With the exodus of Senators players this year, we thought it was a good time to bring back our occasional series, "Senators Retrospectives." Here, we'll take a look at what our now-absent players meant to the organization.
Mike Fisher is awesome. Retrospective over.
What, you want more? I got more.
It's not a very big surprise that a player like Mike Fisher was a fan favorite in Ottawa. When he joined the organization in 1998, fans were still high on just winning a playoff series for the first time -- but there were dark clouds looming. Earlier that season, the Senators had finally parted ways with Alexandre Daigle (traded for Vaclav Prospal and Pat Falloon) and the next year, after leading the Senators to their first Northeast Division championship, and being a Hart Trophy finalist, then-captain Alexei Yashin would hold out for the entire 1999-2000 season. Yashin's holdout was the latest in a long string of contract clashes with the Senators, and particularly galling considering he had gone pointless in a first round sweep by the Buffalo Sabres that spring.
Needless to say, these interactions left many fans, including myself, sour on superstars. Where were the players who were going to come in, put their heads down, and just do their jobs? Where were the guys who wanted to be Ottawa Senators and not act like hired guns for a fledgling franchise? Luckily for the franchise and its fans, out of this void emerged two players: One, of course, was Daniel Alfredsson, who assumed the 'C' after Yashin's holdout, and the other... was Mike Fisher.
Here's the man himself talking about his memories of the draft:
So, basically, he just remembers that he was excited. Deep insight may not be one of his talents.
Fisher was not going to score the goals that Yashin had. He didn't have the talent. But he was not going to get outworked. And he would record at least one point in every playoff series he appeared in. From his first games onward, the determination he brought to the ice was noticeable right away -- and the city that wanted to cheer for players who played like they wanted to be there had found their poster boy.
How could you not love a guy who didn't know when to quit?
And Fisher did not know when to quit. He never played a full 82-game season for the Senators, missing games every year due to injury. Still, fans rarely begrudged him for getting hurt. He was quickly known as a player who played through pain, so it needed to be serious to keep him out.
As he emerged more in the community, it became even easier to like him. Here was a player who not only wanted to be here but took giving back seriously. The photo of him laughing with Elgin Alexander Fraser is well known amongst Senators fans, but less well known is that Fisher visited Elgin just two days before he passed. Looking a dying child in the eyes is a gut check harsher than anything sports can provide, and to me, this single act says more about his character than any goal or comment from others ever could. Unlike Alexei Yashin, who famously tried to use charity for what can only be described as money laundering, Mike Fisher walked the walk.
(coming up: the stats and some highlights...)
All-time Senators Stats:
The most common criticism of Fisher during his later years in Ottawa was that he did not produce like a true second-line center. Reporter Ian Mendes put this complaint to bed with a pretty convincing argument right here. Fisher's production was in line with other second-line centers, and those who wanted more from him were really saying they wanted two #1 centers. Fisher also Selke Trophy nomination in 2006, something no other name on that list can claim.
Fisher earned that Selke nomination with plays like this one:
Mike Fisher's Short-handed Goal - Game 1 @ Buffalo (via SirZapdos)
And he was capable of scoring some pretty good goals in other situations:
Mike Fisher's Amazing Falling Goal (via silencer999)
He could also score standing up:
Mike Fisher: Amazing OT Winning Goal (via senspedia)
Yes, overtime was Fisher's time to shine. He was always my choice when I needed to predict a GWG:
Ottawa Senators Mike Fisher Scores 1st Goal VS. Capitals OT (via TheHockeyVideoGuy)
Senators Mike Fisher GWG Goals Against Atlanta and NY Isles (via TheHockeyVideoGuy)
Fisher also had a ridiculously hard shot, as Pascal Leclaire's face found out all too often last season. Here he is ripping off a 105mph blast at the team's skills competition a few years ago. Keep in mind that's only .9mph slower than the current record, set by Boston fugitive Zdeno Chara this year:
Mike Fisher - Hardest Shot (via kelly1815)
He was also someone you didn't want to tangle with. Ever wonder why Chris Neil never picked Fisher to fight with at practice? Dropping Victor Hedman with a single left would make me think twice about throwing down:
Mike Fisher vs Victor Hedman Apr 8, 2010 (via hockeyfightsdotcom)
And finally, a clip to warm any Senators fan's heart: Mike Fisher messing up Darcy Tucker. (Turn your volume down for this one.)
Fisher double pwns Tucker (via Swiftwin)
How can you dislike the guy after watching all of that?
In the end, Mike Fisher was traded because he was more valuable to a team not facing a rebuild, but during his time in Ottawa, he was an asset to the organization in every possible meaning of the word. His contributions on and off the ice to the city will be felt for years. He may be a good hockey player, but he's a better person. He remains my all-time favorite Sens player, and probably will be for years to come.