Having a defensive centerman in the NHL is crucial, having two even better, having three may have Trotz licking his chops this season with Mike Fisher, David Legwand, and Jerred Smithson/Nick Spaling on the opening roster.
Mike Fisher joined Nashville before the trade deadline last season and played his first game with the Predators on February 12 against Colorado where he got an assist and a +2 rating on the night. Legwand, in the same game had a goal, an assist and a +2 rating. This would be a precursor of things to come for the Nashville Predators and the late season success that helped boost the Predators into finishing out the year 5th in the Western Conference.
Many have said that the addition of Mike Fisher is what bolstered the Predators into the playoffs but it was not with his offensive prowess; instead it was what he brought to the ice and made other teams take note of him that helped the Predators and namely David Legwand to step into a bigger offensive role for the eventual playoff push.
Before Mike Fisher came to the Predators, David Legwand was having a lukewarm year. He had amassed 8 goals and 19 points in 37 games. This equates to a .51 point per game total; not bad but not great. Legwand was the constant defensive center for the Predators and his job was relegated to the third line and sometimes the second line, but usually in a purely defensive role. He did this job well, but his offensive role suffered along with the scoring of the Nashville Predators. Players like Smithson and Spaling helped alleviate some of the pressure of being the #1 defensive center of the Predators, but Smithson and Spaling saw more time on the PK rather than meaningful minutes during even strength play.
But all this changed when Poile traded a first round pick and a conditional pick to Ottawa for Mike Fisher.
Mike Fisher could be ascribed to being the consummate Predator. Tough, goes to the hard areas, scores from the front of the net, all heart and fire and a perfect fit for Trotz and Co. with the loss of Marcel Goc and Cal O’Reilly. But 5 goals and 12 points later, Fisher turned out to be a downgrade in offense to what Nashville thought they would be getting.
But, at the same time Mike Fisher was supposedly not living up to what Nashville gave up for him, along comes David Legwand and a touch of offensive upside that was not seen in the previous 37 games. Legwand had 9 goals and 22 points from February 12th to the end of the season (27 games). This brings Legwand’s point per game total to .81. This jump in production continued into the playoffs where only Joel Ward (13) scored more points for the Predators during their first and second round appearances (Legwand had 9 points).
The reasons behind this are very simple: Mike Fisher made other teams pay more attention to his line so Legwand’s line could step up and provide the offense the Predators desperately needed. By taking on the opposing teams’ top defense, Legwand and Ward could start contributing to the offensive effort and eventually lead the Predators into their first second round appearance in franchise history.
With training camp on the horizon and the regular season fast approaching, Predators fans can look forward to an entire season of having Mike Fisher draw the top defense of the other team and David Legwand picking up where he left off from the post-season. At the rate of .81 PPG, Legwand could be on a pace to hit 55 points and his second highest points total in a season (his career high: 63 points) in 2011-2012 if Legwand plays in 69 games: his average total GP for the last 11 seasons.