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, Sportsnet, 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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#51 TDSM31
October 10 2013, 11:23PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The difference between a very good NHL goalie and a middling starter is about one extra goal on every 200 shots. The difference between that middling starter and a backup goalie is roughly one more goal every 200 shots. The difference between that backup and a guy who shouldn't be playing in the NHL is about one more goal on every 200 shots.

Your eyes are good enough to discern that single extra goal every 200 shots? You've either got very good eyes or a healthy dose of overconfidence.

What the hell are you talking about? Just watch the friggin game and try to ascertain what a very good goalie is and what a middling one is. FFS.

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#52 Andy
October 11 2013, 11:37AM
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Maybe Dubnyk isn't just easygoing...maybe he does't give a sh$t.

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#53 Tyler
October 10 2013, 09:13AM
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I just failed miserably with my attempt at being the first to comment. I just made Dubnyk's play look good. Edited by Nation moderator....

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#54 916oiler
October 10 2013, 10:55AM
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Amen.

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#55 **
October 10 2013, 12:06PM
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"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."

I think that teams look more closely at sv% when the team is losing than when it is winning. In the case of Anderson, even with a bad sv%, he won 6 of those 10 games. He was pulled twice (both losses) and won 3 shutouts. In four of those wins his sv% was below .890. He let in an average of 3.5 goals per game ( there was a 7 goal against game where he wasn't pulled) while his team scored an average of 3.2 goals per game. It was a somewhat chaotic start for the sens so Anderson might have been given the benefit the doubt, but they found a way to start winning games even with their goalie having bad stats.

Luongo won 5 of his first ten games plus one overtime loss. He was pulled once (loss) and no shutouts. In 3 of those 5 wins his sv% was over .950%, one at .900 and one under. HE got scored on 2.9 goals average while his team scored at an average of 3.8 goals per game. In this case the Canucks seemed to be playing a controlled game and doing well in scoring but Luongo was just awfully inconsistent.

Lungo played his 10th game on the canucks' 15th. Anderson play for the 10th time just eleven games into the season.

The canucks were 7-7-1 at that point and the Sens were 6-5-0 only 3 points behind but with 4 games in hand. Both teams though were around .500 in terms of points earned.

The point I want to make is that just as there is case for saying that these goalies were kept because of their career sv%, there is also a strong case for saying that these goalies were kept because the team was doing ok in terms of winning even with their bad numbers. Also in the case of Luongo, it is hard to dismiss a goalie who in %60 percent of his wins in the first ten games had a sv% of over .950.

Once Dubnyk has played 10 games I'll compare his numbers to these two guys and see what's up. If I have time I'll compare him to all other goalies with at least ten games as well.

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#56 **
October 10 2013, 12:10PM
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Zamboni Driver wrote:

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.

If you're going to criticize someone's work at least understand it first.

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#57 Spydyr
October 10 2013, 12:53PM
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mayorblaine wrote:

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.

It was a response to the title of the article.

Getting hurt and playing like crap are two entirely different matters.

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#58 Oiler Al
October 10 2013, 02:10PM
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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.

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#59 TDSM31
October 10 2013, 02:45PM
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Kyle wrote:

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.

The Oilers already have an in-house sports psychologist...me thinks this is actually the problem. No way in heeeee-el I'd be able to concentrate if this was my doctor... www.drkimberleyamirault.com/

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#60 Wax Man Riley
October 10 2013, 03:38PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

The Oilers already have an in-house sports psychologist...me thinks this is actually the problem. No way in heeeee-el I'd be able to concentrate if this was my doctor... www.drkimberleyamirault.com/

Dr Kimberley Amirault:

"Wow, Wax Man, are you sure? This is your 5th prostate exam this month!"

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#61 G Money
October 10 2013, 05:36PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

The Oilers already have an in-house sports psychologist...me thinks this is actually the problem. No way in heeeee-el I'd be able to concentrate if this was my doctor... www.drkimberleyamirault.com/

LOL. Sather is quoted as saying she "... had a dramatic effect on our players."

Um yeah, if that picture is accurate, she's going to have a dramatic effect on most guys as soon as she walks in the room.

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#62 Zarny
October 11 2013, 12:00AM
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If Dubnyk continues to struggle the Oilers have their answer to whether or not they can win with him.

Middle of the road starter is a good description of Dubnyk so far. That's probably good enough to make the playoffs; but it won't win the Stanley Cup.

Dubnyk doesn't need to just not struggle; he has to start playing at the level of a top 10 G in the league. Otherwise the Oilers need to upgrade G...if winning the Cup is the actual goal.

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#63 Dan 1919
October 11 2013, 08:32AM
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@Jonathan Willis

You would not take Crawford over Dubnyk? Interesting choice. Dubnyk had a far better game last night and I do not think any of the goals were actually his fault, I hope for simplicity reasons and the sake of the team that Dubnyk pulls through and ends up being the guy.

BUT, I do think he is still getting way too much respect. He is another player that has to prove himself and never has solidified his role over the last 3 years. To me his save % is a slanted stat because teams identify him as a weak goalie and often throw EVERYTHING on net (see WIN/VAN game).

