The Mystery of “Mittens”

I heard a really funny joke that my little cousin told me. He is only seven years old. First off he is a huge Jets fan. If I ask him any basic trivia question about the Jets, this little ankle biter knows the answer. So he says, “Hey what is Antti Miettinen’s brother’s name?” I respond with a usual, I don’t know. “Uncle Miettinen…” I thought it was quite clever and funny, especially coming from a seven-year old. This joke inspired, The Mystery of “Mittens”, and this review solved the mystery!

In Monday night’s battle royal against the Sens, Antti Miettinen, better known as “Mittens” scored is third and fourth goals of the season. It took him a while to pot his first, but now all of sudden he is coming up big when the Jets need him most, too bad the guys that should be scoring are nowhere to be found.

When the Jets scooped Mittens off the waiver wire when he decided to make a return to the NHL after playing 20 games in the KHL with the Kazan Ak-Bars. Over in Russia he only had two goals and six assists. Fans were slightly reserved in their reaction to his pickup, but also excited because of the skill set that he brings to the table. But here is where I’m slightly confused. With a nickname like Mittens, I assume this means you have soft hands and can dangle goaltenders out of their jock straps. Where exactly has that been? The Jets faithful were pleased they brought in a guy who score pretty goals, but to tell you the truth, he doesn’t score too many goals. I’m not sure where he got his tag as a skilled goal scorer.

The stats don’t lie folks. The 31-year-old Fin has played six full seasons in the NHL, and if you count this year it would be his seventh. The most goals in a season he has ever scored was 20 with the Minnesota Wild in 2009-10. His career goal per season average is 14-15. Not impressive by any standards.

He has been a minus player every single season of his NHL career except for 2005-06 season where he was even and in the 2007-08 season he was a plus four. Both of those seasons came when he was a member of the Dallas Stars. Let me clarify that in my opinion the plus/minus stat is over-rated, but it does count for something. He was drafted by Dallas in 2000 as the 224th overall pick. This season with the Jets, Mittens has 10 points and is a minus seven in 39 games. In the last five games he is averaging around 13 minutes of ice time.

Amidst all of this somewhat negativity, there is some positive sides to his game. First of all, he scores in pairs, so that’s nice. He plays on what I would classify on some of the best third and fourth lines in the league. I understand that other teams who are in Cup contention have solid teams through and through, but the Jets have great depth, and that is what has kept them afloat this deep into the season.

Another thing I noticed is that Mittens has been a regular in the penalty box throughout his career. But that seems to have come to a halt if I’ve ever seen one. In the 39 games he has played for the Jets this season, he has no penalties. In past seasons he has racked up at least 35 plus minutes every year. By no means does this make him a goon, but taking penalties in certain situations can burn a team, so let’s be glad he hasn’t done that to the Jets…yet.

I find him invisible out on the ice, but in a good way. He is a smooth skater and does the little things right. He has skill but doesn’t show it off enough. We need guys like Mittens to keep the other team honest out on the ice. He might be a fourth liner, but he can burn the best of ’em. When he was playing Minnesota he regularly played with his fellow countrymen, Mikko Koivu. This tandem definitely made Mittens look like a solid skilled player, but here in Winnipeg, Mittens has struggled to find chemistry, but things are looking good between him, Antropov, and Stapleton.

Next season Mittens is expected to make around $1.35 million. I think that is a fair price for a fourth liner that has skill and potential offensive upside. The fourth line lately has been buzzing, although with injuries to Antropov, Thorburn, and Fehr the lines have been juggled a bunch. I hope that Chevy and company keep Mittens in the mix for the next few years. At the end of the day, he does his job and doesn’t make glaring mistakes. As for his career minus -25, that is okay considering he has played 511 NHL games, that ain’t so bad. So here’s to Mittens’ hands staying soft and not lost in the Jets future. Cheers!

P.S I’d like to point out my predictions for the final games of the season I am 2-1 in the Win/Loss department.
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I am Creative Communications Student at Red River College who has a passion for writing and sports. I host a weekly sports talk show called Behind the Bench every Thursday at 5:00 CST on 92.9 Kick-FM. I'm born and raised in Winnipeg and I am excited to have the Jets back in town.