What Happens if Devan Dubnyk Keeps Struggling?

Jonathan Willis
October 10 2013 09:08AM

Devan Dubnyk has struggled early in 2013-14. Through two games, his numbers are wretched, but most realize that two games is far too short a span of time to base a decision on. But what happens if the month of October goes by and he’s still struggling?

To try and figure out what it means, I went back to the NHL’s last full season (2011-12) and looked at all the goalies to play in at least 50 games. There were 22 in all; in each case I split their season into two segments – the first 10 games and the rest of the year.

What I found was that the first 10 games are somewhat predictive of success, but that they’re a terrible guide to go on.

The Chart

If we look at our starters’ first 10 games played, there’s a massive range of performance. The worst guy (Craig Anderson) posted a 0.881 save percentage through 10 contests. The best guy (Jonathan Quick) had a 0.941 save percentage. That’s a 60-point spread in save percentage. The gap the rest of the way was just a hair over half that, ranging from the worst (Corey Crawford, 0.899 save percentage) to the best (Mike Smith, 0.931 save percentage). The old maxim ‘you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning and never as bad as you look when you’re losing’ is borne out here.

The first 10 games do matter, in the aggregate; just not a lot. Looking at the direction of our trendline, we can see that guys who do better early tend to do better late, and guys who do worse early tend to do worse late. How much worse? Well, a guy from the top-third of this group in the early going (they had an average save percentage of 0.932) posts a 0.921 save percentage over the rest of the season. A bottom-third guy (average save percentage of 0.894 through 10) posted a 0.915 save percentage the rest of the way. There’s some built-in bias (obviously, guys who keep floundering stop getting games at some point) but it does show that a massive gap early generally means a smaller gap later.

It’s also, unsurprisingly, entirely possible for a goalie to rebound from a lousy start. Anderson, mentioned above, was a 0.920 save percentage goalie over the rest of 2011-12. Robert Luongo went from a 0.894 save percentage over 10 games to a 0.925 save percentage the rest of the way. With the exception of guys with extenuating circumstances (age, injury) it’s always a better idea to lean on the long-term track record than it is a 10-game stretch, because even very good goalies have terrible 10-game stretches. Good goalies have them less frequently than bad goalies, because there is talent involved here, but they still have them.

Devan Dubnyk

And here’s where we tie this back to the Oilers.

Devan Dubnyk hasn’t had 10 bad games; he’s had two. But given the clamour that’s already arisen, it’s probably fair to say that eight more bad games could finish him as the Oilers’ starter. They shouldn’t. It’s difficult not to overreact to short-term trends, and all too easy to look at what’s happening right now and say a change has to be made. The fact is, however, that if the Senators or Canucks had dumped their guy with the good track record 10 games into 2011-12 they would have been making a huge mistake. The best thing they could do was to completely block out those 10 games and focus exclusively on the long-term record.

In Dubnyk’s case, the long-term record is good. It’s not great, and it’s not terrible, but it’s good. He’s been a 0.915 save percentage goalie since making the full-time jump to the NHL in 2010-11; of the 32 goalies to play at least 100 games in that stretch that ranks tied for 18th (one point higher would put him in a tie for 15th). He’s not an elite goaltender, and he’s not a poor starter; he’s right around the league average.

If the Oilers decide they want an elite goalie, that’s well and good and they’re welcome to try and grab one. But dumping Dubnyk – even if he struggles not just through two but through 10 – for another middle-tier goalie like Jonas Hiller or James Reimer (both posting a 0.915 save percentage since 2010) or even Ryan Miller (0.917 save percentage in that span, 0.915 save percentage career) would be incredibly stupid.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#2 geoilersgist
October 10 2013, 09:24AM
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Couldn't agree more. I don't understand all the Dubnyk hate. The guy has two bad games and people want his head. Patience is needed here folks, same goes for the whole team. Give them at least 10 games to gel.

Simmadownnaw

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#3 mayorblaine
October 10 2013, 09:27AM
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Chicken Little would LOVE this site.

Dubnyk will be fine. watch other team goalies for awhile and be enamoured with them every sinlge moment of every single game. good luck.

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#5 Smokey
October 10 2013, 09:26AM
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I remember the 06' season when we were running a tandem of Juicy and Conks before Rolly the Goalie, and the Oilers were still a playoff bound club. This tandem of Barbie and Dubby is worlds better then that horrorshow. I think that is a fair assumption. The Oilers barely made the playoffs due to circumspect tending earlier in the season when the Oilers often outplayed their opponent and would loose 3-2 because of 3 aweful goals.

