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Grading the Islanders: Mitch Fritz

How to evaluate the season of a pure enforcer whose coach didn't give him even three minutes a game -- including one full game where he never set foot on the ice? Because you're dying to know, we'll give it a shot...

[Review continues after the jump]

Mitch Fritz

#49 / Left Wing / New York Islanders



Nov 24, 1980


UFA; 08-09 at $500k

This dude is HUGE! And 258 pounds!

GP G A P +/- PIM Fights W L T TOI SOG
2008-09 - Mitch Fritz 20 0 0 0 -4 42 6 3 2 1 2:40 2

Random Fact: Fritz had two shots on goal in 20 games, which works out to one shot for every 24 minutes of ice time.

'This is Our Concern, Dude' Fact: Obviously when Scott Gordon does dress Fritz, the coach prefers to have him on the bench as an implied threat rather than as an actual skater, which makes doing his job kind of hard. We hear Fritz has constantly worked on his skating, but if he doesn't even get an occasional keep-the-legs-warm shift to prove it, what's the point?

The Story: The Garth Snow/Scott Gordon regime made it clear last summer that they wouldn't be employing a full-time, established NHL enforcer, relying instead on Bridgeport call-ups when necessary. Gordon sees a full-time enforcer as surplus, and apparently views his high-intensity system as too demanding for a sub-par skater. Tough to rate Fritz's play, when he looked how most would look if asked to sit cold for half an hour and then take a lone shift at NHL speeds. When called, though, Fritz acquitted himself well in fights, including his first NHL fight, where he bested "the champ," Georges Laraque.

(Note: Is that why in Laraque's next go-around with an Islanders rookie, Joel Rechlicz, he played a cat-and-mouse game -- even smiling dismissively with an expression that said, "Are you gonna throw, or are you just gonna dance around?" In reality the wily vet Laracque backed away the whole time, while creating the false illusion that it was the rookie Rechlichz who didn't want to go. Weasel.)

The Good: During a lost rebuilding season, Fritz's presence was always fun and sent a buzz through the crowd. By all accounts he's a standup guy -- and cool with fanboy moments, too. So again, if you're going to bother dressing him in a 30th-place season, might as well give him enough time to see if he can prove the ability to responsibly handle a shift. Even if he blows an assignment, the Cup isn't exactly on the line here.

The Bad: Nov. 21, 2008. New Jersey's Mike Mottau skates the length of the rink, uses a screen to surprise Frans Nielsen with a high check that knocks Nielsen -- the best Islander that night -- out of the lineup for two months. Vengeance time, right? Gordon leaves Fritz on the bench. Fans, announcers, and blogfather Chris Botta don't let that decision die all season long. That typifies "the bad" of Fritz's season: Lack of evidence due to lack of opportunity. Granted, we know at 28 he's not the greatest skater, but how can we know anything about his capabilities if he doesn't get the chance?

The Poem:

The legend of the Towering Mitch
When called, scratched our bloodthirsty itch
Swapped blood with Cote
Skated just OK
Would've dumped Mottau like a... in a ... ditch

The Grade: So how do you grade him? Based on his fight record at HockeyFights? His willingness to tango? Based on the opportunity he presents, which wasn't often? Or based on what you'd normally expect from a full-time enforcer? Regardless, leave your vote relative to your preseason expectations -- 5 being blown away, 1 being terribly disappointed, based on whatever criteria you have. (Explanations always welcome.)