Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
Mitchell’s off to the LA Kings and I can honestly say the first thing I thought when I read about that was “I hope he has a long career and plays out longer than the two years the LA Kings gave him”. When looking at him after the Malkin hit and seeing the state he was in when he first emerged to the media in the post season I felt sorry for him. Not because he looked terrible, not so much because I was worried he’d never play in the NHL again, but more so because the head injury he sustained playing for a living looked like it had the potential to affect his day to day life for the rest of it on top of ending his hockey career.
Mitchell got offered $3.5 million per year for two years and I’m happy for him. I’m not sure what convinced the LA Kings to make that deal but at the end of the day Mike Gillis wasn’t going to pay that price. Realistically I’m sure his talks with Mitchell were a formality more than anything else. I truly felt that Mitchell would take a pay cut and sign with the Canucks to stay in Vancouver but I can also see why such a good deal would be so attractive. He’ll get a chance to impact the development of a sure to be (even more than he already is) studly Doughty and the weather down there isn’t half bad either.
Why am I not crushed we lost Mitchell? The Canucks run into enough injury problem come different points in the season as it is, do they really need to start with a handicap and the uncertainty of Mitchell’s head? There’s nothing that has been seen to convince us or the Kings for that matter that Mitchell’s head is 100% okay. In fact, I don’t think his head will ever be 100%. I think he’ll reach 99%, but after sustaining an injury as devastating as the one he did after his hit from Malkin on January 16th, it’s safe to say it changed his life. Gambling $7 million on a player that could have his career end on day one of his new contract as easily as he could play out it’s two years is simply not something that I’d do when I’m already over the cap and have a plethora of defenseman on one-way contracts.
If Mitchell was to sign cheaply with an incentive laden contract, there was also the possibility of Bieksa getting dealt. That said, I firmly believe a large part of our collapse last year (amongst other issues) was a hole on defence we had in part due to Mitchell being out but also because our intended replacements were out as well. Schneider cried his way out of Vancouver and Lukowich opted for season ending surgery. I’m just not convinced Willie would last on the ice, especially in the hard hitting Western Conference. With Salo out till December, I think Bieksa’s job is safe. With the solid additions of Hamhuis and Ballard, the Canucks have nothing to worry about after losing Willie Mitchell.
Happy trails Willie Mitchell. You bled, played and sacrificed as much as many other Canucks and you will be remembered only for good. I will always remember you for the first thing you said to Vancouver media when you were signed. I paraphrase, but the important part is there, you’ll see:
Reporter: “Willie, what is it that you bring to the team?”
Willie: “I’m a 30 goal scorer”
Reporter has a puzzled look
Willie: “I’m like a 30 goal scorer. I don’t score 30 goals in a season but I can prevent 30 goals from being scored”