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2016-17 Canadiens Season Review: Torrey Mitchell was better than his deadline replacements

Despite the frequent scratches late in the season, Mitchell was one of the top Habs fourth-liners.

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

It was an interesting season for Torrey Mitchell, to say the least. What started on an encouraging note, including three goals in the first five games, ended with several games in the press box as he found himself as a healthy scratch towards the end of the year.

He saw a slight dip in his production compared to the previous season, mostly in the goals department, as his goals per 60 minutes fell from .80 to .45. His defensive numbers were eerily similar to 2015-16. Mitchell didn’t particularly play himself out of the lineup as much as he was ousted by a handful of below-replacement-level players that were acquired at the deadline.

To be fair, it’s not as if Mitchell was an offensive weapon for the Canadiens, but his absence was definitely questionable, especially when you consider the players that kept him out of the lineup; it’s not that Mitchell is a great player, rather that the players who replaced him were absolutely awful. Not-NHL-calibre awful.

Mitchell & co.

Player Rel CF% Rel SF% Rel GF% Rel xGF% Rel SCF% P/60
Player Rel CF% Rel SF% Rel GF% Rel xGF% Rel SCF% P/60
Torrey Mitchell -4.44 -2.41 -0.17 -2.32 -2.40 1.09
Steve Ott -10.08 -10.24 -21.71 -9.08 -4.80 0.32
Dwight King -6.94 -8.32 -19.96 -15.23 -17.39 0.23
Andreas Martinsen -15.00 -14.43 -53.73 -19.32 -19.46 0.00

As you can see, relative to his teammates Mitchell generally had a negative impact while he was on the ice, which is somewhat understandable considering his usage and linemates. But it was nothing compared to the trade-deadline newcomers. The concept behind upgrading the fourth line at the deadline was logical, but unfortunately all Marc Bergevin did was make it much, much worse.

To use a random metaphor, think of Mitchell as a minivan. Not exactly exciting, but a much more reliable mode of transport compared to the other options the Habs acquired, which included an ‘82 K-car with a loud exhaust, a tank that moved fast but couldn’t fire, and a submarine with a sunroof.

Looking forward to next season, Mitchell’s spot in the lineup remains in doubt. Lately we’ve seen an influx of young, talented players pick up fourth-line roles for various teams, as the NHL moves away from the idea that you need someone big and slow to complete your roster.

In Montreal’s situation it may be wise to give some of the up-and-coming prospects a legitimate shot at the lineup without clogging the development pipes with mediocre veterans. Charles Hudon immediately comes to mind. He’s not your typical grinder, but I have no doubt Hudon could outproduce most aging fourth-liners in the NHL.

This is clearly an area where the Canadiens can improve, beyond just pointing at a lack of quality drafts or prospect development. The opportunities for drafted players in this organization are few and far between, which means they don’t capitalize on the vital salary-cap friendly strategy of injecting youth into the lineup.

Should they decide to offer those opportunities next season, Mitchell isn’t a bad option to centre a rookie winger or two. He may not be the most exhilarating player on the ice, but he has speed, can still contribute some offence, and can play a regular shift when needed.

He’s signed for another year at $1.2M, which should provide a decent depth option for the Canadiens next year, mostly due to his ability to play every position. The Habs can upgrade his roster spot this summer, but they’d be better off not repeating the same exercise in futility that we saw at the deadline, since there are worse options than Mitchell out there.

Poll

Grade Mitchell’s season

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A+
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    A
    (23 votes)
  • 20%
    B+
    (140 votes)
  • 39%
    B
    (275 votes)
  • 29%
    C
    (206 votes)
  • 3%
    D
    (27 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (4 votes)
688 votes total Vote Now

(all stats courtesy of corsica.hockey, CF = Corsi for, xGF = expected goals for, GF = goals for, SCF = scoring chances for, P/60 = points per 60)