Mike Halford

Ryan Suter
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Boudreau’s ‘never had a defenseman play the kind of minutes’ Suter does


The debate about Ryan Suter‘s ice time has been a popular one in Minnesota for years — see here, here, here, here and here for examples.

So, fittingly, the topic was placed in front of new bench boss Bruce Boudreau, as Boudreau discussed his recent hire of Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens as assistant coach.

From the Star-Tribune:

Lots of fans have asked me how Suter has taken to the fact that Boudreau has never had a defenseman average more than 23 or 24 minutes a game.

Boudreau said he has not discussed that with Suter yet.

“It depends how good the rest of the defense is,” Boudreau said. “All I said is my thing is I’ve never had a defenseman play the kind of minutes he plays, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play those kind of minutes.

“It’ll mostly depend on [Stevens]. He’s going to be running the defense. Ryan is one of the best ones out there, so he’ll play a lot. How much? I don’t know. I haven’t been on a bench with him once in my life.”

Boudreau’s never had a d-man average more than 23 to 24 minutes partly because he’s never had a stud defenseman like Suter. The closest was Mike Green during that 2007-09 spell in Washington, when Green was nominated for a pair of Norris Trophies.

Green averaged a shade over 25 minutes per night in those two seasons under Boudreau. That’s plenty of ice time, though noticeably less than Suter, who’s averaged 29:25, 29:04 and 28:36 over the last three seasons.

Looking ahead, there appear to be three big factors at play for the Wild. The first is the fact Suter’s entering his 12th NHL campaign, and will turn 32 during the season. He’s put a lot of miles on the ol’ odometer.

The second is Stevens.

He’s pretty familiar with shouldering heavy workloads. Remember, this is a guy that averaged over 24 minutes a night in his final NHL campaign — when he was 39 years old. Granted, times have changed and the eras are significantly different, but Stevens knows the value of a heavy-minute, shutdown defenseman.

The third? What’s behind Suter.

Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin could probably shoulder a few more minutes here and there, but it’s the younger guys that are more compelling. Minnesota would no doubt love for Mathew Dumba to take a step forward next year, and play more than the 16:50 he averaged this season.

Same goes for Mike Reilly (who only appeared in 29 games) and maybe even Gustav Oloffsson, the Swedish prospect that spent most of last year in AHL Iowa.

Detroit hires ex-Wild bench boss Torchetti

Minnesota Wild interim coach John Torchetti is seen during first period NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, Canada, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Detroit’s lengthy search for new assistant coaches has come to a close.

After hiring Doug Houda last month, the Wings announced they’ve signed former Minnesota head coach John Torchetti as Jeff Blashill’s new right-hand man.

Torchetti, 51, has previous head coaching experience in Florida, Los Angeles and, as mentioned above, Minnesota — last year, he took over duties after the Wild fired Mike Yeo and fared reasonably well, going 15-11-1 during the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, the Wild were ousted by top-seeded Dallas in six games.

It’s assumed Torchetti will focus on Detroit’s power play, given that Houda has traditionally worked with defensemen and the penalty kill during his coaching career.

If that’s the case, Torchetti has his work cut out for him — the Red Wings PP was average at best during the regular season and went completely south in the playoffs, going 1-for-25 in an opening-round loss to Tampa Bay.

Torchetti had previously run the power play as an assistant under Joel Quenneville in Chicago, and helped the club to the Stanley Cup in 2010.

Detroit’s PP had previously been run by Blashill’s old assistant Pat Ferschweiler, who has since been re-assigned to work out of the press box.

‘No ideal matchup’ when defending Pens, says Sharks defenseman


PITTSBURGH — Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, Marc-Edouard Vlasic talked about the unenviable task of matching up against Sidney Crosby.

Four games later, Vlasic admitted the other ones aren’t much more desirable.

“There’s no ideal matchup,” Vlasic said on Wednesday afternoon. “You concentrate on Crosby too much, and then [Evgeni] Malkin explodes. Or [Phil] Kessel explodes. Concentrate on those two guys, and then Crosby’s going to do damage.

“When you get this far in the playoffs, depth is what gets teams here. And they have really good depth.”

