As a follow-up to a post I made earlier this week, Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo spoke at the Minnesota State Fair recently, and hinted at what his defensive pairings would look like to start training camp.
Yeo will pair newly acquired Ryan Suter with blooming offensive defensiveman Jared Spurgeon on the top pair, with former Edmonton Oiler Tom Gilbert and Marco Scandella skating together as the second pair. Clayton Stoner will be paired with any combination of Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, and Jonas Brodin to round out the top six.
The first thing that stands out to me is that splitting up Spurgeon and Scandella runs counter to the strategy that Yeo used last year of keeping the two young defensemen on the same pair, as he had when he coached them in Houston in the AHL. However, I think putting Spurgeon with Suter on the top line could really jump start the offensive of a team that was among the bottom of the league in goals and shots for last year. Suter and Spurgeon would be spending a lot of time together, as that pairing would certainly be on the Wild’s first power play unit as well.
The extent to which Scandella develops into a two-way player will go a long way to determining the Wild’s depth on the blue line. He showed flashes of great offensive play last year, and is not shy to jump into the rush or pinch low to keep the play in the offensive zone, which means that Gilbert’s stay-at-home style could make for a good complement.
As always, the lines in training camp do not always carry over into the season, and if Yeo decides to split up Spurgeon and Suter, the Wild could have two defensive pairings that could both be effective at getting the blueliners involved in the offensive.