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Bruce Boudreau's minute balancing should boost Wild defense

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The Minnesota Wild hope that Bruce Boudreau can optimize the deployment of their talented defense group.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the tangible issues fans had with Mike Yeo, deployment of his players always seemed to top the charts. Nowhere was this more apparent than with the minute-disbursements on defense. Playing Ryan Suter for 29 minutes a game does not come without ramifications. Those extra minutes are coming off of another players total, and under Yeo that meant the bottom pairing played very limited minutes. A top-heavy defensive deployment is a fine strategy in the playoffs which are more a sprint, but in the regular season, is it any wonder the Wild seemed to run out of gas midway through every season?

Enter Bruce Boudreau, with the highest regular season win percentage of any coach. The deployment of his defense in Anaheim couldn't be further from what we saw with the Wild under Yeo. While the Ducks top minute guy Cam Fowler may not be Ryan Suter, the gap in their talent level does not warrant a six minute disparity of time on ice per game. Clearly there is a philosophical difference between Boudreau and Yeo. Boudreau consistently divvied out balanced ice time for his defenders, an approach that's difficult to argue with considering his regular season record.

The major difference in the two coaches is that Boudreau's bottom pairing consistently played around 16 minutes, while Yeo's bottom pairing clocked in anywhere from 10-13 minutes. That's a massive difference in total time played over the course of a season. A difference that effects not only fatigue, but development of those bottom pairing guys who are usually younger, less experienced players.

Minutes Per Game Difference Between Most and Least Played Defenseman (minimum 200 minutes)

Season

Yeo

Boudreau

2012-13


12:58

5:01

2013-14


15:47

7:59

2014-15


15:46

5:05

2015-16


16:59

8:34

Average

15:23

6:40

Even if  Suter is removed from the equation, Yeo still averaged a difference of around eight minutes from his second most played defender to his least played defender per game.

One of the major positives about Boudreau is that he allowed young defenders Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen to step in at a very young age and play significant roles by playing them for 20 minutes and 18 minutes per game, respectively.  Compare that to Matt Dumba, drafted one spot behind Lindholm, who averaged just under 15 minutes per game in his first season, and Mike Reilly who played 12 minutes per game. It's pretty hard to develop consistency as a young player when your coach doesn't even come close to giving you consistent minutes.

The Wild roster undoubtedly has some gaping, black holes at forward, but their defense is one of the top groups in the league. Great coaches play to the strengths of their roster, and with the Wild, that strength is a deep and talented blue line. Having six defenseman who are playing at 100% energy every shift is something this team hasn't seen in quite some time. The hope is players like Reilly and Dumba find consistency with new-found trust under Boudreau, and in turn, push Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella to better their game. Everybody wants the Wild to be more effective offensively, and with this team, that starts on the back-end. Boudreau's deployment of his defenseman could very well be the catalyst for an offensive resurgence.