Its only 2 games, and the sky is not falling. Frankly Taylor playing outta position, and 2 AHL centers are more the problem then a couple softies. Dubby should of won game 1. Game 2, the Oilers were never in that. This is such an Oilerblown story.

A great article at some point would be comparing Corsi numbers from 06 regular and post season.

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#6 Staypuft
October 10 2013, 09:47AM
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I find it funny that people will ignore some warts in a skaters game because he has a "big body". Being big is a definite asset in hockey, but it's something they completely ignore in Dubnyk.

His positioning and reflexes are not among the upper echelon of NHL goalies, but the fact is, the guy is 6'6" 200 lbs and a ton of pucks just hit him. How else can he continually post .910+ save percentages, especially if he's as bad as some people on this site suggest?

I think it's time we just accept him for what he is, a big body who stops an average amount of pucks and will give the team a chance to win on most nights. The stats don't lie, that's what he is, and it's as good or better than most teams.

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#7 rickithebear
October 10 2013, 10:24AM
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Elite goaltenders have 6-10 4+ g games a season. Playing in front of Boston, CHI, LAK defence. The last 4 cup winners.

Dubnyk has averaged 8. In front of a 30th, 30th, 26th defence. Facing the 2nd most shots.

Dubnyk since taking over the starter role from KHB in Jan 2012. has provided the 2nd best 3G or less games rate 88%. Lunquist is first. Andersson 3rd.

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#8 27Ginge
October 10 2013, 09:59AM
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I think I'm going to bash the classiest guy on the team, who has as much seniority as anyone and is consistently praised by those around him for his leadership. I think I am going to do it because he didn't play very well for a fortieth of the season.

So here it goes: Dubnyk plays like poo head.

Wow. I feel better.

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#9 justDOit
October 10 2013, 11:29AM
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Chico Santana wrote:

Off topic news: Kyle Wellwood retired today.

My thoughts go out to DSF on his day of sorrow.

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#11 Retsinnab5
October 10 2013, 09:32AM
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Time for a bounce back game Dubey! 5-2 Oilers

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#12 baggedmilk
October 10 2013, 09:55AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Jonathan, you just make too much sense. Well said, great article.

Props.

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#13 Bloodsweatandoil
October 10 2013, 09:20AM
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Just my thoughts, but I would not give up Dubnyk. I feel he will rebound from this. The problem is weak defence, and forwards that have coughed up the puck too many times. After watching Calgary vs Montreal last night, it saddens me seeing what they have accomplished in a very short time in their "not rebuild". Yes, Calgary will probably be exposed in 10 games or less and sent back to reality, but they play really good infront of their unknown goalie, very tough, smart and are quick to get the puck out.

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#14 Clarko
October 10 2013, 10:55AM
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Randy wrote:

Jon,

Avid Oiler fan and season ticket holder who has missed maybe 3 to 4 actual Oiler games the past 4 or 5 years I don' feel we can afford to be patient with our goalie. Dubie needs to stop those far to often weak goals my mother- in could stop.... End of story. Fans and Oiler players know he is going to let one or two stinkers per game...so deflating? It's like Dubie falls asleep or loses total concentration in those cases. After several years of this we need to change the culture in what our expectations are for a #1 goalie in Edmonton. A new goalie would at least take away the team and fan mindset that soft goals are normal in Edmonton.

Dubie, please... Please prove me wrong!!!!!!!!

It's so ridiculous when people say that Dubnyk gives up one to two stinkers per game.

For argument sake, lets say Dubnyk lets in 1 "soft" goal every two games. If he stops every one of those "soft" goals, his GAA last year would be 2.02 and he would have had a save percentage of .937...

If that is the expectation, then Dubnyk is setup to fail no matter what he does. The fact is that the apparent soft goals are highly overstated.

I'm not defending his first two games because he simply was not very good, but the expectations from some fans is beyond reality.

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#15 justDOit
October 10 2013, 10:14AM
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Until this team plays a solid game, I'm not going to get too worried about Doobie.

JW: You're right - LaBarbie looked pretty suspect in his mobility, and his flexibility didn't seem too hot in the shootout. If that first shooter doesn't put it wide, LaBarbera couldn't have stopped it.

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#16 Randy
October 10 2013, 10:36AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

You're confusing "potential" with "actual NHL results."

Dubnyk has the latter. That's why you wait.

