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What the Wild Can Reasonably Expect From Dubnyk

When the Minnesota Wild have officially locked up Devan Dubnyk, and they clearly addressed their biggest offseason need. Security in net didn’t come cheaply though, with the 29-year old stopper getting $26 million over six years (AAV $4.33 million).

That’s a long term for a goalie in 2015. Gone are the days when teams sign Rick DiPietro to 15-year deals. Clubs are wary now. The game is changing, and organizations don’t necessarily want to be permanently tethered to one individual.

What if he struggles and just can’t ever mentally get back on track? That’s kind of an issue for a netminder. Or what if a team simply wants money freed up for other positions?

The Wild really didn’t have those luxuries when they signed this deal. For one thing, they already have quite a bit of money tied up in some big-name skaters. It’s not like saving cash in net would’ve given them a ton of cap room anyway. And, more importantly, we saw what this team accomplished without Dubnyk during the first half of last season. And it wasn’t pretty.

Minnesota had to sign him, and it’s hard for even the biggest skeptics to argue with anything other than maybe the length of the deal. Just a reminder though: this is a guy who was essentially a backup for the first half of last season — and still finished as a Vezina finalist. What he did to turn both his career — and the team’s fortunes — around was nothing short of remarkable.

NHL teams don’t generally like to pay for what you have already done though; they like to pay for what you’re about to do. So what can Minnesota fans reasonably expect from Dubnyk over the course of a full 82-game schedule in 2015-16?

It’s probably not fair to expect him to replicate his performance from the second half of last season. If that were the case, he’d be delivering a 1.78 goals against average and .936 save percentage. And 53 wins. And 10 shutouts. Not to mention the fact that he started 39 consecutive games at one point in 2014-15.

Good luck projecting that out.

Those sort of numbers would land him the Vezina Trophy, the Hart and just about every other award too, seeing as to how they would dwarf even Carey Price’s numbers from this season. But that’s simply not realistic.

What is realistic should be found somewhere between those insane stats and the production he posted during his time with Edmonton. Not the 2013-14 campaign, where the wheels clearly came off for everyone involved. But maybe more like the three seasons from 2010 to 2013. In those years, he managed a 2.65 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

We won’t project out wins from his days with the Oilers because nobody likes to talk about how often the pre-Connor McDavid Oilers won hockey games.

In fact, those numbers are pretty similar to the ones he posted with Arizona during the first half of last season. To be clear though, that’s not what the Wild are expecting from him now. The safer bet is some sort of middle ground between those respectable stats and the crazy ones he piled up from January 15 on. Going right down the middle, that would be a 2.22 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Adjust it a little, one way or the other, based on personal opinion. But that seems like a pretty fair expectation.

Devan Dubnyk will probably be a strong starter in 2015-16, but he won’t be able to sustain the numbers he put up last year in Minnesota.

Why exactly does his amazing run over the course of 39 regular season games with the Wild hold equal weight to what he had done throughout pretty much his entire career before that? That’s a good question, and there are three pretty compelling arguments that can be made as an answer.

For one, those 39 games are his most recent body of regular season work. And that matters. One has to assume a player is striving to improve over time, especially someone in Dubnyk’s position. If he were 45-years-old, maybe this could be dismissed as an outlier. But he doesn’t turn 30 until after the 2015-16 season. It makes sense that he is getting better.

Especially when you consider factor No. 2: Sean Burke.

 

During his time with the Coyotes, Burke proved to be a mastermind with the goalies that came through town. Particularly big ones like Dubnyk.

He helped resurrect the careers of guys like Mike Smith, Ilya Bryzgalov, Thomas Greiss and — most notably now — Dubnyk. And this isn’t a fact that’s lost on Dubnyk, who routinely discusses how much Burke and Arizona helped him — both from a tactical standpoint, as well as simply getting his confidence back.

It seems pretty safe to assume he’s turned a corner. Especially when you take into account the third argument in his favor: the simple fact that the defense in front of him now is better than any he’s ever played behind. The Coyotes have traditionally had a pretty solid blue line under Dave Tippett, but they were both injured and extremely young last season when Dubnyk was there. Minnesota’s current group headlined by Ryan Suter is an upgrade.

As for those Edmonton defenses he was playing behind from 2009 to 2014? Let’s just move on.

That all adds up to a happy goalie with newfound confidence to track the puck better and throw his 6-foot-6 frame around in net. Plus, given what he went through two seasons ago, the 2015 Masterton winner is probably that much more determined to avoid any sort of regression. He may not win a Vezina, but the Wild don’t necessarily need him to. They just needed stability between the pipes to compliment a pretty impressive lineup of skaters. And now they have that.

 

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