With Nashville Predators training camp just six weeks away, the biggest question still looming is whether or not captain Mike Fisher will return.
On July 1st, Nashville Predators veteran captain Mike Fisher became an unrestricted free agent, after finishing his 17th NHL season. At 37 years old, the captain has spent the last seven seasons in Nashville, and one year as the captain. Fisher is coming off of a 42 point campaign, which was his best since the 2013-2014 season.
GM David Poile has already begun to build around a potential Fisher hole, with draft picks, multiple free agent signings, and the re-signing five restricted free agents since last Monday. The team announced earlier this week that the Predators are expecting a decision from Fisher sometime next week.
Obviously at 37 years old, Fisher’s health is a main concern in his decision making process. He has been plagued with various injuries over the years, including multiple last year. Fisher has only played one full 82 game season in 17 years. Last season, Fisher missed 10 regular season games, and 2 in the playoffs. 17 years of professional hockey certainly takes a toll on the body. Especially for a lifelong center who skates more and takes more of a beating than any other player on the ice.
Similarly, as a consequence of his age, Fisher’s production has slowly been declining since his 51 point year in 2011. Fisher’s declining numbers have not just been a product of his age though, as his average time on ice per game has dropped roughly one minute every year since 2013. That second full season in Predator gold, Fisher was seeing 19:45 on ice per game, a number that now has dropped to 16:37.
Fisher has slowly been slipping down the depth chart, as he spent most of last season on the third or fourth line, as younger, more explosive players have risen up the ranks.
What the Lines Will Look Like
If Fisher calls it quits, the Predators should be in good shape with four solid line pairings. With centers Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok, and Frederick Gaudreau, Nashville can easily fill out four competitive lines. If Fisher decides to come back for his 18th year, Gaudreau would most likely spend most of the season in the minors, with occasional stints with the Predators.
No matter what, the Predators will be set offensively. Fisher’s 40 point production won’t be a burden to replace if he retires, so there is no need to worry about a drop in offense.
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Fisher left the team and fans hanging after last season’s Stanley Cup loss, as he was still undecided. His future is no easy decision. Hockey has been his life ever since he entered the NHL at age 19. 1,088 games later, Fisher is staring an imminent retirement in the face. It may come soon, it may come next year. No one knows except Fisher.
He has spent this offseason on vacation, resting after the longest season of his career. GM Poile and the Predators have not rushed Fisher’s decision at all this summer, as they know its importance. Fisher has been a vital player in Nashville for the last 7 seasons, and a veteran team leader.
Earlier this week, Poile said that, “I think we’re getting to that point. I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to (provide) an update next week.”
The Predators have made it clear that they want Fisher to return next season, even if it’s only for one more year.
The waiting game is almost over. Fisher has many things to take into consideration before he makes the final call. He’s 37 years old, so he must think about his family, his long-term health, and hopefully the well-being of the Nashville Predators; whether that means coming back, or hanging up the skates.
Regardless of production or age, Fisher has been a fantastic leader and center for the Predators for the last 7 seasons. He led the organization to greater heights than ever before, and that’s something he will always have. Fisher will always be a part of Nashville hockey, no matter what he decides to do for next year.