Playing second fiddle suits Suter

Predators defenceman Ryan Suter takes a swipe at the puck during a game against the Flames in...

Predators defenceman Ryan Suter takes a swipe at the puck during a game against the Flames in Calgary, Alta., March 6, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:11 PM ET

NASHVILLE - If you're north of the Canada-U.S. border and discussing the great defenceman for the Nashville Predators, almost every hockey fan will figure the topic is Shea Weber.

Ryan Suter becomes an afterthought.

Suter sure makes one heck of a second fiddle, although he's OK with being overlooked.

"I like it that way. Don't say anything," he said with a smile. "I don't like the attention.

"Peks (goalie Pekka Rinne) and Webby get a lot of it, and that's fine with me."

Rinne is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender, while Weber is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman, so it's understandable they are the most noticed Predators.

However, Suter, who was selected seventh overall -- two slots ahead of Dion Phaneuf -- in the uber-talented 2003 draft, has shown during his team's series with the Vancouver Canucks to be every bit as important as Weber.

"Ryan is the quarterback of this team. Weber is the guy you hand the ball to," colour analyst and former NHL coach Terry Crisp said. "When you want to get out of trouble and need somebody to make something happen, you go to Ryan."

But Crisp has seen something like this before, with the same surname involved.

As coach of the Calgary Flames when they won the 1989 Stanley Cup, Crisp watched Gary Suter -- Ryan's uncle -- in the same spot on a team which had Al MacInnis as the defenceman on the marquee.

"I don't know Ryan as well as Gary, but they're similar on and off the ice," Crisp said. "He's a lot like his uncle.

"Gary was very quiet, but when you got to know him and he was around his teammates, he had a great sense of humour.

"You could never get under Sutes' skin. He was very calm. I was sort of an aggressive coach, a loud coach sometimes, but that never seemed to bother Suter's game. He just did what he had to do.

"Suter had a hell of a shot. Everybody thought of Al MacInnis, but Suter, in his own right, could hammer it."

Heading into Monday night's Game 6 against the Canucks, Ryan Suter had one goal, five assists and a plus-3 rating in the playoffs.

Considering he and Weber are the go-to defence pairing when the opposing top players are on the ice, being on the plus side of the ledger is a big deal to the 26-year-old.

It's an indicator of a job well done and not always noticed.

"All year, we've done good things here -- not just me, our whole team -- and there are a lot of guys on this team I wouldn't say are underrated but not noticed," he said. "I think all year we've been doing it that way and it has worked."

At this rate, though, Suter's value won't remain something of a secret.

The more success the Predators have over the years, the more Suter will become noticed, too.

"It's not our fault he flies under the radar because we know exactly what he does," Weber said. "He really makes our defence go. He does everything."

Soon enough, more and more attention will rain down on Suter.

Coach Barry Trotz believes Weber and Suter both will receive their due some day and be chosen the NHL's best defenceman.

"I don't know if that has ever happened where a pair of young guys drafted the same year by the same organization that played together would ever win a Norris Trophy," Trotz said. "But I think they are both very capable."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


Videos

Photos