Guest Post: A Welcome Addition – Willie Mitchell

Adam Gushansky, one of our readers and a die-hard L.A. Kings fan, wanted to take a stab at writing about the team. One day, he will probably want to do his own thing. Hell, he may even be good at it. For now, Adam wants to cut his teeth with us. Therefore, consider his next few articles his initiation, which should be part constructive and part hazing. Don’t take it easy on him. If you like what he wrote, tell him. If you think he needs an enema, tell him that too. The kid is a virgin at writing about our Kings. Let’s pop his cherry with this first one about Willie Mitchell that he finalized this weekend and asked that I publish. If you like what he writes and we do too, we will eventually give him access. For now, give him love or shit – Bobby Scribe

The Los Angeles Kings have undergone quite the changeover this offseason. From severing ties with key players like Dustin Penner and Rob Scuderi, to making the long-anticipated Jonathan Bernier deal and, peculiarly, adding Jeff Schultz and Dan Carcillo, the Kings can expect a new-look roster to begin the 2013-2014 season. But in fact, when it’s all said and done, the most significant acquisition this summer may not have come from a signing or trade, but rather a healing body. Recent reports suggest that Willie Mitchell (cross your fingers) will be ready come training camp.

It’s difficult to put into perspective the implications Mitchell’s return would have on and off the ice. Let’s face it: without Willie, the Kings are not a Stanley Cup contending team. And with the salary cap going down this season, Dean Lombardi has no choice but to rely on him to fill that void of a stay-at-home, veteran defenseman was created upon Rob Scuderi’s departure.

We know what Willie Mitchell brings to the table. Along with giving Slava a formidable partner at even strength, he provides the Kings with another booming shot from the point and a big, mobile body in front of the net. And, just as importantly, if Mitchell is healthy, that would allow Jake Muzzin, who at times seemed overwhelmed last season, to settle into a quieter role with Matt Greene on the bottom pairing. A healthy Willie Mitchell brings balance to the d-corps.

Of course, we should also temper our expectations if a return is indeed imminent. Coming back after not having played in over a year is no simple task. And he’s 36. He’s not going to play 22 minutes a night come play-offs – and he shouldn’t have to. Let’s remember that Slava Voynov has improved drastically over the last season both offensively and defensively, and Willie won’t, and shouldn’t be, expected to carry him like he did in the past.

But like any shrewd GM would, Dean Lombardi has a contingency plan. Should Mitchell’s recovery stagnate or condition – gulp – regress, Keaton Ellerby will likely be expected to pick up the slack. Muzzin would move up to play top-four minutes, while Ellerby plays with Greene. And should another defenseman go down, there’s recently-signed Jeff Schultz. The fact that there is a mere outside possibility that Jeff Schultz steps foot onto the ice this season should tell you it’s imperative for Willie Mitchell to stay healthy this season.

Assuming Mitchell is ready come training camp, the Kings will have a bit of a dilemma. They have nine defensemen. Teams typically carry seven during the regular season, but with Mitchell’s situation as volatile as it is, it’s safe to assume the Kings will carry eight and one spare forward rather than two. One defenseman must go. And there aren’t many reasonable options. The safe bet is that the Kings will go into training camp with all nine, and won’t rush to make a decision. The weakest link will be waived, and, if unclaimed, board the first flight to Manchester. Sounds simple enough.

Not so fast. All things considered, of nine guys, the weakest link is Jeff Schultz. But something tells me the Kings wouldn’t sign Schultz on the first day of free agency and have him as a candidate to go on waivers. As was first reported by Pierre LeBrun, Lombardi also tried to trade for him last year at the trade deadline. It would appear, unfortunately, that Deano foresees Schultz as a part of the Kings’ roster going forward.

So who’s the odd man out? Would the Kings waive Keaton Ellerby? Unlikely. Ellerby plays a Darryl Sutter-type game on defense – mean, physical – plus he’s a big body and can skate. Who does that leave? Alec Martinez. Martinez, who just signed a new deal, doesn’t really fit into the mold with Willie Mitchell healthy. Coach Sutter has not been shy to express his dismay with regards to Martinez’s development – or lack thereof – and seemed to favor dressing Ellerby over him. He plays a smooth, cerebral game, but for a guy who doesn’t have the size or raw strength, Martinez was neither dynamic nor consistent enough last season. He was in the doghouse.

My guess is that, by the time the season starts, Martinez is dealt for a second or third-round pick. Along with solving the problem of having too many defensemen, moving Martinez and his $1.1 million-dollar salary help the Kings get under the cap.

This would leave them with a top-six of Doughty, Regehr, Voynov, Mitchell, Greene, and Muzzin – with Ellerby and Schultz as spares – to start the season. Of course it’s all speculation at this point, but that is a formidable defense. Very formidable. A top-five one, perhaps. But one thing we know for certain, is that its future and success lie in the hands – or should I say knees – of Willie Mitchell.

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Categories: L.A. Kings News

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27 replies

  1. Good article man, my only critique…you said Ellerby plays a cerebral game. The only thing he did last season that was memorable was that saucer pass to Carter that led to a breakaway goal(wanna say it was against Edmonton) not long after we acquired him. That’s the only play I remember him making that I didn’t want to jam my salad fork into my cerebral cortex

    • What he means is that when Ellerby gets on the ice, Kings fan want to bash his head in as well as their own. Hence, a cerebral game.

