The hefty paydays for the Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, with matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, was always going to get people talking. Parise has received his fair share of criticism, especially after some injury-riddled campaigns. Suter has missed only five total games since joining the Wild prior to the 2012-13 season. He has been everything the Wild could have dreamed of from the former Nashville Predator, yet the hate for the defenseman continues.
In his last 10 games, Suter has posted 11 assists (four in the last two games) and a plus/minus of plus-one. The team has also captured 15 of a possible 20 points during that stretch. Even at 33-years-old, Suter has blown past the 30 minutes of ice-time mark four times in the last 10 games.
Suter was selected seventh overall in the 2003 entry draft by the Predators. Together with fellow draft class member, Shea Weber, the two formed one of the NHL’s most elite defensive pairings. Suter spent the first seven years of his career playing for the Predators and was selected to his first All-Star game appearance in 2012. In addition, he represented the United States in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver ss an assistant captain and helped claim the silver medal for his home country.
During his tenure with the Predators, Suter attacked their all-time record lists. After six full seasons away from the organization, he still ranks among the best in Preds history in multiple categories. He ranks sixth in games played (542), sixth in assists (200), and is tied for tenth in points (238).
The 2017-18 campaign represents the sixth season that Suter has played in Minnesota and in that time he has been selected to the All-Star game twice, making him the first Wild defenseman to be honoured more than once. He was also selected as a First-Team All-Star during the 2012-13 season, an honor that no other Wild player has earned in the team’s brief history.
Suter has dominated the Wild’s all-time charts similar to what he did in Nashville. He ranks tied for ninth in games played (438), fourth in assists (214), and seventh in points (251) and those numbers will skyrocket over the next seven seasons. Although there is a significant chance he will retire before his contract expires at 40-years-old, he will still hack away at the record books.
Suter’s Tale of Two Cities
Suter has improved statistically in many major categories since arriving in the State of Hockey. His assist total has climbed from 200 to 214, points from 238 to 251, plus/minus from plus-43 to plus-63, shots from 826 to 879, hits from 309 to 378, and average TOI from 22:37 to 28:05. His two major decreases are goals from 38 to 37 and penalty minutes from 396 to 202 (positive decrease). He has played in over 100 fewer games for the Wild yet he has improved career-wise in almost every major category.
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When the Wild signed Suter, they were targeting an elite defenseman who could instantly step up and take charge of their defensive core. Not only did he succeed, he surpassed expectations. He has become a better defender, an improved passer, and is more involved in the power play. He has held the assistant captain patch on his sweater since he arrived and the Wild have not missed the playoffs. So why does he always criticized?
As mentioned before, Suter improved his average ice-time per game by around five minutes and 30 seconds. That type of work is going to make you very sore especially as you reach your 30s. He is on pace for his lowest ice time per game total this season yet, it still stands at 26:45. Naturally, he will be more tired than most players on the roster.
Suter can’t be blamed for the coach’s decisions. Is it the missing goals? In Minnesota, he has scored as little as two and as many as nine goals in a season. He has never been an offensive defenseman and the Wild knew that when they signed him. It isn’t a reason to criticize such a talented player.
The regular season is a brutal fight to secure a spot in the postseason where hockey is a different animal. The Wild have succeeded in making the playoffs for five years straight when the team’s stars need to play their best. Suter has played in 39 playoff games for the Wild and has two goals, 14 assists, and a plus/minus of minus-18. Hockey is a team sport but those numbers are unacceptable from a player of Suter’s talent level and cap hit.
Suter Worthy of Criticism?
When your contract has a cap hit of over $7.5 million, people are going to be critical if championships aren’t won. Suter has been atrocious in the playoffs but honestly, the Wild always seem to save their worst for the postseason.
The fact of the matter is that Suter has put up big time stats and shown that he is worth his large contract (as much as anyone can be). All the blame can’t be shovelled on to a single defenseman. Sure, he needs to step up his game in the postseason but his numbers in the regular season prove that he is a key contributor to the Wild achieving a playoff berth.