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.

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.