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Post-season Send Off: Matt Dumba

Defenseman and alternate captain overcame a devastating late-season injury to return in time for the playoffs

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

It was clear something was wrong from the moment Wild defenseman Matt Dumba bowled into Nashville Predators forward Michael McCarron in a game at Bridgestone Arena on April 5.

With the Wild trailing by a pair of goals four minutes into the second period, Dumba did what he often does; stepped up his physical play in an effort to send a charge through the Wild bench. 

This time, he stepped into the 6-foot-6, 235-pound McCarron and leveled him with a hit that sent the big man airborne. 

Dumba was called for an interference minor ... but was immediately in boatloads of pain as he winced in obvious discomfort before heading down the tunnel.

It was announced as an upper-body injury, but in the aftermath of Minnesota's six-game First Round playoff loss to the St. Louis Blues, Dumba said it was far more complicated than that.

"I punctured my lung, dislocated one of my ribs, broke another," Dumba said. "It was tough to go through."

Video: Season wrap up: Dumba and Middleton

Knowing that, it's remarkable that Dumba was able to return to the lineup less than a month later, returning for the final game of the regular season against Colorado just 24 days after sustaining the injuries, then playing in all six postseason contests -- all the while being perhaps the Wild's most consistent, effective blueliner in the series. 

Remarkable, but not exactly surprising, for a guy who has morphed into one of the Wild's emotional locker room leaders and one who just finished up his first season as an alternate captain. 

"I think a lot of people think Matt is a lot bigger than he really is," said Wild General Manager Bill Guerin. "But he plays so hard, like he plays hard. The way he sacrifices his body and just goes all-in every game, it takes a toll... It takes a toll."

Dumba has been a staple on the team's power play for years, but his injuries prevented him from being a factor there in the postseason. His absence showed, as the Wild converted just 16.7 percent of its power-play chances into goals.

The Blues had a 30.8 percent success rate, with that difference serving as a major deciding factor in the series.

Video: MIN@STL, Gm6: Dumba cranks heavy one-timer into twine 

"You have to make decisions and we needed him 5-on-5 more than anything," Guerin said. "We could sacrifice some of the special teams stuff, or at least the PP stuff, because we needed him 5-on-5 and on the PK so bad."

Dumba felt miserable in the immediate aftermath of the injury, but from the beginning set the goal of returning in time to help his team for the playoffs. 

It wasn't an easy ask.

"I was going to play no matter what. I really wanted to push to have one game in before. We wanted to give it a test run," Dumba said. "Thanks to our staff working with me every day or I wouldn't have been able to come back at the rate that I did and even play. Those guys pushed me knowing I wanted to get back and help this team in whatever capacity because it's just so much fun to be a part of."

Now one of Minnesota's most tenured players on the roster, at least in terms of his time with the Wild, Dumba just wrapped up his eighth full season in the league and ninth overall. 

Video: MIN@STL, Gm4: Dumba makes skate save in behind Fleury

At 27 years old, Dumba has matured into one of the most popular teammates in the team's dressing room, as evidenced by the trust placed in him when he was awarded an 'A' on his sweater prior to the season. 

His contributions in the room and in his various charitable endeavors -- he was awarded the King Clancy Trophy in 2020 for his efforts in the Twin Cities community -- are well-known. His pre-game speech denouncing racism in the Edmonton bubble garnered him worldwide attention, but he's done more than just talked the talk. 

He's walked the walk in that regard too, serving as one of the co-founders of the Hockey Diversity Alliance as well as donating his time and money to efforts in Minnesota to make a difference.

His experiences the last couple of years helped transform him as a leader on the team and made him very comfortable in his own skates.

"Just being myself. I think that's the beautiful part about our group and the boys. We want to create [an atmosphere] in the room where you can truly be yourself and feel comfortable coming to the rink and going to work every day with some of your best buddies," Dumba said. "It's pretty awesome and we're very fortunate.

"Just having genuine conversations with each other and getting to know each other on a more personal level and understanding how each other tick. I think that's gone a long way for all of us."

Video: PHI@MIN: Dumba shovels feed in slot far side

With another offseason underway, and the seemingly constant threat of potential trades already swirling, it's perhaps that more than any offensive or defensive contribution that will help cement Dumba's legacy with the Wild.

Dumba wants to see the transformation through to the final end result: winning a Stanley Cup. Guerin, who has been asked countless times about Dumba's future in years past, has said he values Dumba tremendously and aims to have him back as well.

"Billy's got some decisions to make and he's going to do whatever is best for this hockey club. I want to be a part of that. We all do. But hockey is a crazy business. You see it every year," Dumba said. "Never once have we carried over the same team since I started playing. Things happen. It's a business. But I'm not going to think about it too much. 

"I don't go on Twitter, I don't go on Instagram, I don't listen to that stuff. I love it here in Minnesota. Me and my girlfriend got a place out in Eden Prairie now. We've got our dogs. This is home to me. I'm going to do whatever it takes to be the best player I possibly can for the Minnesota Wild and be the leader I know I can be. I hope everyone else believes in that too."

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