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  • What the heck is going on with Matt Dumba?


    It’s officially been over a decade since an NHL defenseman scored 30-plus goals in a single season — Mike Green, playing for the Washington Capitals during the 2008-09 season, was the last to pull off the feat. But Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba believes he can be the next blueliner to score 30 goals.

    With 12 goals in 32 games last season, Dumba was actually on pace to hit the 30-goal mark as a 24-year-old. However, his spectacular 2018-19 campaign was cut short due to a ruptured right pectoralis muscle that kept him out of Minnesota’s last 50 games of the year.

    After a slow rehabilitation process, many were hopeful Dumba would return to his 2018-19 form this season. Unfortunately, though, Dumba is 31 games into his 2019-20 campaign and still has a bit of work to do in order to reach the 30-goal mark. Despite averaging over 23 minutes of ice time per game and earning extensive time on the power play, Dumba has managed to net just three goals this season. It’s been 13 games since he last found the back of the net, and he hasn’t registered a single point since November 16.

    Dumba’s last two performances have been particularly rough, and not just when it comes to scoring. He was on the ice for four goals against in Saturday’s contest against the Carolina Hurricanes, and in Tuesday night’s tilt against the Anaheim Ducks, he took three minor penalties (one of which resulted in a power-play goal for Anaheim).

    Simply put, Dumba hasn’t looked like himself recently, and his shockingly low point total isn’t the only proof of his current struggles. Advanced metrics also paint a not-so-pretty picture of what has turned out to be a rather disappointing season for the Regina native. Of all Wild defensemen to play at least 100 minutes this season, Dumba ranks last with a 5-on-5 CF% of 45.91. His 5-on-5 GF% of 42.55 also ranks last, as does his xGF% of 45.72.

    Surprisingly, Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter, the defensemen Dumba has spent most of the past two seasons paired with, have both driven play more efficiently away from Dumba as opposed to when they take the ice together in 2019-20. This is much different from what the numbers showed in 2018-19, when Dumba either carried his defensive partner into above average play-driving territory (the case for Suter) or complimented his defensive partner to form a strong statistical pairing on the back end (the case for Brodin).

    Dumba has never exactly been an advanced stats darling, but he’s also never graded out this poorly. So, why is Dumba having such a hard time scoring this season, and what is causing this sudden regression?

    The road-heavy schedule could certainly play a role. Twenty of Minnesota’s first 30 games were played on the road, which, for a player like Dumba, who is coming off a 32-game season, is quite daunting. He even said as much after the 6-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday.

    “It is what it is. But definitely on the road this long, it’s hard,” he told the Star Tribune. “You come into good buildings, crazy fans like tonight against good teams. It’s not easy to win in this league.”

    If the heavy travel isn’t what’s been plaguing Dumba this season, perhaps his struggles, at least in the offensive zone, can simply be attributed to bad luck. Dumba has an 8.2 shooting percentage in 373 career games. This season, though, he’s scored on just 4.2 percent of his shots — the lowest single-season shooting percentage of his career.

    But while Dumba’s shooting percentage in uncharacteristically low, he also hasn’t generated too many high-danger scoring chances this season. Aside from Nick Seeler, Dumba has the lowest HDCF% (52.91) of all Wild defensemen. Last season, Dumba led all Wild defensemen (minus Nate Prosser) with a 57.03 HDCF%.

    Fatigue, luck and a lack of high-danger chances are just a few potential factors contributing to Dumba’s down season. For whatever reason, he just hasn’t had the same offensive touch he exhibited a year ago. Perhaps this is just a slump he needs to work himself out of, or maybe he just isn’t the perennial 50-point player many were hoping he’d be after his stellar 2017-18 campaign. No matter what the issue is, Dumba returning to borderline All-Star form would do wonders for the Wild as they look to remain in the playoff race.

    Statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

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