Above is a segment of Mike Gillis's year-end presser where he discusses Willie Mitchell's condition, a trade deadline in which he acquired no replacement for his top defensive defenseman suffering a season-ending injury, and Mitchell's comments regarding Colin Campbell's wheel of justice. It's a good watch.
Somehow, to me, it seemed like all playoffs long, I was just waiting for word that Mitchell was ready to suit up, that a concussion is a little like a numb arm after a nap, and it simply takes an unspecified amount of time to clear up. But we all know that's not what a concussion is. And furthermore, Willie Mitchell deserves our greatest sympathy for continuing to suffer brain trauma from a hit he suffered FOUR MONTHS AGO on January 16.
There are a number of issues arising from this hit. The first is the hit itself and its failure to earn supplementary discipline from Colin Campbell. Of this, Willie Mitchell was critical:
"I am disappointed in the league, disappointed in Colin Campbell," Mitchell said. "As we've seen, [he's] been very inconsistent with how he's handled himself in those situations [...] I think the league needs to, along with our players' union, take a look at how they run the discipline in the league. Colin Campbell had a lot of relationships with general managers and ownership and stuff like that. It's very tough to hand down decisions on matters like this when you are friends with people. It's something the league and players need to look at, to have an outside party handle the discipline in the league [so] it's consistent.
And just to make it clear this has nothing to do with the Canucks being eliminated from the playoffs, Mitchell explained his very personal angle.
"I want to make this very clear, too, I'm not saying this for me. What's it going to do for me? It's not going to do a thing for me. No one is going to take back the last four-and-a-half months that I've endured and my family has endured. Why I'm saying this right now is because of my friends in the league, my peers in the league. I don't want anyone to go through what I just did.''
The good news: not only is Mitchell right, but his refusal to mince words and the clarity with which he slammed the NHL brass (at one point he implied Campbell has caused "chaos") likely guarantees him a job in broadcasting if this is indeed the end of his NHL career. The bad news, of course, is that impassioned, emboldened, intellectually worded criticism of the NHL discipline is just as against the rules as whatever John Tortorella usually does, so Mitchell's likely going to get fined. But I thoroughly appreciate Mitchell speaking his mind.
And let's be clear on one thing: when the hit originally took place, the debate over whether or not Malkin should be suspended was actually not too loud. It seemed like a hit from behind, deserving of a penalty, but it didn't initially look as bad as it turned out to be. I don't think the outcry from Canuck nation was any larger than it is now, in retrospect. But, having finally heard from Mitchell, revisiting the play that may have cost us our season, I've realized that my perspective of what is and isn't a suspendable offense is completely skewed by the inconsistency and, well, chaos of NHL discipline for which Colin "Lord Chaos" Campbell (pictured, right) is directly responsible. Couple that with what's been a playoffs of unimaginable reffing incompetence and you have a sickness in the NHL head office that needs fixing right away.
The second issue, which is much smaller, is the unimaginable incompetence in the NHL media. Doofuses like Kelly Hrudey who criticize Mike Gillis's "failure" to find a replacement for Mitchell at the trading deadline. Now I may just be an amateur member of the Vancouver Canucks media, but even I am observant enough to recognize the way the deadline has changed, the lack of blockbusters, the fact that it's become little more than a chance to get depth guys and swap middling prospects. Spending big has become an unquestionably stupid move; it hasn't paid off once in the new NHL, and I would imagine that it never will. Ilya Kovalchuk is merely the latest example of what happens when you go out and get a big name to bolster your postseason lineup. It doesn't work. And we wanted Mike Gillis to replace Willie Mitchell? Did anybody consider the cost of acquiring a premier defensive defenseman? According to GM MG, It was a 1st round pick and Cody Hodgson. No dice. Did anybody consider that the chemistry might not have been there, because it rarely is when you acquire a star player, set in his ways, and then try to teach him your system and the tendencies of your players in a short time? Did anybody think at all?
Sometimes I wonder why Mike Gillis condescends to the media. Usually, I know why: they ask stupid questions and they say stupid things. Skeeter pointed out some of the asinine radical ideas that spring up in the postseason, but all of his evidence was from the Canucks forum. Incredibly, the media are just as bad. Heck, these guys have diplomas and degrees; it's more embarrassing for them.
Here's hoping Willie Mitchell recovers and we see him playing for an NHL team next season. Maybe ours, maybe not. It doesn't matter. It's not about the Canucks; it's about Mitchell lacing up the skates so that Malkin's undisciplined headshot doesn't become a career-ending one.