August 07 2012 01:46PM
Devan Dubnyk started only 13 games in the first three months of last season. He went 4-9 with a 3.15 GAA (If you don't count empty net goals it was 2.92) and a .902 SV%. He started back-to-back games once, December 10th and December 15th. He started 13 games over a span of 84 days and didn't put up great numbers. He did not look or play like a #1 goalie.
However, when the calendar turned from 2011 to 2012 Dubnyk suddenly looked like a guy ready to start a new chapter of his playing career.
Dubnyk started 29 of the Oilers 45 games between January and April, and he went 16-10-3 with 2.37 GAA (2.31 if you don't count empty net goals) and a .923 SV%. He started 29 games in 97 days, and with a heavier workload he put up some very good numbers for a starting goalie.
The biggest question heading into next season for the Oilers is Dubnyk. There is no doubt he is their starter. Unless Ralph Krueger has lost his mind, the starting job is Dubnyk's. If he has a bad game or two, they can't have him sitting for too long. I understand the need to win, and unless Dubnyk completely soils the sheets there is no reason why he shouldn't around 60 games.
He'll likely start that many, but how well he plays is the big question.
Like most goalies, he played better when he got to play more regularly. Dubnyk's big enough that he shouldn't wear down or fatigue with a heavy workload, and in fact the numbers suggest he plays better when he plays more often and when he faces more shots.
Dubnyk faced 30+ shots seven times between Oct-Dec and he went 4-3. He went 0-6 in games where he faced fewer than 30 shots. That might have just been a coincidence or an anamoly, but I also think it suggests that his mental focus wasn't as strong as it needed to be.
From Jan-Apr Dubnyk went 11-5-2 when he faced 30+ shots, and he improved to 5-5-1 when he saw 29 or less. Dubnyk has always stated he likes more rubber, not more quality scoring chances against, but more rubber. If Dubnyk is going to be a bonafide #1 he will need to win more games when he doesn't feel the puck as often.
We all know the Oilers need to eventually add some size into their top-six, and they need to improve their backend, but the one question that needs to be answered this season is whether Dubnyk is ready to be their everyday starter. Solid and consistent goaltending is a must if the Oilers expect to improve.
I watched Dubnyk very closely in the 2nd half last year and he was much more consistent in the 2nd half. His stats back that up, but he cut down on the "weak" goals and he seemed more dedicated and prepared to play. I've spoke to him a few times this summer and he is very aware of the opportunity that awaits him.
This is the chance he's been waiting for, and I will be surprise if he blows it.
Last week I had a few emails and calls asking where Dubnyk ranks amongst starting goalies. My original response was that amongst proven goalies he is right around #20. The callers and emailers thought he should be higher, so here's my list of starting goalies.
This is where I would rank them based on career accomplishments and recent success.
TOP OF THE CLASS
In no particular order these are my best in the league. (6)
Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Jonathon Quick, Mikka Kiprusoff, Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo. I know some of you might rip on Luongo, but he's been pretty damn good for a long time.
These guys are all very solid, and could easily jump up to the next ranking. (11)
Cam Ward, Carey Price, Ryan Miller, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jimmy Howard, Kari Lehtonen, Ilya Bryzgalov, Craig Anderson, Martin Brodeur, Nik Backstrom and Jonas Hiller.
These are goalies that have accomplished more than Dubnyk thus far, but haven't done it long enough to suggest they are locks as a top-15 goalie.
Mike Smith is the obvious one. He was lights out last year, but he's only had two seasons where he had a .915 SV% or better. Last year Smith was a top-five goalie, but we'll find out if he was a really late bloomer (30 years old) or just had one incredible season.
Cory Schneider is another. He's put up some great numbers behind a stellar Canucks team, but he's never started more than 28 games in a season. I suspect he'll be in the top-15 next year, but I need to see him prove it before I put him there.
Cory Crawford, Semyon Varlamov, Antti Niemi, Ondrej Pavelec, Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, James Reimer and Tukka Rask are other guys who have had either one great year, a few okay ones or just haven't played enough to be considered in the top-15.
I could easily put Dubnyk somewhere amongst the previous seven goalies. Which would have him ranked between 20-28th. I don't think that is unfair, nor is it a slight to a guy who has yet to be a regular starter for an entire season.
In each of the past two seasons 20 goalies have started at least 54 games, 65% of their team's games. Dubnyk needs to play an entire season like he did the 2nd half of last year for him to move up the rankings.
Is Dubnyk ready and capable to become a top-15 goalie? It is clear that he and the Oilers management feel he is, and he's shown signs he's got the abilitiy to be that conversation, but now it is up to him to prove it.
My best guess it that Dubnyk is ready for the challenge and he'll play like he did this past January-April, and if that is the case then you'll likely see him and Joey Moss celebrating a few more three-star selections.
- Unreal soccer game yesterday. I was at Long Lake waterskiing with my family during the day, but I PVR'd the game and watched it last night. Great drama, incredibly exciting for a soccer game and sadly one very strange call. I'm curious why the referee felt that was the time to crack down on the "six-second" rule. It wasn't like Mcleod had been doing it throughout the game. NBC counted 6-second infractions and they determined that Hope Solo was guilty of more of them than Mcleod. It's unfortunate the ref made such a questionable call at the point of the game. The worst part about is that now FIFA is investigating some Canadian player's (Tancredi and Sinclair) post-game comments about the official.
It is fair to say the ref blew the call, but suggesting she is corrupt is a different matter. Hopefully FIFA doesn't punish the women for their ill-advised words, just like they won't the ref for her mistake.
- It sucks for Paula Findlay that she finished last in the Triathlon, but I think it shows just how great the best of the best in the world are. Findlay is one of the best triathletes in the world, but she hasn't been healthy for a year. She wasn't able to train like she had in the past and that hurt her. It is disappointing for her, but for me it showed the world just how great you have to be to be one of the best in any sport in the world. She needs to get healthy, and stay healthy, and when she does, hopefully she'll be a top competitor again. She had nothing to apologize for, but for me it wasn't a surprise that she wasn't competitive.
- Nail Yakupov will captain Team Russia in the Canada-Russia challenge. The first two games are August 9th and 10th in Yaroslavl Russia and then August 13th and 14th in Halifax. Something tells me Oiler fans will be watching that very closely.
- A huge thank you to all of those who donated for Spec's Deck. We will do the draw today during the show. The 20th, 40th, 60th, 80th and (last) 100th names drawn will win.
The winners (and three of their friends) will have a great night.
Prestige Limos will pick you up, (Each group of four has one pick up spot) and take you to Spec's deck in style.
Vons Steak House and Oyster Bar will be catering the event. BBQ steak, chicken, potatoes, veggies, etc...And Oysters.
Big Rock will supply beer all night long and in the Limo.
Andrew Peller will supply the wine, because us sports guys are a dignified group.
Yellow Cab will ensure everyone gets home safe and sound. They, like me, don't want anyone drinking and driving.
The party will start around 4 p.m. and last for as long as we like. Robin Brownlee, Ryan Rishaug, Jason Strudwick and maybe even Wanye will be there. I've also secured two SPECIAL GUESTS. Two NHL players will spend the evening sharing stories and probably listening to "how you were this close to making the show."Thanks again to all the sponsors and good luck those who entered.