Los Angeles Kings day on PHT continues with a look at a player who may or may not be on the ice in 2013-14…
There were times last season when Kings head coach Darryl Sutter sounded extremely frustrated at Willie Mitchell’s hesitancy to return from a knee injury that required offseason surgery.
“You know what, he’s got doctor’s clearance,” Sutter said in January. “He’s got trainers’ clearance. Coaches want him to clear himself.
“So do it.”
But Mitchell never did return in 2013. The defensive defenseman’s absence, among other things, forced Drew Doughty to play more of a shutdown role for the Kings, perhaps hindering the latter’s offensive production.
In June, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi provided a cautious update on Mitchell’s status for 2013-14.
“I guess it’s safe to say that he’s at least making progress,” said Lombardi, per LA Kings Insider, “but the problem is it’s the same progress he made before, and until we get to those final stages, you’re not going to know for sure.
“So, if you had asked me this maybe six months ago when we went through the process the first time, I would have been encouraged. But, given that we had two setbacks once he got to a certain point, I’m certainly not as optimistic as I would have been before.
“Your guess is as good as mine right now.”
While Lombardi did acquire (and re-sign) veteran Robyn Regehr, the Kings will be hoping hard that Mitchell is able to play, and play well, again. The 36-year-old was a big part of the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2012. In fact, only Doughty averaged more ice time in those playoffs than Mitchell (25:19).
Los Angeles also lost stay-at-home defenseman Rob Scuderi to free agency in July.
Mitchell has one year remaining on his contract ($3.5 million cap hit) before he can become an unrestricted free agent.