With the season over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Ryan Suter.
|2010 - Ryan Suter||70||4||35||39||20||54||1||0||1||115||3.5|
Ryan Suter's report card was written by Mark Willoughby of The View From 111, a loyal Nashville Predators season ticket holder whose blog often provides keen insight into the mindset of professional athletes and coaches, and the motivational aspect of team performance...
The Skinny: Ryan Suter is often referred to as Robin, trusty sidekick to Shea Weber as Batman. While a fun comparison, a more accurate one might be that Suter is the Brad Pitt character Rusty Ryan to George Clooney's Danny Ocean in Ocean's 11. The rationale for this? Weber, like Danny Ocean, is able to pull off some amazing feats that would not have happened without a competent partner like Suter. While Weber gets the notoriety for the big shot, the booming hit, and the level of snarl that he brings to the ice, Suter is like Rusty Ryan, slick, intelligent, very good at what he does, and essential to a successful operation. This was never more evident than when Suter was out of the lineup for 11 games after suffering a knee injury early in the season against Calgary. The overall defensive effort suffered, and in particular, Weber was affected by the loss of his regular partner, going a -7 over that stretch. Rusty, uh, Suter, possesses excellent vision and is a deft puck handler, often carrying the puck into the offensive zone which complements the game of his defensive partner, and works the point on the number one power play unit. The aspect of Suter's game that stood out to me this past season was his ability to be bring a more physical component to his game. He was tough in the corners in the defensive zone and while he will not deliver the thundering hits of Danny, I mean Weber, was solid on his checks. For me, this was the component of his game that needed to improve and catch up to his other skills, and this season demonstrated that it had done so.
The Performance: Suter's +20 lead the team in overall +/- ratings, but that statistic is one dimensional. Suter drew the hardest minutes, nearly always matched against an opponent's top line and usually on the first penalty kill unit. This speaks to not only the confidence the coaches have in his game, but in his ability to clamp down on the scoring threats from the opponent. Suter is consistently solid in the defensive zone, recording only one season with a negative +/- since coming to the NHL.
While Suter is not the scoring threat as his partner on the blue line, he has emerged as a quality set up man. His 35 assists were a team best in 2011, and follow efforts of 33 in 2010 and 38 in 2009. Suter's best season for goals was the 2006-7 season, with 8, and his career season average is 5.1. With Suter manning the point on the power play, he is able to distribute the puck and create scoring opportunities effectively. Nearly half of Suter's assists, 16, came on the power play.
The defensive effort is where Suter's skill and level of play really shines. Suter averaged 25:12 in ice time, again hard minutes against the top lines of the opposing team. Yet despite the quality of competition and the minutes played, Suter totaled 54 minutes in the box for the season. The lack of penalty minutes is a commentary on the ability of Suter to play sound positional hockey and his skating ability. He is rarely caught out of position and forced to take a penalty because he is not moving his feet, and has been a hallmark of his game. This season, Suter was able to add a more physical element to his game. Suter recorded 63 hits this season, a 20% increase over the previous season total of 51. While Suter will probably never be known for the teeth rattling hits like his partner, the addition of a stronger physical element only adds to the quality of his game.
The intangibles that Suter brings to the ice are his steady demeanor and his quiet leadership. Rarely does one see Suter get rattled or lose his cool in a game situation, and that steady influence permeates the team. His leadership off the ice is solid and he has the respect of his teammates, as evidenced by the "A" on his sweater.
The Grade: For Suter, his consistency is both good and bad, at least for him personally. He is dependable and steady on the blue line and has emerged as a defenseman that is quickly - and quietly - moving to "elite" status in the league. It is that quiet efficiency that is bad for Suter and achieving personal accolades. He does his job so well that many do not give him the credit he is due. However, I will give this blue line stalwart an A.