2010 NHL Free Agency: What about … Willie Mitchell?

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williemitchellcelebrates.jpgAt this point in free agency, the focus shifts from the gems to flawed guys who can still bring some skill to the table. So, going forward, we’ll spotlight individual players who are flying under the radar.

Previous Entries: Slava Kozlov, Alex Frolov

Today’s entry: former(?) Vancouver Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell.

Name: Willie Mitchell
Height: 6-3 Weight: 208 lbs.
Position: Defense
Strengths: Size, physicality, positioning, shutdown defense in general
Weaknesses: Concussion issues, limited offensively

Every team needs a defenseman who will make an opposing forward’s life miserable. Consider Willie Mitchell to be the NHL’s equivalent to an aging shutdown corner in the NFL; he won’t put up big interception/point totals, he’ll just do his job every game.

Well, he’ll do that job when he’s healthy … which hasn’t been the case very often the last few years. Much like more-sinister open ice hitter Scott Stevens, Mitchell’s physically intense style hurts him almost as much as it hurts his victims. Yet taking that element out of his game is like de-clawing a tiger or muting Fran Drescher. It sounds like a wise idea on paper, but they just wouldn’t be the same. I mean, just look at this brutal – but clean – check Mitchell unleashed on Jonathan Toews.

(Man, that hit never gets old.)

Pretty much any team in need of a rugged, stick-to-you-like-glue defenseman could use Ideal Scenario Healthy Willie Mitchell. The problem is it’s unclear if that player will ever emerge again – even for pockets of time. He hasn’t been the same since taking a hit from behind via Evgeni Malkin and that wasn’t even his first battle with concussions.

I haven’t heard many rumors about teams sniffing around Mitchell, and that might be because they want to make sure that he’s fit to play hockey again. As Mr. Plank of Fear the Fin points out, Mitchell said on the record that he wants to play again, so it might be a matter of time. Maybe he’ll sit out part of the season and then let people know he’s ready to return, but at this time that’s all speculation.

Either way, if I were an NHL GM, I’d be chomping at the bit to sign Willie Mitchell when (or if) he is ready to go.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One
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Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.