Minnesota Wild: Ryan Suter’s Expectations for Next Season

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

After a career year offensively for the Minnesota Wild, Ryan Suter will be expected to be the team’s best defensemen next year.

One disclaimer for Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, his contract still has nine years left, he is not going anywhere next year. Given the expectation that he is on the team, this article will look at his role next season.

First, lets look at how this past season went for the Wild’s top defensemen. 2015-16 was a successful season for Suter. He set new career highs with 43 assists and 51 points. He also tied his career high with 8 goals. His 51 points were good enough for second on the team and 43 assists led the team.

Although he still led the team in average time on ice, 28:36 reflects his lowest minutes played on average in a game since his first season with the team in 2012-13. After last year’s playoffs where Suter seemed to run out of gas, it is clear that playing him a little bit less than in the past allowed him to have a greater impact on the offensive end.

However a defensemen’s bread and butter is on the defensive end. In this regard Suter is no slouch. Plus minus is usually a good indicator of the player’s impact on the defensive end. The league leader was Tyler Toffoli, who finished plus 35 for the year. Suter finished the year plus 10. His best plus minus season was plus 20 in 2010-11, so this is not his best year in that regard. However, the fact that the Wild as a team was only plus 10 on goal differential for the year makes the stat look better. Overall, Suter had a positive impact on the Wild defensively, although there is certainly room to improve.

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Advanced metrics are also favorable of his 2015-16 season. Fenwick measures how much a player’s team controlled the puck when they were on the ice. His 51.2 Fenwick percentage is not as high as it should be given his star status. But he is not the only player on the ice so it is unfair to put that all on him. A better judge of his effect on puck possession is the difference between him on the ice and off. In this regard his plus 3.4 shows that the team controls the puck much better with him on the ice.

In the playoffs, the main takeaway was that Suter avoided the mistakes he has made in the past that have severely hurt his team’s chances. Last year in the Chicago series especially, he had multiple bad turnovers in his own zone that resulted in goals. That was not the case against the Stars. Offensively, he contributed 3 assists and no goals for a total of 3 points in the six game series. That was good enough to finish tied for second in points among the team’s defensemen. The Wild will take a point every other game in the playoffs from Suter as long as he holds up his end of the bargain defensively.

Looking ahead to next season, Suter will turn 32 in January so he still has some years left as a star defensemen in this league. Given his jump in offensive production came partially as a result of less minutes, expect that trend to continue. He is still the team’s best defensemen so his time shouldn’t be drastically reduced, but the guess is that his ice time will drop to around 28 minutes a game next season. The end result will hopefully be more playoff production and a prolonged career.

Given that he has never been much of a goal scorer from the back end, it is unrealistic to think Suter will match his point production from this past season. He still gets a lot of time on the powerplay, so it will not dip much but the expectation should be somewhere in the 40-45 point range that he has performed at for much of his career. The Wild will take that production all day as long as Suter’s defense does not drop off. Since he has been a steady defensive presence for his entire time with the Wild, the expectation is that he will continue that trend.

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Overall, Suter is part of the solution and one of the few consistent performers on this team. Next season he should be primed for his role on the first defensive pairing and on the first power play unit.