CHICAGO IL - FEBRUARY 16: Clayton Stoner #4 and Kyle Brodziak #21 of the Minnesota Wild squeeze out Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks as Stoner tries to control the puck at the United Center on February 16 2011 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Let's be honest, we should've done this one on 4/20.
Ok, childish gags aside, let's look at Stoner's season.
A big body on the blue line, who plays smart hockey, clears the slot and is one thing the Wild need as a partner to a smaller, mobile defenseman like Jared Spurgeon. That's Stoner's role. Let the water bug move the puck and lead the transition game while cleaning up the garbage. Unfortunately Stoner still had injury issues this season, but was able to come back and provide an adequate game at the back.
|2011 - Clayton Stoner||51||1||4||5||3||62||0||0||0||47|
Nathan - That is a painful line, but at least he ended up a +3 on the season. Stoner fought injuries, fought the puck, lacked a consistent partner and just couldn't get into the flow of the game. It was disappointing (that's a common thread this off-season) because he has the prototypical NHL defenseman body, and I think he has the talent to be a defensive presence, but it just didn't come together this season. It was supposed to be a breakout season for the big man, but he suffered as the team did. I still feel that he'll be a long-time defenseman in the league, just needs to get time on the ice under his belt and stay healthy.
Bryan - A big body, a calm presence. Stoner wasn't anything flashy, but he was good. One of the better d-men on the team, if you ask me. There isn't much to say about him, because he didn't make many mistakes. Hopefully the team understands that and gives him another year or two.
Jesse - While no one expects Stoner to light the lamp or contribute consistently on the scoresheet, he is expected to play tough hockey in front of his net and defend his teammates. Stoner does both well. Not great, but well. The injuries are a bit of a concern. The Wild needed Stoner to help stabilize the blueline, not ride the pine. I'm sure Chuck Fletcher will attempt to bring Stoner back considering how thin the Wild are with defensive prospects, but Stoner could be getting some extra offers being a UFA.
JS - This man is a true warrior for this team and has been for a long time, even in the minors. One of only a few Wild players to finish the season with a positive +/- two years running with the Wild (only Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse can say the same). The guy can play solid defense, he can block, he can hit, he can fight, but one of the main knocks on him is the injury problems. He has started to log some big minutes for the team, especially later in the season. In his last 12 games, he had 20 shots on goal. He had 27 shots in the other 39 games. That doesn't mean he'll suddenly become an offensive force, but maybe he's one of the few Wild players who finally got that you have to shoot the puck? It's more likely it was an anomaly, but he did score in the final 12 games, so there's that. Frankly, it would have been hard to ask more from the guy except being healthier, but his style of play will always be rough on his body. To think, he was once a scapegoat on this team and now, he's blossomed into a very solid defensive d-man for the Wild.