ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ryan Suter’s first season with the Minnesota Wild has earned him the recognition as one of the league’s top defensemen.
Suter, 28, was named one of the three finalists Tuesday for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the league’s best defenseman. Suter led the NHL this season by averaging 27 minutes, 16 seconds of ice time. He was second among all defensemen with 28 assists and was third with 32 points.
“It’s a huge honor for me,” Suter said after the morning skate Tuesday prior to Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks. “I feel very fortunate to be on that list. It says a lot about our team and the guys that I play with.”
Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Montreal’s P.K. Subban are the other two finalists. Letang and Subban tied for the lead among defensemen with 38 points. Letang had a defensemen-high 33 assists. Subban had 11 goals, second-highest among defenseman.
Suter was able to distance himself from the shadow of his defensive partner, Shea Weber, in Nashville when he signed a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Wild. Weber and Suter traditionally formed one of the league’s top defensive duos. Weber got a lot of the credit, but Suter was able to show his game while in Minnesota and being paired with rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin.
Suter’s time on ice average set a new franchise record and he led the Wild in blocked shots too. He had 10 games this season of at least 30 minutes played.
“There was no concern on our part,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said of Suter playing without Weber. “Obviously Shea is a tremendous hockey player, but that’s how highly we respected Ryan and his abilities. We knew that there was going to be a bit of an adjustment period; new system, new teammates, new partner.
“There was a lot of things for him to get used to and to sit here and say his first 10 games weren’t great, well, really he adjusted relatively quickly if you think about all those things. Obviously, once he really started to get on top of his game, it was clear the effect it had on the rest of our team.”
The Wild were 18-3-3 when Suter registered a point and 15-1-1 when he finished the game with a plus-rating.
Suter brought immense expectations with him to Minnesota, due in part to his big contract and that he was considered the top defenseman in free agency last summer. But Suter doesn’t see being in the conversation for the Norris Trophy as living up to his advanced billing.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Suter said. “I look at it as our team had a good year. With all my teammates, I’m not going to be on that list. Playing with Jonas (Brodin), he’s a good young player. It’s kind of a shame that he didn’t get nominated for the Calder (for the league’s rookie of the year). I don’t look at it personally. I couldn’t have done it without a great team and great goaltending, just the whole package.”