2010-11 Stats: 57 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 PTS, +4, 0 PPP, 21 PIM
Signed thru 2011-12; $3.5 million
Leave it to Dean Lombardi and the Kings to sign a player who missed the last 34 regular season games and all 12 playoff games of the 2009-10 season because of a concussion to a two-year contract. The pessimist that lives in all Kings fans thought this signing could easily follow in the footsteps of such blockbuster flops as Valeri Bure and Alyn McCauley. The Kings may have been the only team to offer Willie Mitchell a two-year contract and I don't think DL could be any happier with how his big free-agent acquisition worked out this past season.
I loved Willie Mitchell's game but had some reservations about his health going into training camp. After watching a full-season of Willie, I'm convinced that Mitchell is indeed a 33-year old version of Sean O'Donnell. He brings nearly all the same tools: leadership, grit, toughness, and an inability to handle the puck with any confidence. Mitchell doesn't hit much but positions himself well to make the simple play in his own zone.
Much in the same way Rob Scuderi helped the blueline last year, Mitchell provided more of the same. A veteran presence who focuses on defense first, keeps the game simple, and does all the little things that help win hockey games. Mitchell and Scuderi serve as the safety nets to Doughty and Johnson's high-risk, high-reward offensive games. TM leaned on Mitchell to play big minutes against other team's top lines and easily became the Kings #1 penalty killer. Mitchell averaged over 21 minutes of ice-time per game (and over 24 minutes in the playoffs) and led the team averaging 3:24 of ice-time on the penalty kill. Mitchell's quality of competition rating of .086 led the team, which reiterates the thought that Michell played against other team's top players on a nightly basis.
FINAL GRADE: B+; Mitchell's concussion looks to be a thing of the past but a broken wrist and lower-body injury still cost him 25 games this season. While DL has struck out with most of his forward free agent acquisitions during his tenure in Los Angeles; he's done well adding Scuderi and Mitchell to the blueline over the past two summers. Mitchell is another solid veteran added to a young group still trying to find it's identity. It's no coincidence that the Kings saw their goals allowed per game drop (2.57 GA/G to 2.39 GA/G) and their penalty kill percentage rise (80.3% to 85.5%) this past season.