To get the most out of their $196 million investment, there are a number of ways that the Minnesota Wild can use new superstars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to benefit the team in all three zones on the ice.
Since both are a complete package of offensive skills, the power play is the obvious place where Parise and Suter will get an opportunity to help the Wild.
When the Wild go on the power play, expect Suter to spend plenty of time patrolling the blue line. His ability to to make pinpoint passes to set up goal-scoring chances will help the multitude of scorers that Minnesota will have available for its power play units this year.
Suter's patience, ability to skate the length of the blue line and examine when the right time is to fire the puck on net will be a real asset for the Wild. Expect Suter to be more aggressive on the power play this season now that he won't have Shea Weber as his defense partner.
Weber took many of the shots from the point last season on the Nashville Predators power play because he can fire pucks on net at well over 100 mph. The Wild should give Suter the green light to shoot from the blue line this season, which may help him set a new career high in goals scored.
When Suter and Parise were on the power play last season, their teams scored 81 goals when they were on the ice (45 for Suter, 36 for Parise).
Defensively, Suter will be on the ice for 20-plus minutes each game and give the Wild consistent defensive play. Suter was 10th in defensive point shares last season. Without an elite goaltender, the team will need to defend well to win games in a division with a lot of offensive firepower.
Head coach Mike Yeo will need to play the matchup game and make sure that Suter is one the ice to defend against the top lines that the Wild will face. For example, whenever the Wild play division foes the Vancouver Canucks, expect to see Suter on the ice whenever the Sedin twins hop over the boards.
For Suter's new defense partner on the top pairing, Yeo should place Tom Gilbert or Justin Falk alongside him. Falk is a young player who would really benefit from having an elite veteran like Suter skating next to him. Both of them are good skaters and have impressive athleticism.
Even though he can score 40-plus goals, Parise is at his best when he concentrates on being a force in all areas of the ice. This won't change in Minnesota. Parise will definitely play a prominent role on the power play, but some of his greatest strengths are the the tenacity and high work rate he shows in the defensive zone and on the forecheck.
Expect Parise and Suter to also be part of the Wild's penalty kill. Without a ton of strong defensive players, the Wild should use both of these players when the team needs to kill a penalty.
When constructing his offensive game plan, Yeo should start the former New Jersey Devils captain alongside center Mikko Koivu, who will benefit greatly from having a goal scorer like Parise alongside him. Koivu will help Parise reach the 40-goal mark for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
To get the most out of Parise and Suter, the Wild need to give them the most ice time possible in situations where they can use their strengths. For Suter, it's on the power play, and for Parise, it's at even strength. There isn't a situation where either player would be a liability, which is what makes them great players.
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