Jon,

Avid Oiler fan and season ticket holder who has missed maybe 3 to 4 actual Oiler games the past 4 or 5 years I don' feel we can afford to be patient with our goalie. Dubie needs to stop those far to often weak goals my mother- in could stop.... End of story. Fans and Oiler players know he is going to let one or two stinkers per game...so deflating? It's like Dubie falls asleep or loses total concentration in those cases. After several years of this we need to change the culture in what our expectations are for a #1 goalie in Edmonton. A new goalie would at least take away the team and fan mindset that soft goals are normal in Edmonton.

Dubie, please... Please prove me wrong!!!!!!!!

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#17 Czar
October 10 2013, 01:10PM
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Spydyr wrote:

What Happens if Devan Dubnyk Keeps Struggling?

Answer:The Oilers miss the playoffs,again.

What Happens if Devan Dubnyk Keeps Struggling?

Answer: Beer sales continue to rise on Oiler game nights.

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#18 Jakethesnake
October 10 2013, 10:50AM
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Whats with all the Dubie love This team goes nowhere with this goalie Its time for a change

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#19 Clarko
October 10 2013, 01:17PM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

I'm tired of always hearing excuses whenever the Oilers lose with Dubnyk in net. The defence played bad; the forwards didn't come back; don't give up on him yet! At the end of the day, for all the fault that has been pushed to other areas of the team to blame loses, Dubnyk has never shown he has the ability to stand on his head and save a game by himself, because apparently he often has no help. Time to find an NHL caliber goalie!!

"Never shown he ahs the ability to stand on his head and save a game by himself."

Last year the Oilers allowed 35 or more shots 11 times when Dubnyk was in net last year. The Oilers still managed to get points in 6/11 of those games while Dubnyk posted a GAA of 2.35 and a save percentage of .939. I'm not sure what more a goalie has to do to "save a game by himself".

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#20 nunyour
October 10 2013, 10:34AM
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He has to stop giving up those soft goals,it's that simple for me.

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#21 justDOit
October 10 2013, 12:02PM
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Coyotes' Mike Smith is 25th in the league in SV%, and 35th in GAA. Time for Phoenix fans to panic, if they knew who Mike Smith was...

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#22 madjam
October 10 2013, 09:26AM
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He's struggling and MacT. stated he wanted him to get to next level for this season . Dubbie has yet to yield what Craig had wanted , thus he sits for a while longer while LaBarberra takes over so long as team is winning with him . Go with the hotter hand for now !

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#23 washed up
October 10 2013, 09:28AM
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I'd say stick up Dubnyk, at least for the rest of this season. Chances are the Oilers won't make the playoffs. Unless they are able to get an elite goalie that will steal them 10 or 12 games, no sense bringing in another middle of the pack guy. This team has bigger problems then goaltending.

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#24 vetinari
October 10 2013, 10:17AM
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We should be committed to Dubnyk because we are stuck with Dubnyk. Give him as many games as possible and if he comes out of his slump, great. If he is still slumping by Christmas, then look for trade options but get a long term fix and not just a short term band-aid.

Dubnyk's been known to go into slumps and probably should have played more in the preseason to get used to his new equipment and his new defencemen. That being said, at least one third of the goals that he has given up should have been stopped by an average NHL goalie-- and there's no point harping on it because he knows it; his teammates know it; the coaches know it; and the fans know it. Let him work through it without the distraction of every second article being on the Oilers' poor goaltending performances.

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#25 rob
October 10 2013, 02:00PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Um... you know what trend lines are, right? A line plotted based on a mathematical expression of the average of your data points? One that's calculated automatically in basically any modern spreadsheet program?

So, uh, I have no idea what your point is. Particularly since the article explicitly states that there's a correlation but it's weak. Which is exactly what the trend line shows.

As to your other point, by most other teams do you mean 20? If so, please name 20 teams with a better starting goaltender than Devan Dubnyk.

buffalo sabers vancouver canucks toronto maple leafs ottawa senaters la king boston briuns chicago blackhawks san jose sharks pittsburg pengiuns detroit red wings colorado avs anahiem ducks montreal canadians ny rangers nashville minnasota dallas stars carolina new jersey st louis

some of these teams have 2 goalies that would be an upgrade,I dont care about stats,tell me you wouldnt want goalie from these teams(you would be lying!)

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#26 TDSM31
October 10 2013, 02:50PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The hotter hand?

I know LaBarbera got the win, but you did watch the last game, right?

