“I believe it’s tougher for a defenseman in general,” Parise said. “Learning the D-zone coverage, it’s easy for a winger — you’re just high or low, in the slot or not. For a D-man, it’s tougher, plus he played with a pretty good partner in Nashville.”
Suter is a cerebral player with immense skill and “compete,” so Fletcher says it was only a matter of time. It also helps that he may be playing with a younger version of himself — 19-year-old partner Jonas Brodin.
Picture of poise
Coach Mike Yeo said Suter does so many subtle things on the ice that lead to big things, it’s remarkable. Suter’s calming demeanor has become contagious, Yeo says, and his poise with the puck continually leads to smooth exits and quick transitions.
“You think how much of the game is played in the neutral zone, just kind of like a ping-pong ball back and forth,” Parise said. “When you can get a flat pass in stride, it’s a tough thing for a D-man to do, but he’s got the ability to do that, to get you going, to lead you forward and put it flat on your tape so you don’t have to take that extra second trying to settle it down.
“That’s a small thing, but that’s the difference between just tipping a puck in or carrying it on a rush.”
Fletcher said Suter has also allowed the Wild’s other defensemen to be slotted into roles more suited for them and the team to be successful. He says the big reason for the Wild’s improvement this season is it has the puck more, meaning it spends less time in its zone. He attributes that to all the defensemen, particularly Suter and Brodin.
Suter is just glad those dog days of January and early February are behind him.
“I heard a lot of negativity. I don’t listen to the radio. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t read the paper. But when people text you every second, ‘Hang in there,’ you know something’s going on,” Suter said, laughing. “I knew it was going to be difficult. It’s gotten better, and I still think it’ll get a lot better than this.”
Suter is a quiet guy, but Parise sensed how much the tough adjustment was eating at Suter.
“But now you can tell the confidence he’s playing with,” Parise said. “Around the locker room, it’s not like he was pouting, but seeing him now, you can tell he feels a lot better.”