When Ryan Suter signed a 13-year contract with the Minnesota Wild on the Fourth of July anticipation in the State of Hockey was sky high. In his first season with the organization, the defenseman has exceeded expectations, anchoring a young blue line and leading the Wild to its first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in five years.
Suter had one of the most productive seasons from the blue line in team history and has been named the franchise’s first finalist for the Norris Trophy, given annually “to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.”
The former Wisconsin Badger stepped into the locker room and immediately became a leader for a young defensive unit. Playing in all 48 games, Suter led the NHL in time-on-ice with an average of 27:13 TOI, including 10 games of 30 minutes or more.
“I just tell everybody I’m a good glider,” Suter joked on May 1, coming the day after playing 41:08 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks. “You don’t think about it. I enjoy playing a lot of minutes and I feel the more you play the more you’re into the game.”
Not only was he second in the league in assists (28) and third in points (4-28=32) at his position during the season, he has been a major factor in the development of many of his fellow blueliners, primarily rookie Jonas Brodin.
Brodin and Suter have been the Wild’s top defensive pairing much of the season and draw the responsibility of shutting down the opponent’s best offensive players.
“I was just used to playing against him so I didn’t know how it feels to play behind him, but he’s playing 20-plus, 30 minutes of solid hockey every night,” Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom said. “I think he shows all the other guys how to play.”
In the playoffs, Suter has been logging even more minutes, averaging close to 33 minutes of ice time in three games. Much of his ice time is against the Blackhawks’ first line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, who have been limited to two points in the series.
Suter’s impact is felt on special teams as well. He quarterbacks the power play and provides a calm passing presence, which allows the other Wild players to get into scoring areas.
The 6-foot-1 blueliner is essential in the Wild’s transition game, starting rushes with long neutral zone passes and is rarely caught out of position on defense. He uses his positioning and body to match up against opposing players.
“[Suter has a] huge impact in so many areas,” Parise said. “The assists are the first one you’re going to look toward, but the leadership and the poise he has in certain situations … especially late in games. Instead of just whacking the puck away and hoping to get rid of it, he’s going to make a play. That sort of thing is contagious for the rest of the group.”
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association submitted ballots for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, with more detail on format to be released at a later date. The James Norris Memorial Trophy was presented in 1953 by the four children of the late James Norris in memory of the former owner-president of the Detroit Red Wings.
Montreal's P.K. Subban and Pittsburgh's Kris Letang were named the other finalists for the 2013 Norris Trophy.
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