Keith with 3 Stanley Cups is a lock for the hall of fame, Pominville, Hainsey, Spezza, Plekanec have all had long successful careers but maybe aren’t the best candidates for the hall. Suter, on the other hand, is a curious case as far as HHOF selections go.
Suter started his NHL career with the Nashville Predators after being drafted 7th overall in the 2003 draft (maybe the greatest draft of all time). He made the jump into the NHL at age 21 in the 05-06 season playing 71 games scoring 1 goal and 15 assists, finishing 15th in Calder voting.
Suter would only continue to hone his craft and become one of the leagues elite all-around defensemen. By the end of the 08-09 season, Suter had (at the time) a career-high 45 points, playing in all 82 games for the Predators, nearly increasing his production by 300% since stepping into the league. It was also the beginning of his career as a heavy minute muncher, averaging over 24 minutes a game. Suter has only logged less than 24 minutes TOI in one season since then, in 09-10 when he averaged 23:59 a game, close enough.
After an impressive seven year tenure in Nashville, it was time for Suter to step out from the shadow of Shea Weber. He did just that, earning a massive contract in Minnesota, 13 years – 98 million (25 million of which was signing bonuses).
While the lockout in 12-13, shortened his 1st season with the Wild, Suter played in all 48 games that year scoring four goals and 28 assists finishing 2nd in voting, the closest he’s ever come.
The next year Suter was once again in the Norris discussion, this time finishing 4th in the voting, in a year where he played an average of 29:25 a game. Superb offensive numbers have been the only missing link for Suter to transcend from an elite defender with offensive upside to an all-around top 5 defensemen in the NHL. While he may never put up the same point totals as Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns, it doesn’t mean that Suter isn’t elite. Twice in his career, he has eclipsed the 50 point plateau and with 12 points in his first 13 games this season, Suter is on pace to set career highs in both goals (9) and assists (45).
Although Suter has never won the Norris Trophy, he has been one of the most consistent defensemen in the NHL for nearly a decade, finishing in the top 15 for Norris voting every year for the past nine seasons. Suter is also a classic example of why the NHL needs more than one award for defensemen, one for defensive defensemen, less reliant upon you being in the top 5 in points that season, but that’s a debate for another day.
At age 34, Suter seems to be ageing like fine wine, only getting better with time. But at 34, you have to start wondering how much gas is left in the big man’s tank?
Including this season, Suter, has seven years left on the deal he signed back in 2012, so one would naturally assume that means he’s playing seven more seasons, yes? No … the way Suter’s contract is structured this year and next he will make 9 million AAV, in 20-21 that dips to 8 million, in 21-22 he’ll make 6 million, and then the final three years of his deal he’ll only make a combined 4 million.
For my money Suter will play four more years (including this season) and here’s a look at his potential numbers if that is indeed the case.
In 1004 games, Suter has 78 goals and 427 assists, that’s 505 points good for just over .50 points per game, or in an 82 game season, 41 points.
Continuing at that pace, if healthy, Suter, could potentially score another 151 points bringing his career total to over 650 points in over 1300 NHL contests. That would place Suter 29th all-time in points among defensemen passing Randy Carlyle (647) and 18th in games, ahead of Sergei Gonchar (1301). Neither of whom is in the Hall of Fame yet, though the latter, Gonchar is almost a lock to be inducted into the 2019 class.
The numbers look to be in Suter’s favour, enough to make a good case anyways but it might start to fall apart once you look into his playoff success, or lack there of.
For his career, Suter has made the post-season 10 of 14 years but has never made it past the 2nd-round. In 78 playoff games, he has six goals and 23 assists, well below his PPG average for the regular season.
A big part of that is the different animal that playoff hockey is. The hits are harder, the shifts feel longer, and the defence is tightened up. And that’s what they ask of Suter himself. In 5 of his ten appearances in the postseason he has averaged over 28 minutes TOI and after an 82 game regular season those minutes can feel like an eternity, especially while playing banged up and against teams top lines.
The Wild, again, looks to be a playoff bubble team, playing in a division that boasts both the Predators and Jets, two of the finest clubs in the NHL right now. Even if Minnesota does make the playoffs after missing the dance last season, having to go through either one of those teams, if not both, does not bode well for the Wild. I don’t think anyone is picking them to win the cup this year or anytime soon and that will hamper Suter’s chances at the HHOF.
There are quite a few notable players to not win a Stanley Cup and still make the hall of fame, most recently Paul Kariya of the 2018 class and Eric Lindros of the 2017 class. The list only goes on, so if Suter never wins a cup he still does have a shot at the Hall, it just might take longer. But if Suter finishes his career in Minnesota and never even reaches the conference finals, it might get even harder.
Obviously, the selection committee isn’t going to hold playing on lacklustre teams against players. Stanley Cups aside though, without any NHL hardware other than an Olympic Silver medal, Suter is going to spend a long time in line for the HHOF and whether or not he’ll get it in is yet to be decided.