Oh, so we're supposed to actually watch the goalies performance instead of just looking at his save percentage? Have you actually watched Dubnyk the past three years then? I have and have concluded that he has the mobility of a giraffe.

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#27 Rama Lama
October 10 2013, 10:32AM
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I'm not going to criticize Dubby too harshly yet........there were many games where he kept us in last year.

What I have problems with is when he is on the ice even before the shot is taken........exactly when did covering the bottom of the net become more critical than playing your angles........especially when the shot is taken from the blue line??

Stand up Dubby!

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#28 washed up
October 10 2013, 10:52AM
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Czar wrote:

So why would MacT be looking to trade for Schneider this Summer? I don't think Craig is as impressed with the numbers as you stat guys. The results that matter are wins and Doobie needs one tonight!

According to your theory MacT should look at trading the whole team, seen has how they really haven't won anything in the last 6 years.

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#30 madjam
October 10 2013, 11:17AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The hotter hand?

I know LaBarbera got the win, but you did watch the last game, right?

I am not a fan of Labarbarra , nor have I ever been for that matter . However , I am a fan of keeping winning lineup together until it falters . Yes , I seen the game and I don't know how you can conclude Dubbie has the hotter hand after two in a row stinkers .

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#31 27Ginge
October 10 2013, 11:58AM
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Cold Hard Truth wrote:

To be a competitive team in the NHL requires elite goal tending. The teams needs to be able to rely on solid performances on a consistent basis.

If you have to ask yourself whether or not your goaltender can do this, you already have your answer.

Do the Oilers want to be an elite team? or do they want to keep Devan Dubnyk?

So at the start of the season last year you thought Corey Crawford was elite?

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#32 Czar
October 10 2013, 10:26AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

You're confusing "potential" with "actual NHL results."

Dubnyk has the latter. That's why you wait.

So why would MacT be looking to trade for Schneider this Summer? I don't think Craig is as impressed with the numbers as you stat guys. The results that matter are wins and Doobie needs one tonight!

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#34 DrDave
October 10 2013, 11:28AM
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Our D has hung Dubbie out to dry like a wet shirt so many times in those 2 games it's really hard to blame any but 2-3 of the 10 goals against on him. Now if the team playing around him wasn't already in the Christmas spirit and DD had only let in 3 goals over the last 2 games we'd be having articles about how he's the 2nd coming of Grant Fuhr. We all just need to calm down, have a Nation Beer and let the man do his job.

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#35 outdoorzguy
October 10 2013, 12:25PM
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I'm tired of always hearing excuses whenever the Oilers lose with Dubnyk in net. The defence played bad; the forwards didn't come back; don't give up on him yet! At the end of the day, for all the fault that has been pushed to other areas of the team to blame loses, Dubnyk has never shown he has the ability to stand on his head and save a game by himself, because apparently he often has no help. Time to find an NHL caliber goalie!!

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#36 Kyle
October 10 2013, 12:51PM
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This is not a time to panic. Dubey is our guy. If there's one thing I know about goalies (hello Philly) it's that if you don't believe in them, they don't perform (here's to you, Fleury). Give him some time to settle in. This is his contract year and he knows what is at stake. Work on getting the defence in front of him to limit quality scoring chances. I know he's given up some fluff, but that trend won't continue. Work the phones and see if we can flip one of our many defensive prospects for a battle hardened defender. Confidence is everything in sports. It often surprises and trumps talent. Get him into the sports psychologist and then let him feel that you believe in him.

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#37 Spydyr
October 10 2013, 01:23PM
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Czar wrote:

What Happens if Devan Dubnyk Keeps Struggling?

Answer: Beer sales continue to rise on Oiler game nights.

I will continue to hold up my end.

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#38 Reg Dunlop
October 10 2013, 09:25AM
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Gotta hold on to Dubby. 2 bad games, so what. 10 stinkers, who cares. A bad season or 2, still we have to wait it out. A bad career here, well it may suck missing the playoffs for another decade but at least we didn't give up on all that potential Dubby had. After all what if we jettison his useless a$$ and his replacement doesn't pan out.

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#39 Zamboni Driver
October 10 2013, 11:12AM
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Good lord.

Who in the world drew that trend line?

The line could just as easily gone the absolute other way. In fact it should have. 10 data points below, 8 above.

Ridiculous.

Re: Dubnyk.

Everyone (for some reason) loves MacT - "He's really going to be bold. Love MacT..blah blah blah".

Read back about what he said about goaltending this summer.

He chased TWO other goalies.

Dubnyk is a serviceable, journeyman goalie.

