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  • Brock Faber Should Have A Spot In Wild's Playoff Lineup


    Tom Schreier
    Image courtesy of © Michael Caterina-USA TODAY Sports

    Brock Faber read the starting lineup card in the locker room ahead of his NHL debut in Chicago on Monday. Moments after reading “me,” he ripped the paper in half and tossed it in the garbage can. Whether intentional or not, it showed Faber wasn’t caught up in the moment. He carried on with the readiness needed to make an immediate impact at the highest level.

    It translated to the ice, too. The former University of Minnesota Gophers captain put together the best performance from the Minnesota Wild’s blue line on Monday with Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba out due to load management.

    Only 48 hours after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Quinnipiac in the National Championship, Faber led Wild defensemen in ice time with 21:49 TOI. Minnesota’s loss in the final left a teary-eyed Faber emotional on the ice, while teammate Mason Nevers consoled him.

    “A lot of highs and lows obviously,” Faber told the media a day after signing his three-year entry-level contract. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, for sure, and it’s gonna sting for a while.”

    Yet the Wild’s top defensive prospect, paired with fellow former Gopher, 37-year-old Alex Goligoski, made a lasting first impression in his debut. There were no signs of wear and tear. At 5-on-5, he led the team with an on-ice expected goals share of 73.84%. The next best? Goligoski at 61.05%. And I bet you can guess who ended the game as the only Wild player to not surrender a high-danger scoring chance against – indeed, that is Faber. 

    Faber recorded one shot on goal, two shot attempts, and six blocks. He also ended the game as a plus-1 and nearly notched his first NHL point. Faber’s shot had been blocked before it reached the net, but it landed on Marcus Johansson’s stick. Faber also played over a minute on the penalty kill.

    If Faber’s almost perfect debut for a 20-year-old straight out of college doesn’t show he’s ready right now, I don’t know what will convince you. Or the Wild’s coaching staff, who revealed their trust in him throughout the game. The case for putting Faber in the playoffs is simple: The Wild haven’t been good defensively. 

    Since March 1, the Wild’s 2.82 expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5 ranks 22nd in the NHL. The only reason the Wild have stayed afloat is because they’ve been bailed out by Filip Gustavsson and Marc-Andre Fleury, who have combined for a league-high .942 5-on-5 save percentage since March.

    To be fair, defensive stalwart Brodin was sidelined for the first half of March due to injury. But nonetheless, the Wild haven’t lived up to their defensive reputation over the past few month. That simply can’t be the case in the playoffs against the offensive firepower of either of their first-round opponents in the Dallas Stars or Colorado Avalanche.

    Minnesota’s defensive core is underwhelming right now outside of Spurgeon and Brodin. Klingberg is likely going to earn the edge in the playoffs due to reputation and because the Wild acquired him at the deadline. But he’s been arguably the worst defenseman on the team at 5-on-5 during his time in St. Paul.

    The 30-year-old has two goals and nine points in 16 games, four of which have been recorded on the power play, but Klingberg isn’t what he used to be. At 5-on-5, the right-shot defender has earned on-ice expected goals percentage of 41.82% with the Wild, and his defensive issues coupled with his tendency of turnovers and ill-advised errors have lingered with him since his Dallas days. The Wild are not a better team right now with him on the ice, and it’s difficult to envision that being any different less than a week from now when it matters the most. While Klingberg is no doubt a strong puck mover, his negative impact on both sides of the puck is a waste of a lineup spot.

    Then there’s Calen Addison, who the Wild have healthy-scratched nightly. Justified or not, he hasn’t exactly made a statement to stay in the lineup when Minnesota has called upon him, like Monday night in Chicago. Addison often makes the same mistakes despite receiving a message. He’s the least of the team’s concerns, though. Jake Middleton and Jon Merrill also are playing some of their worst hockey in a Wild sweater, to add to the issues on the blue line as of late.

    To be clear, the objective isn’t for Faber to enter the lineup, save the day and repair the Wild’s defensive identity. But he can help them recover it with his Brodin-esque defensive ability. Faber is a smooth skater, one of his strengths, an exceptional defender with his stick, and has the ability to escape from opposing players.

