Noon Number (November 22nd): 23

USA TODAY Sports

We're only 23 games into the new season, and people are already talking up Ryan Suter as the leading Norris Trophy candidate. I don't necessarily agree with this.

Yesterday, on NHL Live, in his '5 Topics In 5 Minutes' segment, EJ Hradek put Ryan Suter forward as his early leader in the Norris Trophy race. Dan Rosen of NHL.com wrote an article expressing similar sentiments about Suter. Both of them base their entire argument on the amount of minutes Suter has been logging. Here's an actual quote from Hradek:

"Ryan Suter would be the guy for me at this point, just because he's on the ice in all situations"

I know that the Norris is rarely handed-out to the most deserving defenceman, and the thought process behind the selections usually isn't that deep, but there's gotta be more to an argument than "he plays a lot". If we're gonna start handing out the Norris based on TOI/G, then I guess Andrew MacDonald and Dennis Wideman are contenders this year too.

I'm not trying to knock Suter here at all. The guy is a beast and is certainly one of the best defencemen in the NHL, but as the undisputed #1 defenceman on this team, and the 2nd highest paid d-man in the league, his standards should be very very high. I don't think any Wild fan who has been watching all the games this year would say that Suter has hit his stride yet. He has been good, but not nearly as good as he can be. Everyone knows that when he's on his game, he just dominates the defensive zone, wins almost every 50-50 battle, picks out ridiculous passes that few others see and moves the puck up the ice with ease shift after shift.

I think a big issue this year has been Jonas Brodin's (understandable) sophomore slump, which has meant that Suter has had a lot more work to do in his own zone. Last year, Brodin was just incredible defensively and it took so much pressure off Suter. While Brodin's offensive game has really improved this season, he hasn't quite found his feet defensively so far.

Suter's crazy ice time isn't that surprising when you consider how young the Wild's defensive core is, with Brodin being only 20, while Spurgeon and Scandella are both 23.

*

Here's a quote from Dan Rosen's piece:

He doesn't get tired because he doesn't chase the puck. The Wild are the best in the NHL at limiting opposition shots on goal largely because Suter plays half the game and gives the Wild a chance to play more offense than defense.

The Wild as a whole have been excellent in puck possession this year, limiting shots against and tilting the ice in their favour. Suter has been a big part of this, but it has very much been a group effort.

-Check out the puck possession numbers for all Wild defencemen:

On-Ice Corsi (5v5 Close)

NAME

TOI

CF

CA

CF%

Keith Ballard

79.4

66

42

61.1%

Clayton Stoner

157.6

160

117

57.8%

Jared Spurgeon

221.2

237

185

56.2%

Marco Scandella

189.9

192

159

54.7%

Matt Dumba

84.0

74

64

53.6%

Ryan Suter

316.5

272

239

53.2%

Nate Prosser

80.2

75

75

50.0%

Jonas Brodin

262.2

197

204

49.1%

Every d-man except for Brodin has a Corsi For% above 50% so far. Suter's 53.2% in 316.5 minutes is impressive, but so is Spurgeon's 56.2% in 221.2, and Scandella's 54.7% in 189.9. Stoner's numbers are very impressive, though he plays softer competition on the 3rd pairing.

*

-Moving away from shot attempts/puck possession numbers for a minute, let's look specifically at which Wild defencemen have been the most effective at limiting shots on goal against:

On-Ice Shots (5v5 Close)

NAME

TOI

SF

SA

SF%

SA/Min

Keith Ballard

79.4

37

16

69.8%

0.202

Nate Prosser

80.2

40

24

62.5%

0.299

Clayton Stoner

157.6

89

57

61.0%

0.362

Marco Scandella

189.9

100

72

58.1%

0.379

Ryan Suter

316.5

137

122

52.9%

0.385

Jonas Brodin

262.2

101

104

49.3%

0.397

Jared Spurgeon

221.2

114

89

56.2%

0.402

Matt Dumba

84.0

41

39

51.3%

0.464

You can see from these numbers that Suter has done a good of limiting shots against, but his numbers don't exactly jump out from the list, which shows how good the whole defence has been this year.

*

-Here are the zone-start numbers for all Wild defencemen:

Deployment

NAME

OZ/DZ START %

Matt Dumba

61.3%

Ryan Suter

55.5%

Jonas Brodin

53.8%

Clayton Stoner

50.4%

Jared Spurgeon

44.6%

Keith Ballard

43.3%

Nate Prosser

40.7%

Marco Scandella

39.7%

You can see from these numbers that Suter is getting a heavy percentage of offensive zone starts which, obviously, makes it easier to post a positive Corsi percentage and fewer shots against.

Spurgeon and Scandella both have a better CF% and SF% with fewer offensive zone starts, though Suter has played a lot more minutes.

*

-Suter's offensive skill is a big part of his game, so let's look at his scoring so far this year:

Scoring

GOALS

ASSIST 1

ASSIST 2

POINTS

PP POINTS

0

4

10

14

6

He hasn't scored a goal yet, but surely it's only a matter of time. He has a high numbers of secondary assists, which is a trend continuing from last year, and he is finding some success on the PP, which is an area where he plays a lot of minutes.

***

Overall, Suter is having a good season, but to call him the best defenceman in the league at this early stage is ridiculous. There are plenty of other defencemen playing really well right now, such as Duncan Keith, Keith Yandle, John Carlson, Alex Pietrangelo, Dustin Byfuglien, Jay Bouwmeester, TJ Brodie, Victor Hedman, Brent Seabrook, PK Subban, Andrei Markov and others. I think Suter will be in contention by the end of the season, but he will have some stiff competition to beat. It's unfair to dismiss the other great defencemen around just because Suter clocks more time on ice.

-To summerise:

  • Speculating about end-of-season awards this early in the year is foolish.
  • Suter's great but his performance this year is being slightly over-hyped. He's definitely got another gear.
  • There are a lot of damn good defencemen in this league to be considered in any Norris discussion.
  • Suter will probably stand-out as one of the best by the end of the season, but let's wait until he actually does before we decide that he is the rightful 2014 Norris Trophy winner.



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