Would be a back up on most every other team.

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#40 Cold Hard Truth
October 10 2013, 11:45AM
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To be a competitive team in the NHL requires elite goal tending. The teams needs to be able to rely on solid performances on a consistent basis.

If you have to ask yourself whether or not your goaltender can do this, you already have your answer.

Do the Oilers want to be an elite team? or do they want to keep Devan Dubnyk?

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#41 mayorblaine
October 10 2013, 12:39PM
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Spydyr wrote:

What Happens if Devan Dubnyk Keeps Struggling?

Answer:The Oilers miss the playoffs,again.

what happens if Nuge/Hall/Yakupov/Eberle etc...get hurt? "potential" we miss the playoffs.

a life lived in what ifs isn't worth much at all.

give it some time.

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#42 Spydyr
October 10 2013, 02:27PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Way early to throw Dubby under the bus. He is a middle of the road tender. AT this point of the year you are not going to go out into the market and get a much better replacement.Reimer is not better, neither is Miller at this point. You are going to get an elite guy no matter what you offer.

In the meantime, fix what you can, like STOP giving the puck away, and kick some ass at the defensive positions... total circus infront of Dubby.

This is Smiths baby, things remain the same no matter who plays the spots... this guy should be shown the door. No D man has improved his game under Smiths watch.

Huddy was and is a better defensive coach.Just another 6 rings mistake.

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#43 Dog Train
October 10 2013, 02:30PM
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The fan base is really sensitive right now. We have the league's longest playoff drought and we've dealt with a lot of crap during that time. That's why patience is wearing thin. 2 games does not a season make and I do believe that Dubnyk will bounce back but we can ill afford to lose games because of poor goaltending. I don't believe that there is a quick fix in the trade market or free agency but we need Dubnyk to start playing better and soon because the margin of error for this team is slim. We already know that Mactavish at least kicked the tires on a few goaltenders in the offseason. This is a big season for Dubnyk so while it is too early for panic, he is under the microscope.

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#44 OilDieHard
October 10 2013, 09:12AM
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in the short term, until DD could regain his game, Labarbara would have to take over as #1, and we do have a pretty good backup in OKC named Richard Backman who could come up here and backup Labarbera if DD falls completely flat. my 3 cents.

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#45 Toro
October 10 2013, 10:50AM
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Hey JW if the Oilers do decide to upgrade the goalie position , who would possibly be available ? I hear Ryan Millers name come up alot but it doesn't seem like he would be much of an upgrade save % wise over last couple years.

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#46 Jay
October 10 2013, 11:28AM
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I've never had faith in dubnyk and he's only making it worst. I'm getting tired of all these articles praising him as an average goalie. Mac is keeping his eye open and as soon as he can we'll get someone better.

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#47 Czar
October 10 2013, 12:15PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Because Schneider has a decent shot at being a top-10, rather than middle-10 NHL starter. If you can land an elite goalie, you do it - as I noted in the piece. It's just not worth making a move for a guy who doesn't stand a good chance at being a clear upgrade.

Also: wins matter at the team level, but they're a terrible way to judge a goalie.

Agree with the upgrade part and Schneider definately would have been BUT MacT has never seemed as sold on Devan as the stats crowd.

Doobie needs a win for the team and his confidence at this moment. Eventually all goalies are judge on they're ability to win games,like it or not.

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#48 Spydyr
October 10 2013, 12:28PM
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What Happens if Devan Dubnyk Keeps Struggling?

Answer:The Oilers miss the playoffs,again.

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#49 rickithebear
October 10 2013, 01:34PM
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I love the experts that call one of 7 starters not to have a below average save % season inn the last 3 years, Servicable.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Oh here is one!

taylor hall is serviceable!

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

When the puck is dropped he is the 2nd best golie at providing winnable games. 3 G or less.

Back-up

Malkin is a 2nd line centre!

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#50 Spoils
October 10 2013, 05:52PM
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did MacT hurt whatever mojo he had by shopping around this summer, did we lose him into the ground, did the pad change hurt him...

as JW says even without the bad start he has been GOOD not GREAT.

i just don't think this is anything new. I think a great goalie is our top priority.

ideally when Nurse/Klef/Schultz have our d primed and nuge, hall, yak are in the top 10 scoring.

so ride him for 1.5-2.5 years? pick up a killer at the 2015 or 2016 trade deadline in exchange for draft picks and prospects, win cup(s). if dubnyk becomes truly great, awesome! it strikes me it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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