    It wouldn’t be fair to disclude Faber’s significant offensive improvement, either. He’s much more active offensively, especially as his NCAA season with the Gophers moved along. Faber notched 27 points in 38 games this season, almost double his 14-point season a year ago. 

    However, Faber needs to improve his shot output. He had only 39 shots on net this season – about one per game. While he’s more of a puck distributor, his blend of skating and smarts coupled with his instincts should help him develop more of an offensive game.

    It might be a high-risk, high-reward decision to place Faber right into the playoffs – a completely different beast. However, it’s a gamble worth taking to get an edge in Minnesota’s 10th trip to the postseason in the past 11 years.

    If the Wild want to ice the best playoff lineup, Faber’s name better be on that lineup card again. But regardless, he showed the Wild a glimpse of who he can become, and there’s no question he will be a valuable part of Minnesota’s blueline next season.

    All Data Via Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and Hockey-Reference.

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    As much as I would love to see this, I highly doubt it's gonna happen. Management has been making some strange decisions this year (especially with young guys). But I would love to be proven wrong because Faber really could help this struggling team.

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    This is kind of a hard decision. Faber is clearly a right defender, and a good one.  There is also Spurgeon, Dumba, Klingberg.  At this point, I don't see any way Addison draws in.  But, who would be Faber's partner?

    The 1st thought is who would run PP1.  You could say that Klingberg has been ineffective in that role, but then you notice that most of his time there hasn't included Kaprizov, our main threat.  You could make a case that Klingberg needs to be there for the PP.  Could Spurgeon do just as well there?  That would be the gamble.

    2nd thought, then, is what about the PK?  It is very true that the Wild have a deficiency at 1 position on the ice, right handed defense.  As a unit, they've been too small.  Klingberg helps add some size but he will get walked by larger forwards and merely just gets in the way. Faber helps solve that problem as he is a good defender and offers some size.  He makes the PK better, and is very interested in defending.  His breakout passes are good and with a little practice could be better than that.  

    Last playoffs, our PK was a problem, mainly because Blues were allowed to stand 5 feet away from Fleury to bang in loose pucks.  Faber helps that in spades with body positioning and a good stick.  PKs also tend to be more important in playoffs than PPs.  

    Merrill has played the majority of games as the 3rd pairing LD.  I believe he is better suited as a 7th D, but he's held his own in the defensive zone.  Would Goligoski add the offensive depth from the right side paired with Faber? Could Goligoski run the PP?  Certainly he could run PP2.  While Goligoski is smaller, he at least has compete level in his own end.  So, does this make our defensive units better-

    • Middleton-Spurgeon
    • Brodin-Dumba
    • Goligoski-Faber

    One last thought, should we have a lead late in a game, rotating Middleton-Spurgeon with Brodin-Faber could be the shutdowns needed to insure victory.  

    My conclusion is that Faber makes this unit better, both from his presence and from who he can play with.  A Klingberg-Goligoski pairing will certainly sell nitroglycerin tablets to the Wild faithful, but Faber makes that pairing work.  I believe that's the way we should go, and we should definitely try it out on the road.

    I would also not be opposed to seeing a Brodin-Klingberg pairing if needed.  They are familiar with each other's play.  I think Dumba is better defensively, but the injury last year has taken away most of his offensive abilities this season.

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    Would they look at a Faber/Klingberg line?

    May not match their favored playing side, but that combination of playing style seems like it might work. You could continue to use Klingberg on the PP and Faber should be useful on the PK, particularly if any of the other Defensemen end up in the box.

    Otherwise, if Brodin, Dumba, Middleton, or Spurgeon take a penalty, who do you have on the 2nd PK combination?

    Lots of responsibility to place on a rookie, but are Merrill, Goligoski, Klingberg, or Addison options you'd want on that PK line rather than Faber?

    That's the question that Evason needs to answer because you'd ideally play at least 5 solid defensemen to have consistent PK success--at some point, a top 4 defensemen is bound to end up in the box and you don't want to make it easier for the other PP.

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    ^^^
     

    Some good thoughts. I think the Wild keep him in reserve for the playoffs. If someone gets hurt, he could come in. Guerin and Dean would likely want veterans first. Faber is interesting cause he’s better defensively than current roster guys. 
     

