Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What to do with John Mitchell?

John Mitchell’s recent knee injury strangely seems to have actually improved the Maple Leaf lineup. Back in late November, Ron Wilson was still playing around with different line combinations to find the right centre for Phil Kessel. Although the initial paring had Matt Stajan as centre he was replaced by Mitchell and Stajan was on the third line with checkers. After Mitchell was knocked out of the lineup on November 23, Wilson returned Stajan to centre the #1 line with Kessel and Ponikarvosky and the trio has looked good ever since. Meanwhile Wayne Primeau has been promoted from the 4th line to the 3rd line and has made the checking line much more effective. Primeau has very much been ignored early in the season in favour of younger centres. Rickard Wallin is now either on the 4th unit or in the press box. His reduced ice time has been a blessing.

Since Mitchell’s injury the Maple Leafs have been 7-5-1 and both their offensive and checking game has improved. So what happens to John Mitchell when he recovers? He may be headed to the Marlies but if not, he will likely only see 4th line duty. Sometimes injuries work in your favour.