ST. PAUL - Whenever polarizing Wild defenseman Matt Dumba is feeling beaten down by the haters on Twitter, he remembers a Foot Locker commercial from a few years back.

In the 45-clip, former NBA great Charles Barkley drops some wisdom on Houston Rockets star James Harden about how to flourish in the league.

"You just need a short memory," Barkley says. "All the greats have short memories."

The punchline comes when Harden brings up some negatives from Barkley's past, which the hall of famer seems to have forgotten ever happened.

"Not saying I'm a great by any means," Dumba said with a smile. "I just know it's important to have a short memory."

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Dumba has needed a short memory on multiple occasions this season, most notably when he finished off a rough performance on Halloween night with a no-look drop pass that Winnipeg winger Nikolaj Ehlers intercepted and took the other way for the winning goal.

"I know that was my fault," Dumba said after the game. "It's like a pick-six that the guy runs back to the house."

Dumba was distraught after that mistake, but he got over it quickly, knowing he couldn't let it snowball into something worse.

"After the game was over I didn't think anything of it," Dumba said. "It was one play. I do that play 10 more times and I make that drop pass a little harder and it goes right to (Mikael Granlund) and he gets around the guy. I just put it too soft. It was one play. I wasn't going to let it define the start of this season."

Since then, the 23-year-old Canadian has taken a giant leap in his development, finishing the regular season with 14 goals and 36 assists, both career highs.

Just 19 when he joined the Wild for 13 games in the 2013-14 season, he now looks experienced beyond his years, becoming even more valuable to the Wild over the final month with Jared Spurgeon working his way back from a partially torn hamstring. And he has seen his workload increase in the postseason, with Ryan Suter lost to a season-ending injury in the final week of the regular season.

"I'm trying not to think about it too much right now," Dumba said. "I'm just focused on the task at hand. I feel good about it. I'm happy with the progression this season, and I think I can grow even more. That excites me because I think I can reach another level. I'm not done yet."

This is exactly the type of jump general manager Chuck Fletcher was looking for when he moved heaven and earth last offseason to protect Dumba from the NHL Expansion Draft. Instead of allowing the Vegas Golden Knights to pluck the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Fletcher traded away a solid two-way player in Erik Haula and top prospect in Alex Tuch.

Why? Because there are things Dumba does that not many blue liners in the NHL can do, starting with his blistering shot from the point.

"I definitely wanted to give everything I've got to a team that's showing me that type of love," Dumba said. "I'm just trying to be my best day in and day out, and it's paid off."

His play of late has impressed even coach Bruce Boudreau, who has been one of Dumba's harshest critics at times.

"He's just embraced the fact that we're relying on him so much," Boudreau said. "He's done a great job at it. I've always been saying that to become a good NHL defenseman, a guys needs at least 300 games, and he's (reached) that this season."

Dumba has enjoyed the additional playing time, adding that it's helped him establish a rhythm. He has averaged 27 minutes, 36 seconds in four playoff games, up from 23:49 during the regular season.

"It helps for anyone just to get into that flow of the game," Dumba said. "You start to feel the game (better) and the confidence builds after that. I definitely like it."

You still have to take the good with the bad with Dumba, who every now and then will lead a rush up the ice and find himself out of position when he has pinched up too far on the blue line.

That said, Dumba has noticed that the haters on Twitter have been a little less vocal the past couple of months.

"You obviously hear that stuff and then there are other times when it's really quiet and then one little mistake and it starts up again," he said. "I've definitely taken pride in trying to shut them up as quickly as possible by going out there and doing something good."