    I have two gut feelings: “He’s good enough to upgrade defenseman, so put him in.” Also, “He’s a young player and you don’t need to throw him into the NHL playoffs.”

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    If some of the vets are struggling ( I’m talking to you Merrill and Klingenberg) are you worse off with Fabre and Addison? On offense you are better. How many dangerous chances are they going to give up gs the older guys ?  2 maybe 3  ? What is the 5 on 5 benefit?

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    5 minutes ago, Backwoodsbob said:

    Even though this is a makeshift line up thrown together I'd like to see some D juggling to see how they mesh. I do have concerns on how much Klingberg has turned over/stripped  of the puck. The last couple of games have had me jump up out of my seat with his struggles.

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    I had the honor of watching Faber in a several Gopher games. From what i have gathered, Brock has quietly had a solid season. He plays a defensively responsible game. Not a real flashy offesive player but does have a very good hockey IQ on when to join in on the offensive push. I do have high hopes on this kid!

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    Just make up a back story for Dean’s comfort.

    Faber is 32 years old from Saskatoon.  Only drinks black coffee on the bench.  Started a petition to make helmets optional.  He’s never scored a goal.  Had fewer teeth than fingers until he lost his left index finger to a skate blade a couple years back.  The only unfinished check in his life was against his mother in a family pickup game.  His father, a teammate, made him drop the gloves for not taking the body.

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    Honestly I think he would be a better choice than Addison or Klingberg at this point. I would complain to see him as our 3rd right D. He looked the part vs Chicago the other night and while I didn’t see the game versus the Preds, he was our only defenseman with a positive plus/minus.

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    18 hours ago, mnfaninnc said:

    Faber is clearly a right defender, and a good one.  There is also Spurgeon, Dumba, Klingberg. 

    2nd thought, then, is what about the PK?  It is very true that the Wild have a deficiency at 1 position on the ice, right handed defense.

    I agree to disagree since 2 of those 3 RHDs have shown to play 'above their size.' Spurg plays hard way out of his league sometimes, while Dumba drops hits on people 20-30lbs his weight.

    I guess this is a 'size isn't everything' post... but it's still true. Both Dumba and Spurgeon play physical and outside of their supposed weight class. Don't take the height/weight of players as the end all/be all.

    Frankly, Kapriz plays outside his weight class, but no one is criticizing him for being undersized. Be consistent...

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    On 4/14/2023 at 6:31 AM, Millante said:

    I agree to disagree since 2 of those 3 RHDs have shown to play 'above their size.' Spurg plays hard way out of his league sometimes, while Dumba drops hits on people 20-30lbs his weight.

    I guess this is a 'size isn't everything' post... but it's still true. Both Dumba and Spurgeon play physical and outside of their supposed weight class. Don't take the height/weight of players as the end all/be all.

    Frankly, Kapriz plays outside his weight class, but no one is criticizing him for being undersized. Be consistent...

    I completely agree with the assessment, however, it still leaves the right side vulnerable to getting walked by the heavyweight forwards.  Spurgeon, Dumba, Addison and Klingberg cannot handle Benn.  Spurgeon might have a good enough stick to disrupt.  

    Kaprizov is not undersized.  His height isn't ideal but he clearly has a stocky build that compensates for physical play.  Shaw is the same way and both of those have been acknowledge all season and beyond.  This is where the Rossi/Addison talk comes in, though, they aren't (and Rossi's draft weight suggested he was).  

    Dumba has the tendency for open ice hits mostly on middleweights, but those guys are the skilled guys and he's not afraid to take them out.  He gets in trouble against the heavyweights as does Brodin.  Faber has that rare ability to have a Brodin stick to go with a Suter frame and Brodin like skating.  He won't paste a guy into the boards but he's strong enough to not get shed by the heavyweight forwards and stands very tall in the home plate area.  

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    Quote

    Faber is 32 years old from Flin Flon.  Only drinks black coffee on the bench.  Started a petition to make helmets optional.  He’s never scored a goal.  Had fewer teeth than fingers until he lost his left index finger to a skate blade a couple years back.  The only unfinished check in his life was against his mother in a family pickup game.  His father, a teammate, made him drop the gloves for not taking the body.

    Fixed it for ya. 😎

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