Devan Dubnyk has been impeccable since his arrival in Minnesota. You just can't argue the rock-hard stability he has provided for this team in between the pipes. It has allowed Mike Yeo to manage his defensemen's minutes more evenly, even though Ryan Suter still commands heavy ice-time. Yeo has been able to roll all four lines pretty successfully as well which allows one of the greatest strengths the Wild have - its depth - win games.
Yeo also has a list of players seemingly on a short leash. Nino Niederreiter, Justin Fontaine, and Jordan Schroeder all compile a group that we've dubbed, "The Dog House." While teams were eliminating the top two lines, these players are producing, turning the Dog House in to the Dawg House. And to most of us, we're wondering why they have such a short leash. Why are they perpetually in the dog house?
Since the January 15th debut of Dubnyk, Schroeder has played in just 15 games, Fontaine in 25 games, and Niederreiter in 28 games in a span of 29 games. Admittedly, Nino hasn't been a healthy scratch like the others have, but Nino is usually quick to be moved down in the line-up. Not to mention Nino's removal from the second power play unit. Removing Niederreiter, who is tied for second on the team for power play goals, from the second unit is a questionable strategy. Mind you, the second unit only gets about 30-40 seconds to work with per each minor power play.
At 5-on-5, Niederreiter is a beast in the possession metrics. His on-ice Fenwick For percentage, or Unblocked Shot Attempts for percentage (for the NHL.com and generally late to the advanced stats party people) is 54.9%. Nino is also a positive possession player compared to his teammates with a 4.4 FFRel% which rates a player's net possession metrics in relation to other players on the team. One thing that is continually brought up about Niederreiter is his play in the defensive zone and the narrative of his plus/minus rating (which, by the way, has risen from -13 to a +1). Nino limits his opponent's scoring chances to 18 per 60 minutes, while creating 25 scoring chances per 60. Clearly Niederreiter is doing something right on the ice, yet the time on ice, the quick demotions, and the scrutiny from media types about his defense seems misguided.
Justin Fontaine was labeled by Gone Puck Wild as the most underrated Wild player. Yet, with Ryan Carter getting healthy and likely to return soon, the acquisition of Sean Bergenheim, and Matt Cooke's return likely to happen prior to the playoffs, rumors are that Fontaine would likely be a healthy scratch upon their return. Fontaine has played in 61 games this season and has amassed 24 points. He receives mostly bottom six deployment and hardly starts in the offensive zone. He has only one point, an assist, on the power play because he just doesn't get chances to play on the power play. Yet 5v5, the scoring chances for per 60 is better than Niederreiter's with 25.5. His 5-on-5 FF% is positive at a 51.7 percent. Mind you, these numbers are since Dubnyk's arrival. Another thing you don't want from these players is penalties. Fontaine has taken on eight penalty minutes all season long. Fontaine plays a smart, disciplined game, and affects positive possession while being moved up and down the line-up. And for some reason he is the one that is rumored to come out of the line-up when Cooke and Cater return.
As for Jordan Schroeder, his diminutive stature is the only reason that he must be out of the line-up. in the 15 games he's played A.D. (Anno Dubnyk, or The Year of Our Dubnyk), Schroeder did about as much as you could ask for from a depth winger. Schroeder has a 58.5 scoring chance percentage which means that when he was on the ice, he was either getting scoring opportunities or his linemates are getting chances. He was flanking a line that featured Charlie Coyle and Niederreiter. He added an element of speed to that line that helped the line retrieve the puck in the offensive zone and pushed back defenders opening up passing lanes. His 57.3 FF% is a valuation of that line's successes. Yet, for no fault of his own, he is in the press box because of a numbers game that doesn't include the numbers I listed above.
Mike Yeo's Dog House produced 14 goals, 18 assists, for 32 points in the A.D. era of the Wild. The coaching staff has removed one player from the line-up that was a positive impact on the team. If the coaching staff removes Fontaine or in any way limits Niederreiter's minutes they are actively hurting the team. What good is depth if you're not using it to your advantage?