Michigan's #1 defenseman is up next, #17 Mark Mitera.
Last Season: After a solid freshman campaign, which led to him being a first round draft pick, Mitera had another good year as a sophomore. Fans, myself included, complained that he was inconsistent at times but he still managed to better his numbers from the year before. He was tenth on the team in scoring with a 1-17--18 line in 41 games. He had 52 PIMs, which isn't an unreasonable number for a defenseman like him, and was tied for 5th in plus/minus with a very nice +23 rating (and a +20 in conference play, which was good for #1 in the CCHA).
He had a pair of 13 game streaks where he didn't record a minus rating, and was only a minus in six of the 41 games he played in (and was only minus multiple goals on three occasions). So even though he was inconsistent at times, I'd be thrilled if all four of the incoming freshmen were inconsistent to the tune of +23.
His 55 blocked shots also led the team. I'm tempted to make a "That includes our goalies" joke here, but I won't.
Expectations: After being a second-pairing defenseman throughout his time at Michigan, Mitera will now be counted on to be the rock on the first pairing. He's the only defenseman on the roster with more than one year of experience at the college level. And even though he's been a pretty darn good player thusfar, he needs to elevate his game to match his ascension up the depth chart.
He's never going to be a huge points guy. He has just two multi-point games in his career and only one career goal. If any of our defensemen are going to pick up the scoring slack left by the departures of Johnson and Hunwick, it's probably going to have to come from elsewhere. Based on some extra ice-time (and I do feel that they'll ride him a little more with so many young guys), his assist numbers could go up slightly (though our scoring as a team will be down so they might not go up as much as you'd think), and it's not unreasonable that he could put in a couple more goals, but I doubt he gets too much above 20 points.
As long as he continues to make improvements in his game, he's one of the last guys on the team that I'm worried about. This team needs to be better defensively and riding a steady, stay-at-home guy for 25 minutes a night is a good start. He was a pre-season All-CCHA Honorable Mention, and if one of our defensemen is getting honored, it's probably going to be him (though I don't think Summers being on one of the teams is out of the question).
Level of Necessity: 9.5 out of 10.
I'd be really, really worried if Mitera went down. We'd be left with exactly 0 upperclassmen on the blueline and we'd be playing 4 freshmen and 2 sophomores. He's going to play huge minutes this year, probably play on both special teams, and be out there in every important situation.
He hits, he blocks shots, he's really good at using his feet to stop pucks when an opponent is rushing the puck, he's the biggest player on the team, and he's hardly ever out there for an even-strength goal against us.
I said in Kevin Porter's profile that there's no single player more vital to the success of this team based on what Porter provides in all aspects of the game. And what I meant by that is that if Porter went out, we'd have a hole at center, we'd lose goals, we'd lose assists, we'd lose our best defensive forward, and we'd lose a potentially decent faceoff guy. There's no one that brings all of those components. But with our depth at forward, we could replace a lot of the scoring by committee. We have other defensive forwards. We have other centers. But in terms of all-around ability, he's the whole package.
Mitera, however, may be the player that's most important to the success of the team based on the fact that we can't replace what he brings. We don't have any other 6'3" defensemen. We don't have another defensive defenseman who I'd be comfortable plugging in for 25 minutes a game. If he went out, our defense corps would have a total of 65 games at the position. And we'd have a huge hole on defense in front of a very shaky goaltender (or a freshman goaltender).
If he was a threat to put in 5-10 goals and 30 points, I'd probably have him as a 10 out of 10. But he is a guy that we simply can't afford to lose.
Other Stuff: Aaron Palushaj "checks in".
And a quick comment about the Rockies/Padres game: I don't like baseball very much, apart from watching Roy Oswalt pitch, and watching the postseason. I don't mind watching when something is on the line. I just want to know how many more blown calls in the post-season (or an extended-regular-season-but-not-technically-a-playoff game) are going to happen before baseball gets out of the stone age and allows instant replay?
I can understand why they wouldn't want every checked swing or every close play at first to be reviewed, but at some point in games like this the emphasis has to be on getting the call right. There have been too many home runs ruled foul or vice-versa (plus whatever happened tonight, I missed the home run/no home run call) over the years, and it's completely avoidable.
163 games, an amazing finish in that last game, and it comes down to a blown call at the plate where the umpire was clearly unsure what the correct call was. What the hell would be the problem in letting them look at the video? The ump guessed. It's obvious. I've never seen a delay that long result in the guy being called safe, and I've never seen a less-emphatic safe signal. Usually in that situation, the umpire flings his arms out to the side quickly, and even several times in a row. Maybe he "replayed it in his head".
And by the way, when Julio came in to start the top of the 13th and I saw his record was 0-5 and he had 0 saves in 7 opportunities, I just started laughing and said, "There's the guy you want in the game." He then proceeded to throw like 8 balls and 2 strikes, one of which was hit out of the park, before he got yanked. I wish I could've bet on that. I wonder if Rockies fans had the same reaction when that dude came in that my dad usually has when the Tigers put in Grilli. I guess that's what happens when you're on to your ninth arm of the night.
This was a night that reminded me why I like playoff baseball so much. It's just too bad that the game had to end with the winning run not touching home plate. The technology is there. It's stupid not to use it.