The Minnesota Wild need Matt Dumba back as soon as possible. Dumba has missed all but one game in February, and the Wild have slumped without him in the lineup. He missed two games with an “upper-body injury” following a Jan. 30 fight with Anders Lee. Then he came off injured reserve to play against the Carolina Hurricanes, only to go right back on the IR – this time with a “lower-body injury.”
The Wild went 1-1 with Dumba out before the Carolina game and 2-6 so far in his second stint on the IR.
It is no secret that the first-year alternate captain is a respected and vocal leader in the locker room, and the Wild have sorely missed that. Dumba did not travel with the team for their four-game road trip through Canada, and the team did not look the same. Minnesota missed Dumba’s presence not only on the ice but off of it as well. The Wild just seemed like they couldn’t get anything going throughout the whole trip.
Dumba’s physical presence, heavy shot, and vocal presence in the locker room could have changed that. Perhaps he could have swung some of the closer games in Minnesota’s favor.
The Wild’s defense hasn’t been the same without Dumba, giving up 4 or more goals in 6 of 10 games without him in the lineup. Dumba not only provides offense but can play a tough, hard-hitting that's currently lacking, as the Wild have not been as physically engaging as well.
Even though the Wild have gravely missed Dumba, it doesn’t fully excuse how they have been playing. Minnesota has shown that they have the depth, skill, speed, and compete-level to be Stanley Cup contenders. With a jam-packed schedule to end the season and a grueling four-round best-of-seven playoff schedule ahead of them, the Wild need to play better hockey. As Jordie Benn said, “Zero excuses. If you’re tired, drink a Red Bull.”
On a positive note, Dumba skated before practice Monday and Tuesday and is nearing a return. He is skating with the team and may return to the Wild as soon as Saturday.
Minnesota’s slump without No. 24 in the lineup may make Bill Guerin second-guess the idea of trading him this summer. With the impending $12 million in dead cap money next year, it looks as if either Dumba or Kevin Fiala may get traded to stay under the salary cap.
At the beginning of the year, it looked as though Fiala might be the one to be traded. He struggled to score the first few months of the season and is a restricted free agent next summer. But he’s had a resurgence and experienced instant chemistry with linemate Matt Boldy. Therefore, Dumba may be the one to go, especially since fellow right-handed offensive defenceman Calen Addison could potentially replace him and looks NHL-ready.
The Wild are 3-7 without Dumba in the lineup and have lacked compete-level and their usual It-factor in many of those games – two qualities Dumba brings to this team. On top of that, he is an active member in the community, even going as far as helping a family get their stalled car running after a Wild game.
Dumba has also been a vocal member of the “Hockey Diversity Alliance,'' which aims to eliminate racism in hockey. His other charitable acts include:
Helping to clean up Lake Street after the civil unrest following the George Floyd murder and donating thousands of dollars to the cause
Donating to the charity ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students)
Donating to relief efforts after the 2019-2020 Australian wildfires.
Dumba’s generosity and commitment to the community earned him the King Clancy Trophy, given to the player that “best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice.”
Matt Dumba is beloved by many in Minnesota, and Guerin has a tough decision ahead of him.
Looking ahead, the Wild play 12 home games in March. These games are crucial to bouncing back after a tough skid, as Minnesota is 16-5-1 at home this season. Dumba's return will help that, bringing his high-end play and leadership back to the ice. If there is a time to bounce back, it’s March, and the Minnesota Wild need Dumba to stay Stanley Cup contenders.