Torrey Mitchell has at times been a somewhat inexplicable lightning rod for criticism among Sharks fans almost every season he's been in the league save for his first one. Some of it probably has to do with unrealistic expectations that were built following Mitchell's terrific rookie season in which he (along with regular linemates Patrick Rissmiller and Mike Grier) played the toughs to nearly a draw at even-strength, was an integral piece of the best penalty kill in the league and added ten goals.
Since recovering from the Tibia fracture that wiped out his entire 2008-09 season, Mitchell has seen a vastly different (and easier) role on the Sharks, playing third and fourth line minutes against other teams' bottom-six forwards. From a possession standpoint, he had phenomenal success in that role last year when his on-ice Corsi/60 ranked 2nd among all forwards in the NHL. A lot of that, though, was thanks to his second-half linemates Joe Pavelski and Kyle Wellwood, two of the very best possession forwards in the league. Mitchell was still an important part of that line's success as their primary forechecker but it's tough to make an argument that he was any more than the third-most important player among the three. Where he enjoyed terrific linemates last season, Mitchell was stuck dragging a sandbag named Michal Handzus around the ice this season.
In terms of both goal difference and especially underlying numbers, Mitchell took a nosedive whenever he was forced to share the ice with Handzus, who was his most common 5v5 linemate this season. When the two were on the ice together, the Sharks managed 378 shot attempts to their opponents' 434. When Mitchell was on the ice without Handzus, the Sharks earned 415 shot attempts to their opponents' 364, a swing of about 14 Corsi events per 60 minutes. While the "stone hands" comments will always be made about Mitchell's game, he's still a guy who can help drive play against third- and fourth-tier opposition as long as he's given half-decent linemates and he can chip in around twenty EV points to boot, which has value.
Torrey Mitchell Statistical Overview
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FTF Grade: C. It's unlikely Mitchell will ever be an impact player who carries a line, even one in a team's bottom six, at the NHL level. However, whoever signs him as a free agent this summer will get a solid, if unspectacular, utility forward who can excel as a forechecker and has the ability to get the puck to the scoring area. As far as complementary pieces go, he's a good one, even if he has next to no value on special teams. It seems doubtful that the Sharks will retain his services (although there really hasn't been any indication either way on the subject from the team) but they should consider it if they strike out on the free agent and trade market.