Wild Watch: Ryan Suter Bounces Back

Preview previews: Mikko Koivu, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter

In today’s preview, defenseman Ryan Suter takes the stage.

2014-15 Review

Ryan Suter had a rough year in 2014-15, but let’s give the guy a break – his year was much tougher off the ice than on.

Ryan Suter's father, Bob Suter, passed away at 57 years old of a heart attack last September. (Photo: Rob Schumacher for USA TODAY)
Ryan Suter’s father, Bob Suter, passed away at 57 years old of a heart attack last September. (Rob Schumacher for USA TODAY)

As most hockey fans recall, Suter’s father, Bob, a member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic Team, passed away last year days before the start of Minnesota’s training camp. It doesn’t matter if Ryan Suter is one of the best defensemen in the league; dealing with the passing of a family member – especially a parent – is unthinkable.

While Suter never used this as an excuse for his subpar season, I would imagine the loss of his father took a huge toll on him, and consequently impacted his performance on the ice. Throughout the 2014-15 season, it’s safe to say Suter underperformed.

In 77 regular season games with the Wild last year, Suter collected 2 goals, 36 assists and a plus-7 rating. These might not look like bad stats, but they are for Suter, who usually scores around 7 or 8 goals a season, and tends to end up with a plus/minus rating a lot higher than seven. What’s more, Suter had the highest time on ice of any player in the league last season, averaging 29 minutes and four seconds a game. One would think Suter would be able to contribute more than two goals on 150 shots if he was playing literally half of the game each night. 

Suter’s playoff performance was even more alarming. In 10 games, the Wild’s top defenseman didn’t score a single goal, recorded three assists and was a minus-eight. That’s just not going to cut it if Minnesota wants to win a Cup.

However, as mentioned above, this kind of play is not typical for Suter. His poor play could’ve occurred for a number of reasons, ranging from personal matters to the fact that the Wild didn’t always use Suter ideally. Whatever the reasons were, Suter is clearly ready to put last season behind him and work on improving in 2015-16.

“It was a bad year. … Just a long year, with family issues and health issues and team issues. … It’ll be nice to take a break and get away from it and re-set and make sure that I’m better next year,” Ryan Suter via Pioneer Press

2014-15 Regular Season Stats

Games played: 77 Goals: 2 Assists: 36 Points: 38 +/-: 7

2015-16 Predictions

Last season was far from impressive, but it’s hard to imagine that type of play is going to become regular for Suter.

Suter spent last season playing just about as much TOI as humanly possible, yet producing numbers similar to what a defenseman in the bottom pairing would put up. This season, I would imagine those two things are going to shift. Suter is 30 years old, and while that isn’t old by any means, it’s clear he’s not a young kid anymore. He’s not going to be able to spend a half hour on the ice every game for that much longer. It doesn’t matter how talented he is; being a professional athlete puts a lot of stress on a person’s body, and Suter is no exception. He still has 10 years left on his contract with the Wild, and I’m guessing the team would like to keep him healthy and on the ice for as long as possible. That means Mike Yeo and his staff are going to have to start using Suter more wisely.

So in 2015-16, instead of putting Suter out there to play 25-plus minutes every game, why not put him out there in situations where the Wild really need him, instead of just playing him to play him? That would seem rather logical. I’m not suggesting Suter starts playing five minutes a game this season – that would be ridiculous. But I do think this team would benefit greatly from learning when and how Suter can be the most valuable.

Clearly the strategy used last season didn’t work out very well. This season, I’d be surprised if things stay the same. I’d predict Suter plays fewer minutes, has a bigger and better impact on the team, regains his confidence, and has a bounce-back season.

What do you think: Will Suter rebound in 2015-16, or will he continue to decline?