      • Zac, he said Alec Martinez plays a cerebral game.
        I’m willing to give Martinez the benefit of the doubt, and hope he had a sophomore slump. it does appear, though, that he has fallen out of favor with Darryl Sutter. Good article man. Good luck with the rest of them in the future.

    • Damn it Zac. Serves me right for thinking you were right without going back and reading what he wrote.

  2. What Mikey said, :). Ellerby is about as cerebral as a traffic cone.

  3. Martinez has been in the doghouse only because he’s not a big ass d man like everyone else. Nolan doesn’t fit into my theory because well he’s big. But sutter likes his big strapping bodies and if you’re smallish and studdering well, you’re not gonna play. A mart is a top four.

    • With Sutter as coach, the odds are kind of stacked against Martinez. Nothing against him, it’s just that he doesn’t fit in right now. That’s what happens when you’re freakishly deep like the Kings.

  4. Did you guys hear? From one of NHL.com’s articles on the Kings, the “likely” plan is to play Dan Carcillo on the 2nd line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

    NOOOOOOO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s

    • At this point, I think that’s what’s going to end up happening (to start the season at least). Everything Dean Lombardi has said in the past few weeks supports this. From Carcillo having played with skilled players, to his familiarity with some of the guys (Richards and Carter) — and let’s not forget Dean’s comments in the NHL.com article about Toffoli possibly beginning the year in a bottom-six role — it seems that’s going to be the case. Not the worst thing in the world, but I sure hope one of Frattin or Toffoli steps up early in the season and forces Sutter’s hand.

    • I’m all of a sudden having flashbacks of Sean Avery. :)

  5. Good article.
    I think AMart was not in doghouse with Deano.
    Maybe Sutter. I think he had more severe injury then we were told. If Cup Alec shows at training camp, it would be a bad call to trade him.
    Willie is one of my favs..No one HOPING Harder for his return!
    I could not write a blog to save my soul.
    Bobby said to critique.
    My one thought is your article could be more concise.
    Fewer words to make your points.
    Thank you for your effort.
    GO KINGS GO!!!
    WWTC!!!

  6. Nice write up, Gushansky. I’ll save my attacks for the next post. :)

    What happened to yellow eyes or blue extensions or whatever her name was? I liked her odd humor.

  7. Dear God are you that other guy with a different username????
    You said the same thing 20 times…
    You will be a ‘delete’ if You don’t edit..im just sayin .
    GO KINGS GO!!!
    WWTC!!!

  8. ironically named Mrconcisemice is back

  9. Frozen Fury tix hanging on the fridge. :0!!!!!! Reall, really, really looking forward to that. Got a room at the MGM grand. That way I cant get in too much trouble. Go Kings. !!!

  10. The kid probably is a virgin, but not wrt writing about the Kings. My god, he’s already written more words about them this off season than the whole Kings blogosphere combined. His word count is closing in rapidly on Red Fischer’s entire body of work.

    Anyway. Aside from some blatant abuse of the rules of punctuation and a high degree of vanilla factor #7, it wasn’t as detestable an effort as I might have expected.

    Yes, Mitchell is probably going to start the season for us.

    That means that Martinez could well be gone. Or Muzzin. They are both likely to have value with other GMs.

    One or more of Ellerby and Schultz are likely to be sent to Manchester.

    Then the season starts. Not complicated.

  11. I think you are giving Ellerby way to much credit for his size, while giving Alec way too little creidt for his ability. Sure, Keaton is big but he plays soft and has no clue how to use his frame. Also, Alec shined in the Cup winning season for the Kings, especially in the playoffs. Then he struggled due to an upper body injury and when he came back he was forced into a LH/LH pairing sometime playing to unnatural side of the ice and was paired with the likes of Ellerby. When with the defensive Greene Martinez was very good. Also, Alec is on a new two-year deal; if the team thought higher of Ellerby than Alec you would think he would have gotten the longer contract. It will come down to who earns it in camp. And because of that of the three, my money is on Alec. He has the highest ceiling and most potential. Keaton will be moved for a late draft pick or PTBNL-type; and if everyone else is healthy the team will probably try to sneek Schultz through waivers.

    One last question:
    “Ellerby plays a Darryl Sutter-type game on defense – mean, physical – plus he’s a big body and can skate.”
    When the fuck did that happen? I always saw a turnover prone big body who plays soft. Please let me know which games I should go back and rewatch.

    • Keaton Ellerby is many things, but he is not soft.

      Listen, I’m one of his biggest critics. He lacks hockey IQ and makes multiple boneheaded plays a game, but I’ve been impressed with his stickwork as well as his hard first pass out of the zone. Too much pressure was put on him last year. There were games where he was playing 18+ minutes. He’s a third-pairing/depth defenseman.

      Martinez was given every chance to succeed last season. Yes, he was playing injured a lot of the time, but still, 27 games. And not only was he not as dynamic offensively, he was a turnover machine! You make a good point about the contracts, but for all we know, Martinez could have been asking for a two-year minimum term. He’s much more proven than Ellerby, and he was in a position to do that.

      We’ll see what happens in training camp. I like Marty and he’s a good guy, I just don’t think he has a future here in LA.

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