Monday November 30th, 2015

Ryan Suter got a new defense partner on Monday morning. And the Minnesota Wild star is not happy about the change.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” Suter said after learning that he’d be reunited with Jonas Brodin, his partner for much of the past two seasons. “I need to play with a right handed defenseman.”

Although it may come off that way, it's not necessarily a shot at Brodin, who has struggled mightily this season since being taken from Suter's side. But it’s clearly a shot at somebody. And that’s a poor decision on his part.

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It’s one thing for Suter to voice his displeasure in private. After all, most defensemen are more comfortable playing with a partner who shoots the opposite way, so it’s no surprise that he’d prefer to play with someone like the right-handed Jared Spurgeon as he has for much of this season.

But opening up in front of the team’s beat writers seems like a calculated strategy to embarrass either head coach Mike Yeo for making the change ... or perhaps to light a fire under Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to bring in another rightie like, say, Travis Hamonic of the Islanders.

And if that is the case, Suter might have a point, but it’s obscured by his lousy sense of timing. The Wild are mired in their annual midseason freefall, having dropped three straight and six of their past seven, and they now sit fifth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference. There’s not a lot of room for error in the Central. This, then, is a moment to start circling the wagons, not dousing them with gasoline and tossing matches.

Especially for a player who is wearing an A.

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Suter, of course, is in a unique situation. He’s the Wild’s star player and in just the fourth season of an unmovable 13-year, $98 million deal. That affords him considerable leverage, possibly even more than Yeo, who always seems to be on shaky ground. Suter can make his voice heard in ways that most players can’t.

But that doesn’t mean he should.

Whatever frustration he’s feeling right now may be valid, but both Yeo and Fletcher have bigger issues to deal with. Minnesota’s defense, traditionally a team strength, has been miserable this season. It’s allowing 2.77 goals per game and is ranked 20th in the league. And so if the coach decides that this move will kickstart Brodin and result in a more effective group overall, he has to make it and trust that winning will soothe Suter’s whining.

And Fletcher? If there’s a deal to be made for Hamonic, you can bet he’s doing more than kicking the tires. But if something happens, it will be entirely on his own terms ... and on his own timetable.

In the meantime, Suter, who averages 28:01 of ice time per game to lead the league, needs to focus on some other way to help the Wild get their season back on track. Because complaining about his partner won’t get it done.

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