Now that the main two defensemen for the Minnesota Wild have received their season grades it’s time to turn to Matt Dumba. Many players throughout their careers are the recipients of trade rumors and he has been hearing this for not only this season but the past few. While he’s loved for all his work away from the team, his on-ice performances have the fans rather upset.
A lot of Dumba’s struggles this season were from the fact he couldn’t find a way to stay healthy. He was on the injury list four times throughout the regular season, one of those was due to a non-COVID-related illness that caused him to miss one game. Then the injuries started to hit. In early February, he had an upper-body injury that forced him to miss two games and no joke, in the game he returned from that injury, he was hurt again, this time lower-body.
That cost Dumba a lot of time, as he missed the next 10 games and when he returned, he was back for about a month. In early April, he suffered a lower-body injury once again and missed nearly the entire month, 12 games worth, with the exception of the final regular-season game against the Colorado Avalanche. That was the only game in that final month that he was able to participate in before the postseason started.
Dumba’s Questionable Season
Looking at Dumba’s career, over the first five years it was easy to see he was a young up-and-coming defenseman that was expected to be a strong offensive threat. His best season was in 2017-18 when he played in all 82 games and put up 50 points (14 goals, 36 assists), all career highs. The next four seasons that followed have been quite disappointing.
Clearly, injuries were the main problem for Dumba, as in the season that followed his career-best, he suffered a season-ending injury after a fight with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk that was in retaliation for a hit he delivered earlier in the season to Mikael Backlund. Dumba ended up missing the rest of the season due to a ruptured right pectoralis muscle. That injury seems to have marked the drop in production from him and he hasn’t been the same since.
This season, Dumba played in 57 games, missing the other 25 due to injuries and an illness. He still scored seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points which was the third-highest point total of his career. He also spent a lot of time in the penalty box at 47 minutes, the second-highest in his career. He’s known for his offense but his defense is supposed to be his main skill as well as his big hits.
Dumba threw 114 hits in those 57 games and blocked 84 shots, one more than captain Jared Spurgeon, placing him fifth amongst Wild defensemen. While he was lower among his teammates, it was actually his third-highest total in his career. He also had 26 giveaways and 15 takeaways, not terrible numbers but still areas to improve in.
Dumba’s Neutral Postseason
Like many of his teammates, Dumba’s offense took a nosedive when it came to the postseason. In fact, it seriously seemed like the whole team hit a brick wall with the exception of the two games they were able to win. He did tally one goal in Game 6 that gave them hope late but it was the only goal they’d get as they were eliminated following the conclusion of that game.
However, Dumba’s defense stepped up in the playoffs, as he had 14 hits and nine blocked shots. His giveaways were still a struggle at three but he also had a single takeaway, all in those six games. He also maintained his cool and only spent two minutes in the penalty box compared to teammates Marcus Foligno who had 14 minutes and Kevin Fiala who sat for 16 minutes.
At least when Dumba’s offense dropped, his defense picked up. Of course, it could’ve been better but nearly the entire team failed, not just one player. Plus, it came out after the playoffs were done for the Wild that he was still dealing with several injuries that hadn’t finished healing.
Dumba’s Final Grade
If Dumba’s grade was based on playing through injuries alone, he would probably have an A+ for his sheer determination. Whether it’s the smart thing to do or not is beside the point. Now, including his actual play and his grade goes down, not up. His offense was clearly a bonus while his defense struggled a bit. The one key aspect to consider when determining his grade was his injuries, as he missed a total of 24 games. That’s a lot of time missed, especially for a core defenseman.
Obviously, in most situations, Dumba can’t help getting hurt, so it shouldn’t be held against him too much but it is a factor. Overall his final grade comes in as a high B, almost a B+. While his offense was a great addition, he is still a defenseman and that’s where his main priorities have to be. His defensive numbers need to be better and while injuries were a part of that, it’s not all of it. He’s a great person off the ice but if the Wild keep him through the final year of his contract, he’ll really need to find that next level if he wants to stay.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.