Besides goalies, no NHLer spent more time on the ice last season than Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter. And that has many wondering about the effects of fatigue on the 29-year-old’s performance.
Suter played all 82 games for the Wild in 2013-14, averaging a league-high 29:24 of ice time per contest. Add it up and he skated almost 200 more minutes than the second-most-deployed skater, Erik Karlsson, did for the Ottawa Senators.
And that was just the regular season. Suter also averaged almost 30 minutes in 13 playoff games.
“He’s such an effortless player,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in defense of Suter’s ice time, per NHL.com. “He’s not a physical player and he’s not necessarily a player who’s leading the rush offensively. He defends really well, he moves the puck really well. He’s such an intelligent, intuitive player. He knows where to go and doesn’t waste a lot of energy flailing around the ice.”
There’s also the matter of Minnesota’s blue line, which, to put it nicely, isn’t among the deepest in the NHL. (Related story: the Wild would love for Matthew Dumba to earn a spot this year.) For coach Mike Yeo, sending Suter over the boards is the easy, stress-free decision.
But the difference now compared to when Suter joined the Wild a couple of years ago is that Minnesota has increased Stanley Cup aspirations. Simply making the playoffs isn’t good enough anymore; the objective is a deep run. And the deeper the run, the more fatigue becomes a factor, particularly for No. 1 defensemen. Remember all the talk of Chris Pronger tiring out in 2010? And Zdeno Chara in 2013? Are the Wild pushing their luck with Suter, who turns 30 in January?
OK, time to vote: