The Wild have started the season fine. Only "fine" because they're 3-2-2 as I'm writing this, but they've played some great games. Dominated against the likes of L.A. Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks, but the scoring touch just hasn't been there.
The Wild are generating chances left and right and have awesome puck possession numbers through the first 7 games. The next logical step towards getting the results to match the level of play?
Split up Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter.
I was fine with Brodin and Suter starting the season together, because you never really how a young defensemen responds to growing expectations. After 7 games though, I'd say it's pretty safe to say that Brodin has responded fairly well. And by "fairly well", I mean "THIS KID IS AWESOME!!!!"
This makes sense if Ryan Suter really is the stud everyone (but me) thinks he is. Because the only real problem so far has been the execution behind that first defensive pairing, and by splitting up Suter and Brodin, the Wild should end up with a more consistent and better top-4. Even if that first pairing wouldn't be as great as it is now.
With the right pairings, the Wild would potentially have a 3rd pairing consisting of Keith Ballard and Marco Scandella, which sounds pretty good actually, at least when you remind yourself of the talent that the Wild have had back there the last two seasons.
In this scenario, who goes with Suter and who's paired with Brodin? From where I'm sitting, a top pairing of Suter and Jared Spurgeon looks pretty decent. The switch might actually be a great thing for Spurgeon, who's been "stuck" with the task of running that 2nd pairing with guys that are either trying to get their NHL careers to start, or back on track. Suter-Spurgeon in the first, Ballard (when healthy) and Scandella in the third. So, that's...
Brodin running the 2nd pairing. With Matt Dumba on his right. And here's why.
Brodin was THE biggest reason why Suter had a monster of a season after the lockout. The fact that Brodin is always open for a pass, quite possibly has never made a mistake in his life when he's had a pair of skates on and can get the puck away from the forecheck by making a fantastic first pass or just skating past everybody, that's an incredible luxury for his defensive partner to have. You make a mistake? No problem, that 20-year-old kid's got your back. Trust me, it's not a coincidence that Suter got his sh*t together right after Brodin was paired with him.
"I gotta be honest with you, though..."
The biggest reason I want to see this happening is that I LOVE Brodin's game, and I want people to see that Suter has absolutely nothing to do with how well this kid is performing every single night. I know it's stupid to make comparisons between a 2nd year player and a Hall-Of-Famer, but there really are similarities between Brodin and Nick Lidstrom.
Just the way that Brodin plays the puck at the back with his head up, scanning the ice to make the right play, whether it's making a simple tape-to-tape pass to a cutting center or skating it past the forward coming at him. Brodin's play without the puck? Watch a hundred hours of Lidstrom operating in his own end, and then put on a Wild game. Not identical, but man, there's not much of a difference. Brodin's obviously not as effective at this point of his career, but the styles of play resemble each other so much.
And in order for Brodin to make that next step towards a truly dominating defenseman, he needs to be "the man". And as long as he's paired with Suter 5-on-5, he's going to be the guy that stays back most of the time while Suter is jumping up the ice. There still are flashes of brilliance, though.
Like that 1-0 goal against the Sabres? All Brodin. Starts the play from his own end by skating away from the forecheck. Then, a give-and-go with Kyle Brodziak to get past the second forward, and now Brodin's flying up the ice. Gets the puck back at center ice, enters the offensive zone, waits for the right side defenseman to "collapse" towards him and passes the puck to Matt Cooke who's left open because of Brodin driving through the middle. Brodin takes the defenseman with him all the way to the net to make space for a cutting Brodziak in the middle, Brodziak then gets the puck from Cooke and scores.
I want more of that. I would be fine even if Brodin got paired with Clayton Stoner. He would have the puck more, and would probably make Stoner look good in the process.
(Note: I know this is a looooooooong shot to happen, at least this season. Doesn't mean it wouldn't be the right thing to do.)