Minnesota Wild: The Defenders Will Be Great Again
Last season the Wild got fairly consistent play from their defensemen in an otherwise inconsistent season. The Wild return all of their defenders from last season and look to draw on that consistency again as they move forward this season.
There’s not a lot about the Minnesota Wild people can agree on. It seems that the one universal truth that anyone can agree on is that the defensemen of the Wild are by far the most talented group of the team. Anchored by veteran Ryan Suter and aided by the past defensive first systems of the past, the Wild defenders have gained a reputation around the league as a solid group. Most of all the defense has seen consistency over the last two seasons and looks to be much of the same this year.
Heading into this offseason it seemed like almost a sure thing that an important part of the defensive unit would be moved in a deal for a forward. Alas no deal was made and Matt Dumba was resigned ensuring that the same group would that excelled last season would return for 2016-17. Add to the mix the addition of Hall of Fame Defenseman Scott Stevens to guide this group, and you can see the excitement over the possibility of the Wild defenders taking their place as one of the NHL’s defenses.
Even more so than the forwards the defenders of the Wild seem to be a group that is pretty much set for the upcoming season. The first and second pairings seem to be set already, with one spot on the third defensive paring up for grabs. Here’s a look at what most likely will be the defensive pairings and what to expect this season.
Pairing 1: LD- Ryan Suter, RD- Jared Spurgeon
This is a solid top pairing that really rivals any of the top defensive duos in the NHL. The monster minutes and efficiency of Suter is the bedrock that the Wild defense is built on. Spurgeon is probably the most underrated player on the roster. He’s does everything a defender needs to do like move the puck, make excellent defensive zone starts, and even score when needed. These two played excellent hockey together last season and complement each other very well, there’s almost no doubt they’ll be working together on the top again in 2016-17.
Both offer very few question marks. Some would say that Spurgeon’s size would be an issue, but he’s proven that’s a non-issue. Some would also point to Suter’s minutes and his climbing age, but all he’s done is play virtually every scheduled game since he signed with the Wild.
Pairing 2: LD- Marco Scandella, RD- Jonas Brodin
Both of these young defenders have definitely grown into their own over the last two seasons. The idea of both of them playing together makes for a group that shouts “pure shutdown defense”. Both use their size well, but Scandella seems to defend with more physicality while Brodin prefers a more technical form of defense. Both are young and durable and will be expected to not only play a lot 5-on-5 but on the penalty kill as well.
The possible issues with this group will have to do with their offensive production. Last season Brodin finished with only seven points on the season, with Scandella fairing a lot better but still on the low side with 21 points. As good as Brodin’s defense is, if Dumba increases his defensive prowess you could see him jump to take Brodin’s place for more playing time.
Paring 3: LD- Nate Prosser/Christian Folin/Mike Reilly, RD- Matt Dumba
Recently resigned Matt Dumba will look to be the anchor of this third pairing. His offensive skills will make this pairing a solid choice in offensive zone face-offs and Dumba will look to spend a lot more time on the power play this season. The left side of this pairing looks to be split between three players at least in the first part of the season.
The position is really Mike Reilly’s to be taken as soon as he’s ready. The issue is that although Reilly played 29 games last season he might not be quite ready to be a full-time NHLer. Prosser and Folin split time last season, but both were widely unimpressive. Folin has talent, room to grow, and could emerge as the top player for this spot out of camp. But Prosser has been offensively challenged, but consistent in his ability to play good defense with a bit of an edge. Really the bottom line for the left side of this pairing is that training camp will tell the final story about who will play with Dumba on opening night in St. Louis.
When it comes to the defenders the Wild will be great again this season. Scott Steven’s will add the final piece that could make this group even more effective and he will give them the excellent lessons from his outstanding career. Most of all the continuity of having the top two pairings the same as last season will be huge as the getting use to phase is well over, and we can expect them to play together stronger than last season. This group is once again the strength of the Wild.