Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Willie Mitchell Takes Talents to Long Beach

Take that, Vancouver. Just kidding, you're all right.

Dan Murphy is tweeting that the Kings have finally gotten Willie Mitchell to crack, and signed him to a multi-year deal. Canucks fans--just this morning ecstatic over the Torres signing--are throwing themselves off of bridges.

Don't panic, Canucks fans. As much as the Canucks would have loved to have Willie Mitchell back, the plan was never to keep him. That ship sailed when they didn't re-negotiate with him last season. Mitchell is an excellent defensive defenseman, but the Canucks wanted somebody who could do that job while still facilitating the breakout pass. See, nobody was better at poking the puck away and clearing the zone than Willie Mitchell, but the Canucks wanted somebody who could take the puck away from the other team and then, you know, have the puck. Mitchell wasn't that guy, and playing him on the top pairing meant that he played too large a role in the breakout for his offensive skillset, and too often at that.

This is why the Canucks paid top dollar for Dan Hamhuis. Defensive skills? Check. Breakout pass. Check. See, Hamhuis is a better defenseman. The thing Mitchell does well, Hamhuis does well enough. Everything else, Hammy does better. Keep your heads, Canuck nation. We're still good.

Mitchell will do well in Los Angeles and I wish him nothing but the best, but don't think our season's going to tank. He wasn't in the plans at the end of last season, so clearly Gillis thought we could win without him. Even with the Salo injury, which seemed to make Mitchell a bigger Vancouver commodity to fans and pundits, I don't think Mitchell was anything more than a luxurious afterthought for Gillis. Nice to have for the right price, but more a want than a need. So off he goes.

People are going to bash him for taking the contract over his supposed loyalties, but that's bogus. Not to sound like Chris Bosh, but the athlete needs to think of himself before he handicaps his career dabbling in loyalties. If the two ideals sync up, wonderful. If they don't, well, that's business, kids.

Don't underestimate the value of term. If you were offered two identical jobs, but one was guaranteed to last a year longer, which would you take? Take off your fan glasses and put on your family glasses. You want to be able to count on your salary for more than a year. You're job-hunting now. It sucks. Do you want to be job-hunting again in a year? No. Nobody does. What if you get hurt during that year and you're not guaranteed a job for the next year? You're hooped.

It's why Niemi had to cash in as a Stanley Cup winning goalie, he had to file for arbitration when Chicago refused to pay him, even when it meant he'd likely have to leave Chicago. You have to get what you can while you can get it, and you have to protect your value. When your value is high, you take advantage. For Niemi--and it's a shame he hasn't found a home yet, he got screwed--he made the right choice for his career. Protect value. You can't sacrifice career longevity for loyalty or anything else, including, in his case, knowing his team couldn't afford him, unfortunately. You work for yourself, for your family.

Mitchell got lucky. After a nearly career-ending concussion, his value remained intact. It increased through the summer, as he rehabbed into playing shape. Smartly, knowing his value could plummet with another concussion, he took a multi-year contract.

Willie made the right choice for his future.

Godspeed, Bill Pickle.


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