As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Jared Spurgeon.
Spurgeon entered the 2013 season on a considerable high as he was first in line to partner, marquee free agent signing, Ryan Suter on defence. After the Wild had a somewhat mediocre start to the year, Tom Gilbert was given a chance to play beside Suter, before Jonas Brodin took the job and didn’t relinquish it. Spurgeon spent the rest of the year playing alongside Clayton Stoner, until the playoffs, where he was paired with his ol’ buddy Marco Scandella. The two young defencemen formed the team’s best partnership during the series and managed to keep their heads above water in a series where the Wild were heavily outplayed by a far better team.
Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||7.5/67|
Spurgeon produced some decent offence, finishing 2nd among Wild defencemen in scoring. He played a lot of minutes in all situations this year, showing some improvement in his play on the PP as he continues to grow into a solid two-way defenceman. One really impressive aspect of his “boxcar” stats is the lack of PIMs. He only took two minor penalties in 39 games while playing 20+ minutes a night, which is really really good. Interestingly, Spurgeon is ranked #1 among all defencemen in the league over the last 3 seasons in “penalties drawn” minus “penalties taken” rate.
Here are his underlying numbers from last year:
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||53.4|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||44.5|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||-0.461|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||9.594|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||0.713|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||9.367|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||0.746|
|5v5 1st ASSIST/60||0.097|
Spurgeon played a fairly offensive role, against middling competition and managed to post positive Corsi numbers, a rarity for this puck possession-deficient Wild team. He was one of only 6 players who played more than 30 games to do so. His Shots and Goals For/Against per 20 mins are pretty much even all-round.
Here’s the player usage chart for all Wild d-men who played at least 20 games. You can see that Spurgeon had a more offensive role than any other Wild D-man:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
Spurgeon really has enjoyed a meteoric rise in his short time with the Wild. As much as everyone loves to go on about how awful it was that the Wild traded-away Nick Leddy in 2010 (and it really was awful), it’s easy to forget that a few months later, the Hockey Gods paid the Wild back by dropping Spurgeon into their laps. After being drafted by the Islanders in 2008, they didn’t sign him and he was free to try-out for the Wild, where he signed after impressing in camp.
I bring-up Leddy because the two players are a good comparable. Both are young, smooth-skating, puck-moving defencemen with some offensive upside. So far in his career, Leddy has done pretty well in a very very sheltered role on an elite Chicago Blackhawks team, while Spurgeon has been somewhat thrown in at the deep-end, playing tough minutes with a lot of responsibility on terrible Wild teams, and , as a result, has emerged as a very mature player.
Spurgeon was somewhat overshadowed by the Suter/Brodin media-hype this year, but he quietly cemented his place as an invaluable part of the team. He looked more comfortable in the offensive zone, he continued to be smart in his own zone, particularly behind the net, and he even added some physicality to his game which is good to see. His great performance in the playoffs was the icing on the cake, and showed that Spurgeon should be trusted with more minutes next year to relieve Brodin and Suter.
His performances in 2013 are even better when you consider that, aside from the short period he spent with Ryan Suter (who was yet to find his feet) and his time with Scandella in the playoffs, Spurgeon spent most of his time with Clayton Stoner, who is “limited”, at best.
-Here’s how Spurgeon made his teammates better:
This graph shows how Spurgeon performed with each of his 6 defensive partners during the year in terms of Corsi For %. Obviously, the sample sizes are quite small after Falk, but you can see that there is a common theme of Spurgeon performing better than each partner when away from them. The only guy who had a better CF% away from Spurgeon is Falk. What’s interesting is that Spurgeon and Suter had an excellent CF% while together, but not so when apart, though Spurgeon fared better apart than Suter did.
There has been a lot of speculation during the offseason about what the Wild’s 2nd and 3rd pairing will look like. Russo had Ballard and Scandella on his 2nd pairing, with Spurgeon on the 3rd with Stoner. I’ve seen a lot of people slot Spurgeon onto the 2nd with Ballard. Personally, I think the 2nd pairing should be Scandella with Spurgeon. I’ll elaborate more in my season previews for Ballard and Scandella, but basically, Spurgeon and Scandella have spent a lot of time playing with each, they looked solid in the playoffs, they have a nice leftie/rightie combination and Ballard is most-likely not good enough to be more than a 3rd pairing guy, unless he can roll back the years and prove that the last few years in Vancouver were just a fluke.
Spurgeon is gonna turn 24 this year, so over the next couple of seasons he will be entering his prime. I think, in Spurgeon, the Wild potentially have a legitimate top-pairing NHL defenceman. Now obviously the top pairing is currently full with Suter and Brodin, but it’s nice to know that if one of them was to get hurt, Spurgeon is ready and waiting to fill the void. The Wild will need that kind of depth if they are to compete with the top teams in Conference III this year.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
…his concussion history comes back to haunt him or he doesn’t take any significant stride forward in what is a key year for his development.
Okay, that’s it for Spurgeon. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Marco Scandella and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
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Previous articles in this series:
*Numbers in this article courtesy of: