Happy Fisher looks to step it up

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:08 PM ET

Now married and 30, Mike Fisher has more bling.

Along with the wedding band on his finger, he showed up at camp wearing the figurative belt as the Senators’ 2009-10 goal-scoring champ. What does it matter that Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson might have all passed him had they not spent double digit games on the injury list?

Fisher proved he’s more than the third-line checking centre many had pegged him as by lighting the lamp 25 times.

“Junior?” Fisher said, when asked the last time he led his team in goals. “No, I don’t even know if I did in junior. Bantam. It’s been a while.”

Fisher says it was only a matter of time before he set personal offensive bests.

A little power-play time never hurts.

“It was a good season, but if you look at my seasons, the difference last year was power-play goals,” he said. “I had 10 last year, the year before I had zero. That’s a big difference. I want to continue. I feel I improved last year, for sure.

“When you’re scoring those goals, you’re getting confidence and making better plays in other areas too.”

Fisher has naturally changed his approach since he was a teenager trying to crack a Senators roster that included Alexei Yashin, Shawn McEachern, Andreas Dackell, Marian Hossa and Radek Bonk. In fact, he’s changed it since he was 28.

“For me, it not about just going balls out every shift,” he said. “It’s about being smart, and trying to think the game a little better than I have in the past. Just make plays. I think I did a better job of that last year.”

Last season was his first as a regular centre for Alex Kovalev, who he credits with helping him become a better player. Kovalev thinks Fisher could have scored 30.

“If he stopped missing some of the shots he missed last year, he could probably score a lot more goals,” said Kovalev. “You just have to be sometimes a little bit patient with the puck instead of throwing it away. 

“Mike is a little different player. He’s more of a straightforward player. Plays a physical game and shoots the puck. Every time you play with him, you’re always in the offensive zone trying to find that spot. My goal is try to control the puck and set him up.

“Mike just has to be a little bit patient, and he’ll be fine.”

Marrying country singing sensation Carrie Underwood in July should help slow you down, right Mike?

“Yeah, I was crazy when I was a bachelor,” joked the devoutly religious Peterborough native.

Funny, yes, but the fact is many a player has improved his game after getting married. Maybe the home-cooked meals have something to do with it. Or having someone to talk to after a bad game. 

“Having a family, and someone to go home to and talk to, has been great,” said Chris Neil, who also spent part of his career as a single man. “Outside of hockey, when you’re a young kid coming up, all you’re doing is going out and talking about hockey the whole time. There’s that fine line ... you’ve got to get your mind off hockey when you’re away from the rink.

“When you’re at the rink, you’ve got to be focused on the game, but when you’re away from the rink, you’ve got to be able to enjoy yourself and get your mind off it. And I feel that’s helped me out a lot, being able to focus on other things than just hockey.”

In Fisher’s case, talking to the wife after a game will usually mean picking up phone, as Underwood is often away performing on tour. But other than that, the only difference between being wed to a superstar is the paparazzi — and even that’s not so bad.

“Marriage is marriage. It’s all the same, I think,” said Fisher. “Living in Ottawa, you’re kind of protected from a lot of it. Nashville the same. It’d be different if we were living in L.A. or New York or something. We’re fortunate to be living where we are.

“You just kind of learn to live with it. It’s all good. It’s all worth it.”

Fisher doesn’t expect to lead the Senators in any offensive categories this season. But he does think he can produce a new personal best.

“I don’t expect to lead the team. I’ve got to do what I can do, but I’m not a top scoring type of guy,” he said. “Especially on our team, when guys are healthy. But I’ve got to chip in, and I think I can do better than I did last year, for sure.

“I feel like maybe I’m a little more excited because I think we’ve got a good chance this year. I think we’ve got a great group, and we want to do some damage. I feel we’ve got enough experience, and some good young guys. Toughness and a lot of different intangibles I think you need. 

“There are a lot of great teams in this league, but I feel we’re right up there with some of the top ones when we’re playing the way we know we can.”

Maybe, if more guys like Fisher keep getting better with age.


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