but having a center who is a six-time 20+ goal scorer will absolutely strengthen the Predators’ offense.
Who walks the plank to Milwaukee?
The return of Fisher to the Predators’ roster means that someone must be sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals. I think it is a pretty easy assumption/choice to send Calle Jarnkrok down to the AHL for further development. Jarnkrok wooed all Predators fans with his play at the end of the 2013-14 season but this year he has posted a disappointing zero-points and 12-shots in 10-games for the Predators.
Jarnkrok still has loads of potential in his game and at the age of 23 he has plenty of time to develop, which is exactly what he will do in Milwaukee.
The return of Fisher brings experience, leadership and depth to the Predators’ offense; all of which are characteristics a NHL team cannot have too much of. See you soon Mike!