All it took was a global pandemic for the Minnesota Wild blue line to break up and allow some younger players a chance to flaunt their stuff in the big league. Calen Addison is set to make his NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings after a couple key figures remain either injured or on the league’s COVID protocol list.
Not making light of the situation—sprinkling “oh God, we’re in hell” vibes anytime I discuss the absences throughout the lineup—but forcing the 20-year-old blueliner into a major role for his first game, just weeks after making his first regular start in professional hockey, can be beneficial.
And you get to make some special moments along the way.
“This is really a lifelong dream come true,” Addison told the media on Monday. “I’ve waited almost 21 years for this. For it to come true and for that to be happening tomorrow is something special. I’m thankful they believe in me enough to put me in and give me that chance.”
As for what Addison can do on the ice, he provides a completely different dynamic we’re simply not used to seeing on the esteemed Minnesota back end.
“We expect him to do what he does,” head coach Dean Evason told media on Monday. ‘Talked to him today about just simplifying his game. Doesn’t have to do too much. Doesn’t have to be Jared Spurgeon out there. He has to be Calen Addison.”
Addison is simply an ultra-offensive player to have on the blue line, like Evason alludes to. Comfortable joining the rush, making spin moves in the other team’s zone, shooting lasers from the back, and creating another form of offense; the youngster is something we haven’t experienced. For so long, the Wild have had an established defensively-responsible blue line with little wiggle room for any newcomer to break through and provide something else. And while Matt Dumba—who is making his return from injury on Tuesday—has historically been a significant provider on offense, his main role is to get in between the opposing forwards and the puck whenever possible.
The same goes for Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and Spurgeon. These are players that can give some of that offensive give, but their reputation for all-defense players is warranted. In Addison, they have this new sort of dynamism that has not existed for some time; a player that is more comfortable with the puck on his stick rather than laying down some body on his own blue line. Something that has been sorely lacking, if you ask me. While every player in the Wild’s existing top-four is capable of doing these things, it sure sounds like Evason is willing to let Addison run wild and get involved in the play like he normally does. A breath of fresh air for a group of defenseman that has certainly been the main reason for some of the Wild’s recent success, but has grown to be stale and predictable.
Minnesota appears to be the last team willing to take a gamble on some offensive stud for a role on the blue line, within good reason, but they’re certainly rolling some dice letting him play big minutes in his debut.
It might end up horribly with some weaker-than-normal defensive effort, or it might get us jumping out of our seat as he makes an end-to-end rush for a primary assists; it’s all up in the air but it’s some movement forward for a team that needs some creative juice.