As part of my LAKings.com feature for this week — to be posted in a couple days — I talked to Willie Mitchell about his time with the Kings and his decision, last month, to sign a two-year contract extension with the Kings. Mitchell, who turns 35 next month, is the Kings’ oldest player and he would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer. Instead, in a season in which the Kings have changed coaches and fought simply to stay in the playoff race, Mitchell decided to re-up for another two years. Why? In part — and without prompting — Mitchell brought up his feelings on the tenure of Darryl Sutter.
MITCHELL: “I’ve enjoyed Darryl since he has come in. He’s a good coach. He’s a smart coach. He’s demanding, there’s no doubt about it, but he gets it. He gets systems, gets playing the games, gets that it’s not just about running a system and sticking to your routes, like maybe in football. There is some read-and-react that goes on, and it allows the guys to make their own reads. I think that has brought a little bit more offense to our team, as you’re starting to see. We’re starting to get a little more comfortable.”
It was Mitchell, you might remember, who talked in late January about the Kings keeping their “sights set on San Jose” in Pacific Division title race (link here). Of course, at that point the Sharks were in first place, two points ahead of the Kings with three games in hand. Now, both teams are chasing the Dallas Stars for first place, and the Phoenix Coyotes for second place, for that matter.
MITCHELL: “I know people can say we underachieved a little bit early on this year, not scoring goals, but hey, we’re right there for the division lead. What everyone thought we would do is win the division, or have a shot at competing, and, well, we’re still there. That’s where we’re at.”