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.

Alumni rosters announced for Bruins-Habs at Gillette Stadium

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The Winter Classic Alumni Game is back this year, scheduled for New Year’s Eve at Gillette Stadium between former members of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

Today, the NHL announced the rosters and coaching staffs.

Famous ex-Habs that will take to the outdoor ice include Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, and Mats Naslund. Behind the bench will be Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Demers and Guy Lafleur, among others.

The home side will counter with Bruins legends Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and “Nifty” Rick Middleton, while Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and Derek Sanderson will be among the coaches. (Quite a trio of personalities right there.)

Here are the full rosters:


NBCSN will broadcast the alumni game nationally in the United States, while Sportsnet and TVA Sports will have it in Canada.

The 2016 Winter Classic will be played the next day (on NBC).

Goalie nods: Andersen’s ‘flu-like symptoms’ mean Khudobin starts versus Flames

Anton Khudobin, Frederik Andersen
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With Frederik Andersen experiencing “flu-like symptoms” (PHT diagnosis: it might be the flu), the Anaheim Ducks will turn to backup Anton Khudobin for tonight’s home game versus Calgary.

Khudobin could, in turn, be backed up by Josh Gibson, recalled today from AHL San Diego. The Ducks have officially listed Andersen as “questionable.”

Khudobin (3-3-0, .917) has not started a game in over a week. His last action came exactly a week ago, after Andersen got the hook versus Nashville.

Andersen may or may not travel with the Ducks for tomorrow’s game at Arizona.

The Ducks, of course, are coming off a 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay, a result that produced the following quote from Ryan Kesler:

After a four-game winning streak to start November, Anaheim has since dropped five of its last seven.

Karri Ramo will be in net for the Flames. After a terrible start to the season, he’s been much better lately, allowing just eight goals combined in his last four starts.


Craig Anderson for the Senators. Antti Niemi for the Stars.

Torts: Jackets still need more ‘bite’

John Tortorella

The hope was that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be jolted into a great, long winning streak, and their season would be saved.

The reality of John Tortorella’s first month behind the bench has been, well, reality. The Jackets are 8-7-0 since Todd Richards was fired. Better than 0-7-0, sure, but at 8-14-0 overall, they remain last in the Eastern Conference.

Fifteen games in, Tortorella is still trying to get his message across.

“A big reason why we bring them in (to practice yesterday and today) is because we don’t have a full understanding of the standard we need to be at in all areas of the game,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “Some things you can’t control in our game, but it’s how hard you play, how hard you are with your bite as a team, and the pace you play with – you can control that.”

The Jackets play Wednesday in New Jersey, where they’ll look to shake off Sunday’s disappointing home loss to San Jose. Columbus held a 3-1 third-period lead in that one. The Sharks scored four straight to win 5-3.


— The Canucks need ‘more bite’

The Rangers are better when they have ‘more bite’

Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer


The San Jose Sharks have signed forward Dainius Zubrus to a one-year, two way contract, the club announced today.

Zubrus was given a tryout with the Sharks last week.

The 37-year-old played 74 games with the Devils last season, scoring just four goals with six assists. His contract was then bought out.

According to a Mercury News source, the decision to sign Zubrus lay “mainly” with his former coach in New Jersey, now San Jose’s bench boss, Pete DeBoer.

“He looks good,” DeBoer said of Zubrus last week, per CSN Bay Area. “He looks close. It’s tough to find six-foot-four, 215-pound guys who can play. … He’s an easy guy to play because he’s defensively reliable. He plays a big possession, heavy game. There’s a lot to like there.”

In a related move, the Sharks have reassigned forward Nikolay Goldobin to the AHL.

Related: Where’s the depth in San Jose?