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 Marco Scandella.
The 11-12 season was a strange one for Marco Scandella. He came into the season with a lot of hype due to his physical attributes and the good impression he left after his first stint with the team in 10-11. At times he did look like the future top-4 defenceman he was billed to become, but there were other times when he looked very out-of-place, which resulted in him being sent back to Houston in the AHL at one point. He played 63 games, registering 12 points on a Wild team that was, to put it mildly, really really awful. Scandella’s best performances came at the end of the year, when he formed a solid partnership on the top pairing with Tom Gilbert, playing over 30 minutes a night sometimes. This strong ending to the year gave the coaching staff a lot of optimism regarding his development.
During the lockout, he played with Houston in the AHL where he missed some time with, first, a wrist injury and then a groin injury. He did not make the Wild roster when the NHL season finally begun. When Jared Spurgeon got injured early in the season Jonas Brodin was the first call-up to replace him. Scandella eventually got a chance to play with the Wild when Tom Gilbert got hurt. He played 6 games and looked pretty good, using his size well and showing his offensive abilities with a goal against Anaheim. When Spurgeon and Gilbert were healthy again, Scandella was sent back to Houston, as the team signed veteran Brett Clark.
Scandella remained in Houston for the rest of the regular season where, by reports, he was inconsistent, but was re-called to the Wild for the playoffs. He played alongside Spurgeon and formed the only defensive partnership that managed to keep it’s head above water against the rampant Chicago Blackhawks. The Wild were heavily outplayed, but Scandella did well and showed how valuable he is as a physical, puck-moving defenceman. He even underlined his good series with his first playoff goal.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:
BASIC STATS (NHL)
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||14.3%/7|
BASIC STATS (AHL)
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||1.98%/101|
Obviously he didn’t play much in the NHL and there aren’t many stats available for the AHL, but the thing that stands-out to me here is that his Sh% in the AHL is insanely low. 101 shots and only 2 goals? That’s some pretty terrible luck. It’s good to see that he’s getting the puck on goal though.
-Here are his underlying numbers from the regular season:
UNDERLYING NUMBERS (NHL)
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||40|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||43.3|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||0.076|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||10.395|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||1.066|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||9.862|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||1.333|
|5v5 1st ASSIST/60||0.000|
We’re dealing with a crazy tiny sample size here, so these numbers are pretty meaningless, but hey, here they are anyway. That terrible PDO might be the reason he got demoted to the AHL so quickly.
-Here’s the player usage chart for all Wild d-men in the 2013 regular season. You can see that Scandella was used in a pretty defensive role during his brief stint with the Wild:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
-Here’s the player usage chart for all Wild d-men in the 2013 playoffs, this time showing Corsi Rel instead of Corsi ON. Here you can see that Scandella went up against tough competition and did well, relative to his teammates:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi Rel Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
Marco Scandella had to wait a while for his chance to play for the Wild this year, but when he did get his shot, for 6 games, he did enough, in my opinion, to be kept-on for the rest of the year. I’m not saying he set the world on fire, but he looked like a competent NHL defenceman, which is more that can be said for Stoner, Falk, Prosser and Clark, who were all just not good enough to be playing regular NHL minutes (expect maybe Stoner, who is at least a decent 3rd pairing guy).
The main complaint that Wild fans and writers had all the way through the 2013 season was that the team had an awful defence and needed another top-4 calibre defencemen if they were going to compete. After Brodin, Suter and Spurgeon, the team had an out-of-sorts Tom Gilbert, a glorified face-puncher in Clayton Stoner, two AHLers in Falk and Prosser, and Brett Clark, who was clearly way past his best. A frequent topic of discussion was whether or not the Wild should trade Devin Setoguchi for a top-4 defenceman. Simon Despres was seen as a likely target at one point. Losing Setoguchi would’ve been a big blow for a team that was struggling to find any secondary scoring.
For me, it’s truly baffling that Scandella spent most of the year in the AHL only to be re-called for the playoffs, when he was clearly the best in-house solution to the lack of defensive depth. By keeping him in Houston, the brass basically sent him the message that they would rather have Stoner/Falk/Prosser/Clark in the NHL instead of him, which is, frankly, pretty insulting for a guy who is so obviously better than at least 1, if not all, of them. If there was an issue with cap or roster space that meant Scandella, being waiver-exempt, became the odd-man-out, then the team shouldn’t have signed Clark (or dumped him when it became clear he was out of his depth), or waived Prosser (who was clearly not in Yeo’s plans) or tried to move Falk for peanuts (as they did during the offseason).
An argument against Scandella is that he was inconsistent in the AHL after getting demoted, but I don’t think this necessarily means he would’ve been the same in the NHL. Getting sent back to Houston must’ve really dented his confidence, and, for a 23 year old with a lot of upside, the motivations for playing in the NHL and the AHL are completely different. I felt that, if he got re-called, the chance to grab a permanent spot with the Wild would be enough motivation for the hungry, young defenceman to get the best out of him. He somewhat proved this theory to be correct with his excellent showing in the playoffs under very trying circumstances.
I understand that the Wild are setting Scandella high-standards because he has such great potential, but there really wasn’t a whole lot left for him to learn in the AHL this year. Here is a table showing the disparity in NHL opportunities between Scandella and the defencemen who were above him on the roster:
I can’t see how Nate Prosser deserved nearly 3 times as many chances as Scandella did last season. Likewise, dressing Justin Falk for 36 games was a mistake. Scandella might not have been the answer to the lack of a top-4 defenceman, but he at least would’ve provided more for the team than these guys.
Scandella was vindicated when he shone in the playoffs against the Blackhawks, but if the Wild had slipped-up on the last day of the season against Colorado and missed the post-season, then we would have been left wondering why he didn’t get more of a chance to help-out during the regular season.
In an interview with the Pioneer Press, Mike Yeo said of Scandella:
“We saw last year when we put him in that situation (as a top-four defenseman), we were a better team.”
That’s probably as close to “Boy, I sure was wrong as hell to not have him in the team sooner” that you’re gonna get from Yeo, but at least he has recognised Scandella’s value now.
This Summer, Scandella, an RFA, got rewarded with a 2-year contract at $1,025,000 per year. He is no longer exempt from waivers, so he will certainly get evey chance to be a long term part of the team this season as the Wild would never risk losing him on waivers.
In terms of how he gets used this year, I think the team needs to keep him with Spurgeon on the 2nd pairing. They’ve played together so much in their short careers and have a great understanding. Their games compliment each other very well and they have a nice left-shooter/right-shooter dynamic too. Scandella provides a more imposing, physical game, while Spurgeon plays the “finesse” role.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
…he takes a step-back and starts to look more like a future 3rd pairing guy rather than a top-4 talent.
Okay, that’s it for “Pizza”. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Nik Backstrom and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
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Previous articles in this series:
*Numbers in this article courtesy of: