Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell has a unique perspective on the Vancouver Canucks. Not only was a member of the team for the last four years, but he also spent the second half of last season observing things off the ice while recovering from a concussion.
As any player will tell you, hockey can be a much different game from the sidelines than it is from the bench or on the ice.
So, what does he think about the his old club as the Kings prepare to face them later tonight? Well, it’s really a two-part answer…
MM: First off, any thoughts about facing your old team?
WM: It’s always fun to play against friends and always fun to play against the best team in the league. It doesn’t surprise me one bit. Obviously, I was there last year and it’s the majority of the same players. It was a team that was on the cusp and now they’re coming into their own. It’s going to be a real, real big challenge for us. They play really well at home and have been playing great hockey. So, they have confidence. Those are the teams you want to play against. Those are the teams you want to see how you match-up, it motivates you. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
MM: When you say you’re not surprised by their record, is there anything that’s different about this Canucks team compared to the one you were part of last season?
WM: They’re a very similar team. I think they’re getting some really solid back-up goaltending as well. That’s helped them out a lot, Cory Schneider‘s play. Overall, you’re seeing the team mature a little bit. Not that it was young, but guys that were like 24, 25 years old are starting to come into their own. (Ryan) Kesler is playing a much more complete game. I was there two years and we talked about it all the time, the need to play more composed as a hockey team. There are a few guys on that team that liked to get in the middle of stuff – whether it’s Alex Burrows, Kesler, even Kevin Bieksa. I think a lot of those guys have matured and understand it’s not about all the extracurricular activity. It’s about winning hockey games. I think a lot of times, when I was there, they would come unglued a little bit. As a team, we’d start to get worried about the distractions, instead of just playing the game. A lot of those guys are really good talents, but they’d also get involved in that stuff and waste their energy on it. I think you’re seeing them mature and realize that if they stay away from that stuff, they have the talent to be one of the best hockey teams in the league. And this year, showing they’re the best hockey team in the league. So, they’re staring to mature that way and realize that much needed discipline and focus is what’s going to take them to the next level.
NOTE: earlier today Dustin Brown and Michal Handzus weighed in with their thoughts on the game – check out the article here.