Has Ian Mitchell gotten his last chance in Chicago? After the night the defenseman had against the Avalanche on Monday, he may not get many more opportunities to prove himself.
Mitchell got yet another chance against the Avs when he was reinserted into the lineup after being in and out of it since the trade deadline. Head coach Luke Richardson’s reasoning was that he wanted to ease rookie Wyatt Kaiser into the starting lineup, giving him chances here and there.
That chance may very well end up being one of his last. For starters, his teammates are catching up with him. Besides Kaiser, the Blackhawks brought in Andreas Englund and Nikita Zaitsev at the trade deadline to compete with Mitchell. Zaitsev may have been more of a cap-dump situation, but Englund will be coming back soon from injury, and Kaiser will undoubtedly be seen more often in the starting lineup. Behind Caleb and Seth Jones, Jarred Tinordi, and Connor Murphy, Mitchell should be the odd man out.
Another Poor Performance
While Mitchell’s teammates are catching up with him on the depth chart, he’s not doing himself any favors. In perhaps his biggest chance of the season Monday, he pretty much sealed the deal on his Blackhawks career. He was responsible for a goal in each period, but not on the scoring end. Colorado’s first goal was banked into the net off of Mitchell’s leg in a case of wrong place-wrong time. Then, in the second period, he got burned on a give-and-go goal for their second score of the game. As if that wasn’t enough, he was caught standing still just outside the crease when a loose puck came across, and Denis Malgin knocked it in.
Mitchell was the worst player on the ice Monday night, and the advanced stats back up what could be seen by the naked eye. His plus-minus was -3 on the night. The chart below shows how he impacted the game both offensively and defensively.
Time To Move On?
Once a highly touted second-round prospect, Mitchell is in the final year of his rookie contract with Chicago. He carries the typical cap hit of $925,000 and will be an RFA at the end of this season, at 24 years old. It was initially thought that he would fit the timeline of the Blackhawks’ rebuild perfectly, but it doesn’t seem feasible that he becomes an integral part of the team anytime soon.
Coach Richardson said it best:
“He had a tough battle… It’s always tough coming in and out of the lineup, but that’s just pro hockey.”– Head Coach Luke Richardson
Unfortunately for Mitchell, talk of letting him walk isn’t just an overreaction from one performance. Chicago needs strong defense at this stage of their rebuild, especially with a transitioning offensive line seeming inevitable, and Mitchell just isn’t that. It’s always tough to see a player fall short of expectations, but it’s important for Chicago to move on quickly. For a Blackhawks team that will surely face a lot of turnover this offseason, Mitchell should be the first to go.