In the 2019-20 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2019-20 performances of each member of the Minnesota Wild during the regular season. Players were evaluated based on overall performance with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in their particular role.
As I sat down to write the most recent player review, the Twitterverse sent out a perfect representation of our next reviewee:
If this tweet doesn’t describe Jared Spurgeon on a yearly basis, I don’t know what does.
When the 2019-20 season finally enters the books, Spurgeon’s season will end like many others did — dominant defensively and effective offensively, but about five goals and a dozen points short of serious Norris Trophy consideration.
Season in review
There’s a very good reason the Wild signed their top defenseman to a massive seven-year, $53 million dollar deal prior to the season. The numbers say it, the charts say it, the eye test says it — Jared Spurgeon is an elite defender. The 2019-20 season continued the trend of defensive dominance from the Spurgeon General, as opponents could expect to score 17 percent fewer goals thanks to his 5-on-5 contributions, especially in the slot.
Spurgeon especially excelled breaking up the odd-man rushes and preventing high-danger chances:
But where Spurgeon really flew under the radar was in the offensive zone. Sure, the goals and points were just a little shy of hardware consideration, but the fact of the matter is that the Wild were much more likely to score while he was on the ice to set up the rush and quarterback the play from the point.
Just imagine had Spurgeon not missed seven games in December due to an upper-body injury from blocking a shot against the Florida Panthers. Might he have added to his point totals? Might the Wild have picked up another win or two and been in a better playoff position at the season pause?
In any case, Spurgeon’s contributions can be quantified, they can be qualified, they can be analyzed and appreciated, but they cannot be understated — except by the national media.
Speaking of, and before we move on, just a brief comparison of Spurgeon’s contributions versus the players that are widely considered the frontrunners for the Norris. If only the award for the NHL’s best defenseman was given to the actual best defender...
In his hometown, with the dads on their annual road trip, down 3-2 in the second period, Spurgeon took matters into his own hands. He evened the game at three with a nice self-fed slapper…
He threw a backhander on net that bounced off of an Oilers defender and into the net for the Wild’s first lead of the game…
Then for good measure, just out of the penalty box, Spurgeon broke up a play in the defensive zone, took a pass from Eric Staal, and went in all alone to gently guide the puck into the empty net to ice the game and complete his first career hatty.
Spurgeon will continue to be counted upon for big minutes and shutdown duty in the play-in round against the Vancouver Canucks, likely paired up with Ryan Suter as he was for most of the year. Beyond that, his recently-signed seven-year deal ensures Spurgeon will be manning the blue line for a good long time. And for a Wild team that is hoping to get younger and usher in the next generation of defensive stalwarts like Carson Soucy, having The General on the ice to guide them will be invaluable.