Scott Stevens had the reputation of a tough-minded defenseman unafraid to make a big hit. The physical approach placed Stevens among the top 14 NHL all-time penalty minutes leaders, but was one of the reasons he’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The new Wild assistant coach won't expect his blue line to be heavy hitters like he once was, but he intends to remove any lingering perception that the Wild defense can be soft at times.
Stevens said Tuesday while being introduced to the media at Xcel Energy Center that the physical mindset is something you don’t learn. You either have it or you don’t. But he added that “You have to be able to use your body and be able to protect the puck and protect yourself. Yes, if you can make a hit, that’s important. But it’s kind of in your DNA if you’re a hitter.
“For me, sticks are very important; Sticks on the puck and using your body the right way to protect pucks. So hopefully we can bring those things to the young defense here.”
Matt Dumba was the lone defenseman whose name rolled off Stevens’ tongue while he considered the players that have extra physicality to their game. The new assistant coach, however, is most impressed with the group's speed and the mix of leadership and young talent.
“I believe there is a lot of depth on this team in defense,” Stevens said. “They all can skate. That’s important this day and age to have guys that can move their feet and skate, so that’s going to be very exciting. Breaking pucks out and joining the rush, helping the offense, we want to use our speed and we want to play fast obviously. We have a defense that is very mobile here.”
Stevens' goal is to find the right balance between speed and physicality.
“You want to be smart and make the hits at the right time,” he said. “Other than that, it’s important to stay on the puck and finish your check. It’s a balance, and when you have that opportunity to make a hit, we’ll make that hit or make a pin in the corner.”
Stevens said he looks forward to working with veteran defenseman Ryan Suter and labeled him a top 10 defenseman in the league. He also addressed the importance that the locker room leadership be on the same page, something the team reportedly struggled with last season.
“We all have to be pulling the rope and all in the right direction,” Stevens said. “That is so important to winning. I’m excited to work with the core group of this team.”