For the past, say two seasons, I have been writing about where Marco Scandella fits with the Wild. I am a big supporter of the young defenseman because I think has all the tools to be a reliable presence on the blueline.
But every year, he seems to need a kick in the ass to get started. Last season, it came at the end of the season during the playoffs.
So beginning the 2013-14 season with Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk gone, where does Scandella fit?
Last Season Performance
At first glance, his average time on ice during the 2012-13 regular season and the playoffs look similar but take a closer look and you'll the big difference. During regular season play, he was a borderline #6 defenseman and spent majority of the time in Houston where our favorite Houston Aeros writer, Heather, said he was inconsistent.
Only during the big games at the top level of hockey did he strut his stuff. While in the Wild jersey, he was Minnesota's clear #4 defenseman. At times, he would show more physicality than any Wild defenseman on the roster.
With Tom Gilbert gone, Scandella has a very good shot at slotting right in the #4 spot alongside Jared Spurgeon. But it won't be 100% as he will have to battle a few of his teammates throughout the season to secure his position.
Keith Ballard has been a very solid defenseman the past couple of years but after a disappointing stint in Vancouver, he is looking to reclaim his status as a second pairing defenseman.
Veteran Clayton Stoner is just fighting for a spot on the roster but I believe he brings a mix of strength and reliability that the Wild don't exactly have on the defensive lineup.
And do not forgot the surprising rookie in Matt Dumba. Dumba impressed during training camp and is impressing during pre-season games. He brings the offensive ability that the Wild desperately need on the powerplay. He could find a spot as a specialist defenseman with limited even strength minutes.
...But He'll Be Here
With all that said and done, all of the three defenseman noted above have major question marks. Ballard is still looking to recover from his time in Vancouver (its hard I tell you!), Stoner is just trying his best to stay on the main roster and Dumba might just be too inexperienced for a team that is looking for a strong playoff push.
If Scandella can spread out his best games more consistently through an 82-game season, we are going to have very valuable player on our hands: an inexpensive #4 defensive defenseman that brings physicality and a big-game player.
Projected Starting Defense
|Ryan Suter||Jonas Brodin|
|Marco Scandella||Jared Spurgeon|
|Keith Ballard||Clayton Stoner|
|Matt Dumba (J)||Nate Prosser|