Jump to content
The Official Site of the Vancouver Canucks
Canucks Community
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Willie Mitchell was never in Mike Gillis' long-term plans.




The more I look at Gillis' approach to team-building, the more 'post-lockout Detroit' it looks.

Detroit doesn't have a $3.5 mil 'shutdown' defenseman and they do quite alright.

However, they have a hall-of-fame captain defenseman named Nick Lidstrom. Now... Believe it or not, Christian Ehrhoff just had a comparable season to Lidstrom on 09/10. His +/- was better. He had more goals. He had almost as many points. And his actual defensive ability was actually closer to Lidstrom's than most people would give him credit for last season. Of course Lidstrom had an off year, but whatever. Now Ehrhoff just needs to carry that regular season success into the playoffs.

When Detroit wants to score, it's Rafalski that is usually on the ice with Lidstrom. Our equivalent would be Edler. Problem: Edler is not Rafalski. He's just 24 and is still learning the game, but most experts are willing to predict that he's ready to reach the next level now. When that happens, then we have another excellent two-way defender.

Detroit also had another excellent two-way guy in Kronwall. He currently has injury problems, so his effectiveness could be limited for 10/11, but our equivalent would be Ballard, another hard-hitting guy who's capable of two-way play. Problem: Ballard isn't Kronwall. At least not yet. So how the Canucks as a team positively affect Ballard's performance level remains a question mark. Three down, no exclusive 'shutdown' guy yet.

The closest thing Detroit has to a defense-only 'shutdown' guy right now is Brad Stuart. But if you look at Brad Stuart's career in San Jose, he's not 'defense-only' at all. He scored 39 and 40pts just a few years ago. Willie Mitchell's career high was 29pts, and that was in 08/09, when Gillis took over. Basically, Gillis has been trying to get Mitchell to be a more dynamic defenseman than he's capable of being. It was plainly obvious that he wasn't in Gillis' long-term plans, however, as Edler was re-signed, Ehrhoff and Ballard were traded for and then Hamhuis was signed. (I'm not quite sure why some people thought Mitchell would stay after all that.) Hamhuis is our Brad Stuart as the moment. Actually, he's better at the moment. Stuart was a -12 last season. Hamhuis has also scored high 30's in points before and has been a consistent two-way force in Nashville for his entire career.

Overall, Gillis has setup a framework of younger, healthier two-way defenders to build the team on now and all that needs to happen is for the systems in place to help them grow as players, hopefully leading towards a dominant force in the NHL for years to come. Better: Our prospects will be able to come into this system later on and will be better, faster, so our team can maintain a high level of competitiveness indefinitely. Sounds a lot like the Detroit model to me.

Now i know a lot of you will say that Willie Mitchell is better than so-and-so defensively, and he is, but what good has it done so far? His defense-only skills haven't conjured up a second round victory for us so far. And let's not forget the clutch giveaway that led to Chicago's key goal in our 08/09 meeting with them. There's no way Hamhuis would let that play happen. Why? Because Hamhuis is capable of plays with the puck other than dumping it up the boards.

Hamhuis in his young age has already had a year better than Mitchell's best. imo this opportunity he has in Vancouver for this season will make him have an even better career year. It's all part of the plan that'll lead this team to glory And then we'll forget all about Willie Mitchell and his great, one-dimensional 'shutdown' plays that just lead to turnovers in our own zone anyway.

Nothing against Willie here. He gave it his all. But in the end, it was never going to be enough.

The Wild fans spouting negative comments on the Willie signing here were inevitably right: Not quite worth the money. Gives away the puck too much in his own zone. And has likely seen his best days as a player pass him by.



Recommended Comments

I agree with the sentiment that Hamhuis at 1 million more than MItchell is a much better deal considering his age, health, and his ability to play at a high level at both ends of the ice.

I think not bringing Mitchell back, even if it was possible at less than 3.5 million, was the right move. It's time to move on, he wasn't going to get it done.

Link to comment

I wouldn't say never... I'd guess that at best MG wanted him as a depth D. At the O'Brien, Alberts, Rome levels. But Mitchell wanted more, and quite possibly deserved more. Best of luck to him, well, 2nd best at most. :towel:

Link to comment

When judging Erhoff's play last season, it must be remembered that he was rarely out against other teams top players.

You can't compare his stats with Lidstrom's (or any other top level defender's) because he didn't play against the same caliber of players that they did.

Link to comment

When judging Erhoff's play last season, it must be remembered that he was rarely out against other teams top players.

You can't compare his stats with Lidstrom's (or any other top level defender's) because he didn't play against the same caliber of players that they did.

When Mitchell went down, it was Ehrhoff who saw his duties increase the most and he still did reasonably well. You can't avoid other teams' top players when you see the ice that much.
Link to comment

I agree with your assessment of Willie's lack of offensive abilities.

Hamhuis.,Ehrhoff,Edler,Salo and even Bieksa can make the crisp,initial pass and create an offensive transition.

Not clear on Ballard's skill level but it seems the back end is responsible and efficient.

Bieksa is the exception and commands a high salary so I expect that if he cannot return to his stellar play of past another right handed defenceman could be sought out.

Willie's fragile condition sealed the deal.

Good luck to him and I hope he can stay healthy over the next two years.

Link to comment

The Canucks have alot better defense man know. The question is how they fit in to our system. Our coaching staff has to find a way to make this work. I hope the Canucks play a little better on the back end to give the goalies a fair chance. No more open players on the side of the net.

Link to comment

Good assessment of the situation. Even before MItchell got injured he wasn't a priority to bring back. I think Gilman mentioned this at the start of last season.

Mitchell would be a nice depth piece at the right price, but this blueline is already extremely crowded and expensive.

Link to comment

Wow! Last year everyone was on the same page - "we sure miss Mitchell", now listen to the catcalls.Remember it was always Mitchell out against the super stars, and he had the ability to shut down players like Ovetchin. He was the only guy who stepped into Ingila when he was pushing Hanson around. He'll be missed.PS: where is the Grit in the top 6?

Link to comment

Mitchell's lack of offense combined with the risk of another concussion make him a liability. MG has brought two-way defensemen who can play an entire season.

Link to comment
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...