Suter and Parise Sign with the Wild. Should Canucks fans be Scared?

Patrick Johnston
July 04 2012 12:17PM

Over the course of this morning, speculation grew and grew that Minnesota would be the landing spot for coveted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Then it happened, leaving most Canucks fans to wake up and discover that Independence Day had been cancelled, and the Wild had stolen the show.

Parise and Suter are two players whose statistical influence matches the narrative that surrounds them; both are said to be fantastic hockey players, and the numbers back this up 100 per cent. They have played tough, tough minutes in their careers and have succeeded while doing so.

Do the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter make the Wild the Canucks' chief rival for Northwest Division supremacy? Let's have a look see...

Zach Parise

For some time, Zach Parise has been known around these parts as a player who has a very positive statistical influence on his team, and his impact on the Wild is going to be immense.

Minnesota is a team that famously - at least among the advanced stats set - defied the percentages last fall, blasting out of the gate to an excellent record. Excellent record aside, the underlying numbers indicated that the Wild's early season success was a mirage, a hilariously unsustainable fallacy. By the end of the season, it was obvious why the Wild had taken such a massive fall; every single number that is linked to possession said they were horrible.

How horrible? Let's put it this way, only one Wild forward had a positive Corsi0On: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (and he was only able to play 37 games!). Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen all had positive Corsi Rel, which tells you that they did have *some* talent on the roster, but on the whole, this was a team that bled shots against. For example, their most sheltered forward only started in the offensive zone 50% of the time, a clear indication that the puck lived in the Wild end during most of their games.

Zach Parise moves on from New Jersey, a team that has always had a strong defensive bent. Being a known top player, it's also probably not surprising that Parise saw the 4th toughest minutes on the Devils (behind Zubrus, Sykora and Elias) and posted the 3rd best Corsi Rel, at 4.2 (behind Sykora - 7.6 - and Elias - 5.7). Among all Devils forwards, only Ilya Kovalchuk played more minutes at even strength than Parise.

Assuming Parise is linked up with Koivu and Heatley, the Wild will be able to ice a first line that should have a positive impact on the game - even if Heatley's even-strength effectiveness has gone down the toilet in recent seasons. Hypothetically, that could go a long way towards tilting their horrendous possession numbers in a more positive direction.

Ryan Suter

An end-of-season analysis done over at NHL Numbers suggested that Suter and his partner Shea Weber were, if not the best, among the very best pairings in 2011-12. Playing very tough minutes and starting the majority of their shifts in the defensive zone, Suter and Weber still put up huge point totals and excellent possession numbers.

Suter's 7.3 Corsi Rel was actually slightly worse than Weber's, but Suter played slightly tougher minutes than Weber as well.

Moving from Nashville, a team that gave up more shots than it generated, to Minnesota, a team that absolutely bled shots against, Suter immediately becomes far and away their best defenceman. The biggest beneficiary for the Wild will be Tom Gilbert, probably, who put up decent enough numbers despite playing for two abysmal defensive squads in Edmonton and Minnesota. Gilbert could find himself paired with Suter, and if so, it will be interesting to see just how much Gilbert's numbers improve. If Gilbert is put on a different pairing, that will make two other players better - both the new partner (X) for Suter and Gilbert's partner (Y). X will benefit directly by playing with Suter, while Y will benefit from playing what you would expect to be slightly easier minutes with Gilbert, who is a high-quality rear guard in his own right.

Might players X and Y be Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella? It seems extremely likely, though don't count out Jonas Brodin, who should make the team next season. Scandella and Spurgeon put in decent work in very tough minutes last season, whereas Brodin may be the best defenseman not currently in the NHL. 

Conclusion

We know that both these players make Minnesota better, obviously. Positive ripple effects from these signings should be evident throughout the lineup. The fact is that both players do an outstanding job of driving possession when they are on the ice, and while they have one of the best prospect pools in the league, Minnesota desperately needed an infusion of NHL talent on their roster.