Plenty has been written about Pittsburgh’s depth this postseason, especially with the likes of Nick Bonino, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole all finding the back of the net.

So in a sense, Vlasic is right — there’s no ideal matchup, because Pittsburgh comes at you with a lot of different weapons.

But let’s get real.

When asked about player deployment on Wednesday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said he was “going to dance with the girl we brought to the dance.” And given Vlasic and partner Justin Braun have largely been up against the Crosby-Sheary-Patric Hornqvist line, all signs point to it continuing.

In Game 4, Vlasic and Crosby went head-to-head for nearly 15 minutes, and it was one of the few times this series where Vlasic had the edge. He and Braun both posted solid possession metrics, and the Crosby line failed to score a single point.

Of course, while that was happening, Kessel and Malkin combined for a goal and three assists.

“If you look at their last game, Malkin was on fire, Kessel was on fire, and they’re not even on the same line,” Vlasic continued. “Every game one of those three lines, even the fourth line was dangerous too.”

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what the Penguins do with last change. Mike Sullivan will be able to manipulate things more than he did in Games 3 and 4 in San Jose, and Vlasic did float the possibility of shifting away from the Crosby matchup.

“Matching up tomorrow night, probably all four of their lines are going to be good,” he said. “I’ll be playing against everybody and all six of us will be just rolling through.”

Just remember to take that last line with a grain of salt.

In the Stanley Cup Final, nobody tells you what they’re actually going to do.

Hurricanes’ Ryan mulling move to Swiss League

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Derek Ryan, the journeyman that garnered headlines last season for making his NHL debut at age 29, is reportedly considering a move back to Europe — Switzerland, specifically.

In an interview with Swedish news outlet Expressen, Ryan and his agent have discussed the possibility of signing in the Swiss National League “A” should he not receive an NHL contract for next season.

Ryan scored two goals in six games for the ‘Canes last year. Prior to that, he was something of a hockey nomad.

He played junior in WHL Spokane — where his head coach was current Carolina bench boss Bill Peters — then had stops in Kalamazoo (of the now-defunct United Hockey League), a four-year stint at the University of Alberta, three years in the Austrian League and, in ’14-15, a terrific campaign in Sweden.

With Orebro, Ryan scored a whopping 80 points in 55 games en route to capturing SHL Forward of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.

He parlayed that into a one-year, two-way deal with the ‘Canes.

Ryan spent most of last year in AHL Charlotte (55 points in 70 games) and while he was a nice story, it’s worth mentioning his NHL debut only came after the ‘Canes whittled away their roster at the deadline, shipping out Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles.

As such, it’s fair to suggest Ryan — who turns 30 in December — might not be in Carolina’s future plans.

RElated: Ryan scores first NHL goal… at age 29

Preds trying to trade Nystrom, rather than buy him out

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The window for NHL clubs to buy out players could open soon, which is why a number of teams are currently in the thick of making tough decisions.

Like Nashville with Eric Nystrom, for example — the Preds have already indicated they’re going to part ways with the veteran forward.

So now it’s a matter of how they’ll do it.

“It has to happen pretty soon,” Preds GM David Poile said, per the Tennessean. “The buyout period starts 48 hours after the Stanley Cup playoffs, and I want to be in position to know whether we can trade him or whether we’d keep him or whether we’d buy him out.

“We’re about a week away from needing to make one of those three decisions.”

Nystrom, 33, carries a $2.5 million cap hit but is set to pull in $3M in salary next season. The Tennessean reports Poile is actively trying to flip Nystrom rather than go the buyout route.

But it could be tough to find a taker.

Nystrom was a press box regular during the playoffs — sitting up there for 13 of Nashville’s 14 games — though he did manage to score seven goals in just 46 regular-season appearances.

If there’s no taker for his services, the Preds have a decision. Do they buy Nystrom out, and absorb the cap hit penalty? Or do they keep him on board for another year, and let his contract expire next July?

If Poile goes the latter route, the possibility of waiving Nystrom would seem to be in play. That would give Nashville the option to send him to the AHL (should he clear), and recoup some cap space.