Ryan Suter had a burden placed on his shoulders on July 4th. He signed a contract worth $98 million and had a spotlight firmly installed above his head, one that shines on him across the league, especially here in Minnesota and also in Nashville. The pressure that comes with that contract is intense, something Suter admitted to when talking to Pierre McGuire.
Through the first ten games of the season, Suter had four points (all of which game in three games) and was a -7. In the past nine, he is a +3 with eight points. While he has yet to score a goal in a Wild sweater, his game is coming around very quickly. The defensive gaffs are drying up, he is getting much more physical (4 hits in first ten, 10 in the last nine), and is holding the offensive zone. All of this while leading the NHL in Time On Ice.
Despite what writers at other sites seem to think about him, Ryan Suter has become... Ryan Suter.
Being paired with rookie phenom Jonas Brodin has given Suter confidence that seemed to be lacking. Starting the season with Jared Spurgeon, Suter looked timid, afraid to take chances. With Brodin (who, if voters watched every NHL game played, would be a Calder candidate), he has found some chemistry, and both players look comfortable stepping up into a play to hold the zone or to take a shot.
The spotlight is still on Suter, and fans in Nashville are not about to forget about him, but right now, he is enjoying the heat and pressure of the contract. Thing is? He is also living up to the contract and playing like the player the Wild signed last summer. Suter and Brodin are feeding off of each other, something the rest of the league should be paying attention to, as they will be seeing a great deal of this pairing for the next 13 years.
The criticism of Ryan Suter isn't going to stop. If he has a stretch of off games, fans are going to jump all over him again, and call for heads to roll because Suter isn't scoring 12 goals a game while preventing the opposition from getting a single shot on goal.
The new Bleacher Report will no doubt find a way to ignore the last ten games and write early and often should Suter trip up. Hopefully Wild fans are smart enough to trust what they see on the ice, and not the ramblings of someone who obviously has not watched a Wild game in about a decade. The article on how Matt Johnson should open up space for Gaborik should be enthralling.
Fact of the matter is, Ryan Suter is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, and he got a contract that is commensurate with that elite status. With that comes the bi-polarity of fans. When he is playing well, he will be a Norris candidate. When he is off, he will be a schmuck who can't play the game. It's the nature of the beast.
Through it all, he will still be Ryan Suter, and as of right now, that's all he needs to be.