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.
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.