The Los Angeles Kings boast one of the deeper rosters you will find anywhere in the league, and that’s a sentiment that especially holds true when you look at the blue line. Their defensive corps is among the deepest in the game, which has been key, given some of their health issues in the last year.
One of the key pieces of this blue line that hasn’t been able to contribute so much since the Kings took home the Stanley Cup in 2011-12 is Willie Mitchell, who missed the entire 2013 season because of a knee injury. Even heading into the new season, his status remains up in the air.
Mitchell has missed this extended time with a knee injury. He’s experienced setbacks in his recover that didn’t allow him to hit the ice at all last season. It was his uncertain health future that led the club to bring in the likes of Robyn Regehr and Jeff Schultz.
If all things go according to plan, though, Mitchell is expected to be back on the ice when the Kings open up training camp this month. Which is good news for an already deep defensive unit. But will Mitchell be healthy enough to make as big of an impact as he used to for the Kings?
That remains to be seen. One would have to imagine that his minutes will be somewhat limited, particularly early on in the year. He’s a key piece on the penalty kill and a physical presence in his own zone. And he’s a leader. He’s obviously a valuable piece of this club heading into the final year of his contract with the Kings.
It’s simply a matter of whether or not he’ll completely return to his old self again for the Kings. Knee injuries are tricky, especially when they’ve kept a player out this long. Luckily, he’s not a forward who relies on speed. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s utilized, especially early on in the year.