Matt Dumba: Rising At The Right Time


There is an axiom that adversity reveals character.  Facing a stressful situation, people either show they can handle it and raise their level of performance or fall apart under the pressure.  For professional sports teams it also reveals an organization’s depth or the lack of it.  As the Minnesota Wild lost two members of its top 4 defenseman in Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella to injuries there was an opportunity as well as an urgency for someone to step up.  The Minnesota Wild called up Matt Dumba whose game had been on the rise while playing in Iowa, and simply hoped for the best.

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  • Dumba emerged confident, poised and most importantly look comfortable playing his game.  Six weeks in Iowa had allowed Dumba to establish the comfort of knowing when to support the play offensively as well as be responsible in his own end.  With a stick tap owed to Iowa Head Coach John Torchetti and Assistant Coach Steve Poapst, Dumba was finally playing like the player the team had drafted 7th Overall in 2012.  As Dumba’s confidence on the ice at the NHL level increased, so did the level of trust he had from the Minnesota Wild’s coaching staff and soon his ice time started to rise to nearly 20 minutes per game.  His strong game even got him time on the Wild’s top power play unit which had been veteran’s only most of the season.

    "“Even before the play (Dumba) made in overtime, which first off saved a goal, but also just a poised play coming out of D-zone to get the puck to Marco and allow us to get on a 3-on-2 rush, I felt that was his best game as a pro even before that moment.  It’s huge for us the fact that he can step up in a game like that when we lose a guy and he’s able to elevate a game to that level.” ~ Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo on Mathew Dumba after Wild’s 3-2 OT win over Calgary on February 18th, 2015"

    When the Wild drafted Matt Dumba 7th Overall in 2012, it knew it was drafting a defenseman who was your classic high-risk, high-reward offensive blueliner.  The question was whether the risk would be worth the reward or if he could improve enough defensively and still play the high-end offensive game that made him so tantalizing.  Minnesota had plenty of misses with defenseman in its previous regime of Doug Risebrough and company with players like A.J. Thelen and Tyler Cuma turning into major busts.  The funny part is, those two players were supposed to be relatively safe picks.  This time the Wild opted to go for the home run, and if early returns indicate anything it looks like they might have sent this one over the fences.

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    Few questioned Dumba’s skill or skating ability, but they did question his hockey sense.  When Dumba finally arrived to the Wild he seemed hesitant and afraid of making a mistake and opponents went on the attack when he was ever on the ice.  He handled the puck like a live hand grenade and was a turnover machine.  This is why the team sent Dumba down to Iowa back in late November and if you read this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Michael Russo you’ll see he had a lot to work on which makes his rise that much more remarkable.

    "“Will always make himself known with some sort of amazing offensive play or a massive hit.  Dumba plays the game the way fans want the game to be played.” ~ 2012 International Scouting Service Draft Guide"

    He returned from Iowa as player who was finally playing like the player that we drafted.  A player who did not hesitate to unleash his quick and compact but mega-heavy shot that catches goalie by surprise, often resulting in rebounds.  Now Dumba is willing to join the rush on occasion and last week against the St. Louis Blues we saw him take his first foray into delivering a devastating open ice hit as he lit up Vladimir Tarasenko which was a trademark during his junior days.   It is perhaps this element that has the potential to be an x-factor as teams must account for Dumba being out there and keep their heads up for not wanting to end up being part of a highlight reel hit.  It this part of his game that is very reminiscent of Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall that also sets him apart from the rest of the Wild’s blueline.

    With the return of Marco Scandella from injury the Wild have scoring depth from their blueline.  Scandella (9 goals), Spurgeon (9 goals), and Dumba (7 goals) give the team some intriguing options on the power play and at even strength when the team really needs to press the attack offensively.  Dumba’s +13 is only behind’s Jonas Brodin‘s +18.  The former Red Deer Rebels’ star Corsi rating is 6th among Wild defenseman at 51.9 but he has shown steady improvement from the start of the season.

    This is just the beginning for Dumba and he picked a great time to find his game and to exhibit that potential the organization felt he had.  There are certainly going to be some difficult moments, but so far the rewards have been pretty impressive.  Time will tell if Dumba has that potential to be an elite offensive defenseman in the realm of P.K. Subban or Erik Karlsson but the talent is undeniable and his presence makes Minnesota that much more dangerous.

    Next: Justin Fontaine: The Wild's Most Underrated Player

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