If John Mitchell were one of your friends, he'd be the guy that's fun to be around, well-intentioned, makes a nice living, dresses well -- but strikes out with the ladies every time he goes out on the weekends. It's hard to explain because he has so many fantastic qualities. He's the dude every nice single Cosmo-reading woman thinks she's trying to meet, and yet nothing ever materializes.
John Mitchell the hockey player is kind of the same way. He's a pretty good skater, a willing defender, decent on face-offs, and one of the best stick-handlers on the team. The problem is he's often skating to the wrong spot, overcommitting to the wrong guy, and coughing the puck up after making a spectacular individual play to enter the zone. It's just like John Mitchell, your hapless friend, who walks up to the prettiest girl at the bar, flashes his best smile in his most dapper blazer, and then fumbles all over his words as soon as he gets her attention. It's frustrating, but they both keep making you think one day they'll get it right.
MHH Survey Grade: 67.4%
Last year was Mitchell's fourth season in a Colorado Avalanche uniform. He came over as a free agent from the New York Rangers in 2012-13 and played three seasons in Toronto prior. At the time, it appeared Mitchell was brought in to replace the bottom-six checking role of Jay McClement, who after coming over from St. Louis in the Erik Johnson trade, signed a free-agent contract with Toronto. instead, the Avalanche got a player with enough top-end skill to convince multiple coaches he was capable of a much bigger role.
Mitchell has been consistently better than a fourth-line center, but not exactly a reliable top-nine option either. Every season, he's had ten or eleven goals and ten to twenty assists, which, given his playing time, is decent production in today's NHL. What doesn't show up in the common stat sheet is all the missed opportunities and considerable possession drag he's been, no matter where he's lined up.
Shot attempt differential relative to his teammates during his Avalanche tenure? Plus-0.7, Minus-3.6, Minus-1.2. And last year was no different:
On one hand, John Mitchell is probably the most consistent player on the team. You have a pretty good idea what you're going to get out of him every year. On the other? One has to wonder if the team is better off trying to unload his 1.8m dollar salary and going with someone like, say, JT Compher in a small role. Are the cap savings more valuable to the team than a consistent, slightly-better-than-fourth-line center? It's a decision Joe Sakic will be making as the summer transpires.
MHH Staff Grade: D+
No disagreement here, though I'd probably make it a slightly higher 'D' than the 67.4% Mitchell is frequently asked to do more than what his role should be and doesn't often excel at it. Hard to blame a guy when coaches are constantly demanding he defy the Peter Principal. It's not like he's had much to work with on the fourth line over the years either.