The Minnesota Wild defense is one of the stronger, on paper at least, ones in the league. Matt Dumba makes up an integral part of that and were it for one statistic, he’d likely be in the early conversations for the Norris Trophy.
27 games into the season for the Minnesota Wild and still riding the wave of his career-high NHL totals last year, Matt Dumba is proving his worth especially in light of the $6 million contract he signed in the summer.
Among all defensemen, he tops the league with his 10 goals so far, he ranks twelfth in points with 19, 22nd in ice time (24:01), 7th in shots with 82 and among defensemen that have played 10 or more games, 7th in shooting percentage at 12.2%.
Unfortunately though, his plus/minus numbers will likely rule the Minnesota Wild defensemen out of any conversation. Seldom has a minus-5 in the plus/minus column been a look that a Norris Trophy winner sports.
The Minnesota Wild seemed to be onto a winning combination, pairing Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba together early in the season. Having a duo that rightly could make their way into Norris Trophy conversations should’ve been a massive plus for the team.
Unfortunately and for whatever inexplicable reason, they were split, as was the strong shut-down pairing of Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon. This might’ve been a way to make Matt Dumba think harder about the defensive frailties in his game, but you have to question why Minnesota Wild head coach, Bruce Boudreau wanted to tinker with combinations that were working.
Dumba now finds himself routinely paired with Brodin, still a reliable pairing but not quite carrying the same bang for it’s buck as the Suter one.
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Paired with Suter, they were on the ice for 13 goals for and 13 goals against at 5-on-5. Paired with Brodin, it’s been 4 goals for and 7 against.
However, when you look at scoring chances, the Minnesota Wild are on the positive side by 10.49% when Brodin and Dumba are iced, versus just 4.14% with Suter. Maybe it’s their teammates that have been snake-bitten, rather than their actual defensive play.
To say that Matt Dumba has emerged into an elite performer for the Minnesota Wild is still a bit of an overstatement. He is almost there and the Norris Trophy is probably a bit of a stretch, but it’s a reachable goal now.
I guess it’s easy to forget that this is a twenty-four year old player we’re talking about; hardly a season veteran. On other teams, sure, four NHL seasons are viewed as one of the veteran defensemen, but he lines up with people like Suter and Spurgeon, who have been around far longer.
If he can continue to learn from his peers, I have no doubt that he can properly emerge as a Norris Trophy candidate. For now though, it’s a stretch until he fixes up his plus/minus stat line.