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#64 nunyour
October 11 2013, 10:03AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The difference between a very good NHL goalie and a middling starter is about one extra goal on every 200 shots. The difference between that middling starter and a backup goalie is roughly one more goal every 200 shots. The difference between that backup and a guy who shouldn't be playing in the NHL is about one more goal on every 200 shots.

Your eyes are good enough to discern that single extra goal every 200 shots? You've either got very good eyes or a healthy dose of overconfidence.

What a load of crap,factor in quality of the shots to then.

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#65 Geoff
October 10 2013, 09:29AM
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Fans and media people are definitely on edge about the possibility of the Oilers not being able to make the post season or contend for it this year.

Because in essence if that doesn't happen then what was the point about the rebuild?

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#66 washed up
October 10 2013, 11:45AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Do you think it would be even possibly for the Oilers to bring in, say a top 10 goalie and still be able to keep all the young talent. I mean RNH's new contact kicks in next year then you have Yak, and Shultz jr needing new deals. You can't have a team full of 6 or 7 million dollar players!

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#67 godot10
October 10 2013, 11:45AM
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godot10 wrote:

Is zero within one standard deviation for the correlation coefficient? i.e. Is the data inadequate say anything with any statistical certainty?

Correlation calculations on calculators or spreadsheets using spit out the standard deviation associated with the calculation.

i.e. Simple linear correlation gives you a "slope" and a 'standard deviation"

All that it tells you is that there is a 68% chance that the actual slope is between the average slope plus/minus one standard deviation.

If zero is within that range, the data is basically completely statistically inconclusive.

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#68 Spydyr
October 10 2013, 02:47PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

The Oilers already have an in-house sports psychologist...me thinks this is actually the problem. No way in heeeee-el I'd be able to concentrate if this was my doctor... www.drkimberleyamirault.com/

Wonder if my benefit package would pay for some visits?

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#69 Toro
October 10 2013, 03:17PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Schneider probably would have been this summer. Lundqvist, obviously, if he makes to to free agency.

The problem is that most teams with a top-10 starter have no interest in trading him; the guys available tend to be middle-10 goalies. I just don't see a clear-cut upgrade being available - you might bring in a comparable guy (Reimer, for example) if the price is right but these guys generally don't move around much.

Do you really think the Rangers would let Lundqviat go to UFA? I could see Reimer her eventually but not much of an upgrade if you ask me

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#71 Quicksilver ballet
October 11 2013, 10:06AM
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3 games, zero wins and an .847 save%. He's costing this team wins.

MacTavish worked hard to try and bring in Ben Bishop, then Cory Schnieder and followed up after that on Jonathan Bernier. Even our GM can't get rid of him fast enough.

Eakins and crew go 1-3-2 on the upcoming road trip.

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#72 Quicksilver ballet
October 11 2013, 10:12AM
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@Jonathan Willis

If you're calling the shots right now. Who on that list would you target? I like Wardo, even at 6'ish for multiple yrs left on that deal.

Waive Dubnyk and get rid of that salary.

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#73 Bryan in SK
October 10 2013, 10:18AM
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Dear Bob Green, director of amateur free agent scouting: Next game, look for the guy with the pretzels. If you find him, in he goes!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7hZmFDE2ts

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#74 Chico Santana
October 10 2013, 11:20AM
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Off topic news: Kyle Wellwood retired today.

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#75 godot10
October 10 2013, 11:40AM
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Is zero within one standard deviation for the correlation coefficient? i.e. Is the data inadequate say anything with any statistical certainty?

Correlation calculations on calculators or spreadsheets using spit out the standard deviation associated with the calculation.

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#76 Czar
October 10 2013, 12:08PM
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washed up wrote:

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.

My theory is for Doobie to get a couple wins to relieve some of the pressure/criticism he is getting. It was MacT's theory that we needed an upgrade regardless of Doobie's numbers.MacT did,if you hadn't noticed,flush quite a few players from the past as well this summer.

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#77 mayorblaine
October 10 2013, 01:00PM
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@Spydyr

never made notice of the correlation. fair.

relative to making or missing the playoffs those aren't entirely different at all.

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#78 hockeycrazed
October 10 2013, 03:27PM
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I have the 'pleasure' of watching the blue jays play 150+ games a year for the last 30+ years, if the offense score 5+ runs a game, you could argue that they don't need superb pitching to win games,but we all know that's not true, maybe once in a while it's alright but not every night. Same hold true for hockey, a mediocre goalie with 1 1/2 good line of good offense will not win you enough games to get you through to the next round, the playoffs, so to speak, I can promise you that!

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#79 David S
October 10 2013, 03:40PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

The Oilers already have an in-house sports psychologist...me thinks this is actually the problem. No way in heeeee-el I'd be able to concentrate if this was my doctor... www.drkimberleyamirault.com/

And THIS is the Octane boss:

https://si0.twimg.com/profile_images/3529585935/174a6b5865110b34d47bb8ce614a6251.jpeg

All I can say is it must be damn hard for the players to walk around the dressing room in sweat pants.

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#80 Naky
October 10 2013, 06:50PM
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"W. BRETT WILSON Father, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Adventurer, Speaker, Dragon"

She's so good, a dragon uses her for therapy. Finally, a good decision by management for once.

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