Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, John Mitchell came to the Leafs with what many thought was tremendous offensive upside.
Mitchell, who stands 6'1" and weighs in at 204 pounds, played his junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL and scored 53 goals and 104 assists in his final two seasons as a junior—not the kind of stats that would blow anyone away, but certainly good enough to have teams believe he could emerge as a legitimate top six NHL forward.
After his time in the OHL, Mitchell found himself with the St. John’s Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies for parts of four seasons. Mitchell struggled offensively, scoring a total of 41 goals and 63 assists over what really amounts to three seasons (he played only two games with the St. John’s Maple Leafs in 2004-05).
Besides the offensive shortcomings, Mitchell also struggled on the defensive side of the game, posting a minus-seven in 2005-06 and minus-10 in 2006-07, followed by a decent plus-two in 2007-08.
Mitchell was given an opportunity to play with the big club in 2008-09. Through 76 games with the Maple Leafs, Mitchell, now 25 years of age, posted 12 goals, 17 assists and a glaring minus-16 rating.
Mitchell followed that season up with another “gem.” Through 60 games with the big club Mitchell netted six goals and 17 assists and posted a minus-seven rating.
In an effort to find a place for Mitchell, head coach Ron Wilson has asked Mitchell to play a defensive role (which is curious for a player that had a career minus-23 rating heading into the 2010-11 season).
Through 18 games Mitchell has been invisible on the scoreboard with just one assist through 18 games. The bigger concern is Mitchell’s plus/minus, which currently sits at a minus-seven for the season.
There is nothing about Mitchell’s game that suggests he will ever be able to handle opposing forwards. He rarely hits, he’s not a physical presence, his defensive prowess is questionable at best and his positioning is horrible.
Mitchell, who has eight penalty minutes on the season, is simply not suited to be a defensive forward—the sooner the Maple Leafs figure that out, the better.
Sorry, Leaf fans. It’s time management put the “John Mitchell Experiment” to rest. Trade him, put him on waivers, send him down to the Marlies—anything would be better than letting him stay with the big club, where all he is contributing to is losses.
Until next time,
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