Dancing in the Reign: Addition of Willie Mitchell brings stability to Kings defense
The Los Angeles Kings reached an agreement with free-agent defenseman Willie Mitchell today. Mitchell signed for 2 years at 3.5 million a season. The 11 year veteran will be joining his 5th team since making his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils in 1999. Known for his gritty, stay-at-home style of play, Mitchell is the perfect fit for the holes that have developed in the Kings defense this off-season.
Mitchell suddenly becomes an upgrade to late Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell. I say that with a sigh of relief, as O’Donnell’s departure started to become worrisome with the lack of action from the Kings front office this summer. O’Donnell provided a solid veteran presence, but his defensive game was on the downhill, and had an offensive touch that was non-existent. So, I shouldn’t have said “had”. I’m going to keep it there anyway. As of yesterday, Kings fans, including myself, may have been missing O’Donnell more than they ever should have. Not anymore, the missing piece that is Willie Mitchell is the perfect fit.
With the loss of Matt Greene for a few months, the Kings were suddenly without a veteran to continue to shoulder the progress of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson. No, I didn’t forget about Rob Scuderi, but two stay-at-home defensemen are needed to compliment the offensive abilities of Johnson and Doughty. Mitchell fills that void. Having Mitchell and Scuderi on the blue-line is almost as attractive as Doughty and Johnson.
Now let’s talk about Willie Mitchell. He’s not going to provide substantial offensive production, but has a knack for creating goals with wrist-shots from the point. Mitchell knows how to take advantage of slot traffic with well-placed shots. Many of his assists coming off of deflections or rebounds, Mitchell will fit well with forwards such as Ryan Smyth. Unfortunately, there is a risk that comes with the signing of the 33 year-old out of British Columbia. Prone to concussion, there were big question marks around his health and ability to play with the fear of post-concussion syndrome. The health and fitness tests were convincing enough for the Kings to feel confident, so only time will tell. What Mitchell can bring to the Kings on the ice overshadows the risks with his health. I’m not saying the tables can’t turn, but you can’t deny the boost Mitchell gives to this lineup on paper.