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  • 2019-20 Player Review: Ryan Suter plugs along at age 35


    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.

    It’s truly hard to believe it’s already been just over eight years since Ryan Suter inked his lucrative deal with the Wild.

    On Independence Day 2012, alongside Zach Parise, the defenseman took his talents to the State of Hockey on a whopping 13 year, $98,000,000 contract in an effort to help push the Wild into the elite tier of hockey clubs.

    And while things haven’t gone as exactly planned on that front, seeing as the Wild haven’t made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs once in his tenure, Suter has been a mainstay in the Minnesota lineup since his arrival and just completed another full season of playing every single game for the club.

    However, despite the constant play, does the current production match what should be expected from a player with that type of deal?

    Season in review

    The stats and advanced metrics would say Suter’s 2019-20 season was a bit of a mixed bag, as there have been drop-offs in some areas, but also solid numbers in other categories.

    Let’s start with the positives. Ryan Suter was on track for his best season as far as point production in his career, needing only three to tie his career high of 51 with 13 games remaining in the regular season before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down North America.

    Also, over the course of the regular season, he never went more than three games without notching at least a point for the club, which is very impressive. The raw production is still evident even at the age of 35, and it’s coming at a consistent and much needed basis.

    Check out this dicey goal in an early season victory over Arizona, which helped seal an 8-5 victory. Even nicer with it coming against a conference opponent.

    From that same perspective, Suter secured points in seven of Minnesota’s last 10 games before the break, which means he, along with the team that went 7-3 in their final 10, looked to be trending in the right direction on their run toward the playoffs.

    One of those aforementioned points came in the Wild’s next-to-last contest in San Jose, as Suter fired a laser beam to open the scoring.

    He later chalked up an assist in the game, which would in-part prove dividends in a 3-2 victory.

    However, while there was production from an offensive standpoint; the advanced metrics tend to work against those positive aspects, especially considering the defensive end of the ice.

    Take a look at the following graphic from HockeyViz. It documents the rate of unblocked shots for the opponents while a particular player is on the ice. The color red indicates a higher rate of unblocked shot attempts, which we see is more prevalent when Suter is on the ice on his left defensive side. Overall, it was evident that the opposition had a better time generating shots — albeit away from the front of the net.

    We also looked back at Suter’s 2017-18 campaign performance from the same metrics.

    The differences speak volumes, as the left side during that campaign, and ones before it, was held down at a solid level.

    However, Suter suffered a near catastrophic ankle injury near the end of the 2017-18 season. At a time, there were questions if he would even play the game again after the gruesome incident. Suter returned and has continued to play solid hockey, but one has to wonder if that injury still has effects, both mentally and physically, on Suter’s current level of play.

    That is not at all to dig at Suter, as he is still second all time in assists (298) and fourth in total points (350) for the Wild. Heck, he was named to ESPN’s Top 100 Players of the Decade list. He’s an all-time Minnesota great, no doubt, but the clock is indeed ticking, the age is rising and the cap hit continues.

    Standout moment

    While the goals didn’t come in bunches for Suter this season, there was one that really stuck out, and it has to be the game-winner from November 26 in New Jersey.

    Minnesota had already taken the lead twice in the game, but the Devils responded each time to deadlock the contest moving into the final period.

    Ryan Donato won a draw three minutes into the frame and sent the puck backwards to Ryan Hartman. He then skated left before zipping a pass near side to a trailing Suter. The defenseman took his time, used the generous space he was given, and flicked a beautiful shot over the shoulder of Louis Domingue. This goal helped spark a five-game winning streak for Minnesota.

    Looking ahead

    Suter still has five years remaining on his contract with the Wild. And while many cringe at the figures of the contract, and somewhat rightfully so due to the absurdity of it, there are still things to be appreciative for.

    In today’s sports climate, there are many players who shift from team to team, and the fact that Suter has stayed the course and been a solid constant for the Wild is something to be commended. There are not many players out there who could have lived up to such lofty expectations.

    He’s very high on many all-time lists for the franchise, and is eighth overall in points currently in the NHL amongst defensemen at the age of 35. With the play-in series coming soon, he and the rest of his teammates should all be on well-rested legs to try and make a deep run into the playoffs.

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