The power play has historically been a sore spot for the Minnesota Wild. Often on these boards we’ve gone over what needs to be changed for the Wild to find consistent success. If there’s been one mainstay on the man-advantage, it’s been defenseman Ryan Suter on the blue line. Quite literally as well, as Suter often would stay on the ice during the power play for a whole minute and a half (sometimes the full two minutes of a minor penalty). In the year-to-year effort to reduce Suter’s league leading time-on-ice, the time he plays on the power play is the simplest place to shrink those minutes.
A recent comment caught my attention regarding Suter and his play on the power play.
As for the common concept of Suter as the problem for the PP, I just have to laugh. That’s something that comes solely out of comments sections like these. Around town in higher hockey circles and outside of town, people scratch their head when you say these things. The main problem for the PP was a general lack of any shots and then a ridiculous failure to get guys at the net. For some reason, the Wild PP had this sick fascination with puck possession on the PP which never got the puck into the shooting zone. I could teach a PeeWee team to defend that. Hopefully that will change this year. But to say this was the fault of the guy who’s main job is to distribute the puck to others (Suter plays the pivot on the PP and does it well), is just not correct.
The fact is, Suter hasn’t been a particularly great power play quarterback in his career with Minnesota.
Ryan Suter’s PP Production
Ryan Suter’s total time on ice since 2012-13 with the man-advantage dwarfs the next player by almost two-fold. With 1040 minutes, Suter has accumulated 56 points, which leads the team for defensemen. And for having that many minutes, you’d assume that he should be the top producing defensemen.
Digging a little further, Suter has a total of 8 goals and 48 assists; 30 of those points are of the primary point variety. Primary points are goals in which he was either the goal scorer or awarded the primary assist, which generally means he was a major factor in the goal being scored. All things being equal in rate stats, Ryan Suter has a points per 60 minutes of power play time of 3.23.
All sounds good except when you stack his production with his significant lead in time-on-ice to the rest of the Wild defensemen.
Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon are ahead of Suter in power play points per 60 minutes with only a fraction of the time-on-ice of the two-time All-Star. Primary point stats are just as staggering. Spurgeon has 26 primary points and Dumba has 15 P1 points. Remember, Suter has just 30 primary points in over 500 minutes more than Spurgeon, and 750 more minutes than Dumba. Points are hard to come by for Suter on the power play and yet he’s been given all the leeway, all the opportunities, and all the time to be a producer on the power play.
Lack of Shooting
Suter’s issues stem from having a healthy number of his shots blocked. You can probably imagine Suter receiving the puck along the blue line. With pressure coming from a penalty killer, Suter would skate towards the near boards in an attempt to change the angle and let go a wrist shot the would be easily blocked. This scenario seemed to play out multiple times, not just in a season, but sometimes in a game. the wrist shots were weak at best, and any of his shots from the point lacked purpose.
Stats actually back up this fact that Suter’s shot is blocked...a lot. The 2013 Norris Trophy finalist has 343 attempted shots on the PP, with 143 of those getting blocked which totals nearly 42 percent. But you say, "Still over half his shots are getting through!" And you’d be right, but only means that nearly 41 percent of his attempted shots are ending up on goal, which is by far lowest of any Wild defensemen that played the power play since 2012-13.
In a time of the game when the team should be peppering the net, Suter is failing at getting the puck on goal.
Power Play Responsibility
Suter isn’t getting the puck on goal with frequency, and his primary assist numbers are nothing to write home about. So does his role on the power play affect his numbers? Role most certainly does affects stats, but how can we define what the former Wisconsin Badger’s role on the power play?
Suter is clearly more of a facilitator in this example. By being an option for the wingers to pass after they retrieved the puck, Suter then rotates the puck over to the right to Marco Scandella. As soon as the pass misses, the puck is retrieved again, and Suter is clearly in the point position of the power play umbrella. Again, he continues to rotate the puck over the Scandella, who takes a shot on goal.
In this example, Suter is the trigger man. He rotates out of the offensive so he can get his weight and momentum toward the net for a one timer that Mikael Granlund tees up for him. Ultimately, this shot was blocked because two Avalanche penalty killers got into the shooting lane. Other times, Suter will skate himself into a corner and is forced to dump the puck deep or let go a weak wrister from just inside the blue line.
Ryan Suter is a talented player no doubt, but his game just isn’t suited for the power play, let alone 1:30 of a two minute minor. He is unable to get his shot to the net, and isn’t making up for it by setting up his teammates by any substantial margin.
That said, Suter is a vital member of this team. The defense wouldn't be an organizational strength that it is without him a part of it. He's consistent and keeps himself healthy as an ox, aside from the Mumps a few seasons back. The thing is, we don't know own what the Wild would be like if they lost him to injury for an extended period of time. The Wild has been lucky to have such a workhorse.
But a power play defenseman he is not. With Suter's minutes reaching near 30 minutes per game, limiting his minutes with the man-advantage is not just an opportune time to reduce his minutes; it's an area he clearly is being surpassed by his defensive teammates.
So while there are thise that think its funny that Suter is ridiculed in comment sections on blogs or on the Star Tribune, I just have to laugh because "higher hockey circles" haven’t noticed that Suter on the power play is an issue.
All stats courtesy of Corsica.Hockey