Mathew Dumba has played in his ninth game at the NHL level this season, meaning that the Minnesota Wild must now determine what to do with him. They can either send him back to the junior level for further development, or keep him in the NHL while burning a year off of his entry level contract.
While it’s easy to make this kind of choice with a guy like Nathan MacKinnon or Aleksander Barkov, the choice isn’t quite so clear cut for the Wild when it comes to Dumba. He’s shown the ability to play well on the blue line, but he’s also been susceptible to breakdowns in his own zone.
And not because he pinched at the wrong time or came out on the wrong side of an all-in play—something that happened to Dumba frequently in the juniors. He’s just been downright beaten on several plays that have lead directly to goals against.
Things like that are bound to happen to a young defenseman. It’s arguably the most nuanced position in all of sports, and it takes mostly everyone a few years to get their bearings in the NHL. It’s easy to forget now, but Erik Karlsson was a minus-30 the year before he erupted for 78 points en route to winning the Norris Trophy.
It’s just a matter of where the Wild want Dumba making his mistakes and growing from them.
At this stage in his career, it’d be most beneficial to come back to an NHL bench after getting beat by a player like Patrick Kane to have a talk with an NHL-level coach. If Minnesota wants to have more of a say in how he develops as a player and a person, they need to keep him.
Even if he doesn’t play every night, Dumba should be learning the ropes in the best pro league in the world from here on out. There will be some growing pains and he hasn’t seen his last game from the press box, but in the long run it’s what is best for Dumba and his development as a player.