Hard-working Fisher deserves 'A'

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The Senators will on Friday announce which player will inherit Dany Heatley's abandoned 'A', and most would guess it winds up on the front of jersey No. 12.

But this is no slam-dunk for coach Cory Clouston.

Yes, Mike Fisher is the obvious choice to be an alternate captain. He's a hard-working, clean-living, deep-thinking, well-spoken veteran.

He's the Senators' poster child.

If Fisher doesn't get the 'A', it might very well be because he's too good for it.

He's not a Heatley or an Alexei Yashin. He's not a guy you'd worry about if you didn't recognize him with a letter. He wouldn't feel slighted. It wouldn't affect his play.

"Leaders have to work together as a group," Fisher began Thursday when asked about the qualities of an alternate captain. "We need guys to step up. It doesn't matter if you wear an 'A' or not. It's just everyone, veteran guys helping to pull the ship in the right direction. Whether I'm wearing it or not, it's not going to change anything.

"I'd be lying to you if I said it doesn't feel good to wear a letter," added Fisher, who did so during the pre-season. "At the same time, we've got lots of guys in our room that could wear it."

The other two most logical candidates are Jason Spezza and Alex Kovalev.

Spezza is the "heir to the throne," as one reporter put it. When captain Daniel Alfredsson retires, this will be No. 19's team. But Spezza doesn't need extra motivation. He's among the core group that is embarrassed the Senators fell from Stanley Cup finalists to out of the playoffs in two years.

As the top-line centre, Spezza plans on doing something about it. Plus, he's determined to earn an invite from the Canadian Olympic team.

And as a newly married man, he's got enough responsibility to worry about.

Kovalev is a respected veteran, but also an enigma. Some games he's there, some games he's not. Giving him an 'A' might remind him of his duty to be there more often.

Clouston's checklist in deciding who joins Alfredsson and Chris Phillips as the letter wearers was an obvious one.

"Leadership, both on and off the ice, work ethic, character and somebody who plays a fairly major role on the team," Clouston said of the job requirements. "There are obviously going to be a handful of guys who aren't wearing the letter we still need to really rely in a leadership role."

The bet here is that Clouston rights a wrong and slaps the letter on a player who deserves it, and not, like Craig Hartsburg did last year, on a guy who needed it -- and then mistreated it.

The call is that Fisher is Clouston's choice, after much more consideration than you would have thought was needed.

Shoot to win

In what should be a tight playoff race, the Senators need to be better in shootouts than last season, when they won just 4-of-10.

At the end of yesterday's practice on what was by then some bad Kanata Recreation Complex ice, the team was divided in two squads for a shootout competition that was decided by Peter Regin.

The rookie has no delusions about being one of the first called upon by Clouston at this stage of his NHL career. "I was pretty decent at the end of last year (in Binghamton)," said Regin. "This is another level. There's a little more pressure here. That's a big part of being a shooter in the shootouts. You have to be comfortable. If I get the chance I'll try to do the best I can, but I don't think I'd be one of the shooters."

Clouston said Kovalev would figure prominently in the shootout selection process. Kovalev scored on 4-of-8 chances with the Habs last season. Jonathan Cheechoo went 2-for-3, with both goals game winners for Sharks, while teammate Milan Michalek was 1-for-4.

Last season, the Senators scored just 13 goals on 42 shootout attempts. Daniel Alfredsson was good on five of nine tries, while Spezza converted 3-of-10 chances.

"You've just got to ride the hot hand with the shootout," said Spezza. "I want to shoot every game if I get the chance. But the coach makes the decision."

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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