But the structural problems still remain in the Minnesota lineup, and will for a couple of years until the likes of Phillips, Granlund, Brodin, Dumba, Scandella and Spurgeon are ready to help them truly win. If the Wild are going to be a truly strong threat to the Canucks and the rest of the West, they need to actually, you know, hold onto the puck during their games. Their inability to do so sank their 2010-11 season, and even with Suter and Parise pushing them strongly in the right direction, there is still a lot of work left to do.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 Carson Baerg
July 04 2012, 12:31PM
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The want to win is there, and the Western Conference surely is buffed with contracts galore in the last week, but it's yet to be seen how big of a difference. I don't mind some better opposition - Wild games might be less drawl and more..."wild."

Que trombone slide.

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#2 Partho Ghosh
July 04 2012, 01:31PM
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Good Article, Minny got better and we have a tough time in their Arena, Luongo or no Luongo.

That being said, Adding Suter helps but there D is still lacking and the bottom line of defense is still lacking.

Backstrom sucks.

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#3 KleptoKlown
July 04 2012, 01:57PM
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I for one am thrilled the Wild got these guys. Every team in the NW has improved. Hopefully this means the Canucks won't coast through the regular season, and come playoff time are fighting with the rest of the teams for positioning. It's been hard for the Canucks to compete with teams in the playoffs who had spent the last 2 months treating every regular season game like a playoff game. Hopefully it makes them a bit more battle hard come playoffs...

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#4 BW
July 04 2012, 02:55PM
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Considering I watch hockey to be entertained, I'm stoked that the NW will be better this year! Always good to have star power, and now the EDM, COL, and MIN are getting more exciting, thats great from a fan perspective.

Don't see how you can not like it, even if it shaves points off the Canucks.

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#5 YoungOil
July 04 2012, 03:48PM
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BW wrote:

Considering I watch hockey to be entertained, I'm stoked that the NW will be better this year! Always good to have star power, and now the EDM, COL, and MIN are getting more exciting, thats great from a fan perspective.

Don't see how you can not like it, even if it shaves points off the Canucks.

Funny. The flames are not in that list. I would say they have improved reasonably (not very much but kind of). Yes, they don't have the star power, per se, but they are also getting a bit more exciting to watch but still suck on paper. no?

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#6 stinkpickle
July 04 2012, 03:50PM
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Pretty obvious statement regarding the quality of Wild hockey over the last decade when a division rival's fans are stoked to finally see some competition. I'm happy for the fans in Minnesota.

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#7 Unknown Comic
July 04 2012, 04:29PM
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Let's not forget realignment will be a part of the upcoming CBA negotiations and it's likely the 4 new conferences turned down by the players for next season will begin play in 2013-14. There will be no more Northwest division or western conference and Minnesota will be linked to the midwest teams and not Vancouver..

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#8 BW
July 04 2012, 04:43PM
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YoungOil wrote:

Funny. The flames are not in that list. I would say they have improved reasonably (not very much but kind of). Yes, they don't have the star power, per se, but they are also getting a bit more exciting to watch but still suck on paper. no?

Can't really see how the Flames have improved. Lost Jokinen and picked up Hudler seems like a wash. Have they done more?

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#9 Copperblueandwhite
July 04 2012, 05:03PM
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"Can't really see how the Flames have improved. Lost Jokinen and picked up Hudler seems like a wash. Have they done more?"

They upped Corey Sarich...well, that's something isn't it?

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#10 Trevor
July 04 2012, 06:25PM
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@YoungOil

I'd say these signings were way worse for the Flames than the Canucks. There is nooooo way they're making the playoffs now.

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#11 puck-bandit
July 04 2012, 09:30PM
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Nothing would please me more than to have a higher compete level for Vancouver. Without all the excuses, being put out in the 1st round, for whatever reasons there were. I'm happy for Minny fans to have a couple of guy's that will help build some team confidence, and vital team spirit.

Some people have got it in their head that 2 players alone are going to single handedly pulverize the entire division. Minny management still has got their work cut out for them, and not much left in the kitty to do the rest. Regardless; those teams in our division that give us a run this season may be what we need to stay motivated for the big prize. They were huge signings today, and I was truly pleased that 2 players got closer to home and family, and the big payday.

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#12 Smokey
July 05 2012, 02:48PM
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It's a good thing Parise has never scored any big goals against either of the Canucks' goalies...oh wait.

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