Dubnyk vs. Deslauriers: How Close Is It?

DALLAS - APRIL 02: Goaltender Devan Dubnyk #40 and Dean Arsene #8 of the Edmonton Oilers dive for the puck against Loui Eriksson #21 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on April 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Leaving aside from the approximately one in five members of the Nation who would love to see the Tri-City Storm’s goaltender coach suit up as Nikolai Khabibulin’s backup this season, the poll on the right shows a more than 3:1 lead for Devan Dubnyk as backup goaltender over Jeff Deslauriers.

I agree that Dubnyk is the better choice, but I’m surprised to see things so lopsided and I think it would be a mistake to suggest that Dubnyk is a vastly superior prospect to last season’s de facto starter.

A look back over the developmental years of the two goaltenders is an interesting exercise, simply because there is so little to separate them. Deslauriers is almost exactly two years older than Dubnyk, and so for a fair comparison we need to compare earlier seasons of his with those of Dubnyk – for example, Dubnyk’s 2009-10 season would correspond to Deslauriers’ 2007-08 season, as both goaltenders were 23 at the time.

As a 23-year old, Dubnyk was a strong AHL goaltender on a bad team – as witnessed by his 0.915 SV% and the way he towered over the other goaltenders – but a little over his head in the NHL, where his numbers were not very good. As it happens, at 23 Jeff Deslauriers didn’t get an opportunity to play NHL hockey, but like Dubnyk he was a strong AHL goaltender on a bad team – as witnessed by his 0.912 SV% and the way he towered over the other goaltenders on the team.

At 22, the similarities continue. Both goaltenders got their first chance to be the starters in the AHL. The numbers – 0.908 SV% vs. 0.906 SV% – give Deslauriers a slight edge, but I’d suggest Dubnyk was slightly better, since Deslauriers’ team was quite capable while Dubnyk’s was abysmal. Even so, it would be difficult to definitively put one goaltender ahead of the other, given their respective performances.

The trends continue, year by year. From the ages of 20 to 21, both goaltenders split time between the ECHL and AHL. Both were strong ECHL goaltenders, and both struggled in the AHL. Prior to that, each spent their draft year and the two subsequent seasons in junior: Dubnyk in the WHL, and Deslauriers in the QMJHL. Dubnyk was consistently good, year over year, for an at best middling Kamloops team, while Deslauriers had a brilliant draft year and a brilliant third year to bookend a lousy second season in the QMJHL. Again, not much to choose between the two.

Both goaltenders were highly regarded in their draft years; Deslauriers was generally the consensus “best goaltender” in pre-draft publications but slipped on draft day, while Dubnyk went ahead of at least one goaltender (Marek Schwarz) who was viewed as a better prospect by most draft followers.

With all of that said, I would choose Dubnyk over Deslauriers based on what we know now, simply because Dubnyk is younger. Jeff Deslauriers has had two seasons to develop from an AHL starter to an NHL backup, and he hasn’t been able to get a firm grip on the latter job. A number of things could still happen: Deslauriers could be a late-bloomer who suddenly emerges as a viable NHL goalie, Dubnyk’s development could stall, injuries could play a role, etc. Goaltending career paths are ugly things to predict, and all the expertise of NHL teams hasn’t kept unknowns like Tim Thomas from winning the Vezina while can’t-miss prospects like Al Montoya have shuffled off to obscurity.

Here though, at least for me, the crux of the argument is this: while Deslauriers and Dubnyk have similar career curves, there’s a greater likelihood of development from Dubnyk because he’s younger. Both goaltenders hope to make the jump from AHL starter to NHL backup, but time is still on Dubnyk’s side and that simply isn’t the case for Jeff Deslauriers.

  • O.C.

    JDD had a year of sitting. (remember when Oil had no farm team?)
    DD has a greater upside. He hasn’t been given the opportunity to block the door.

    If anyone thinks they wouldn’t be a bit nervous your first few games, you’re lying. DD needs a couple more starts. Also needs work on getting across the net. Tampa Bay pluggers missed 5 open chances on the weak side.

  • Dan the Man

    I really like what I saw from Dubnyk at the tail end of last season and Deslaurier certainly had flashes of brilliance himself last year but I don’t see either guy being any better than a good NHL back up at this point.

    I’m really hoping Olivier Roy pans out.

  • I’m with Archeologuy. Doobie didn’t look as good for the majority of last year, and he has looked less NHL-ready so far in the pre-season too. If this is indeed JDD’s last contract with the Oilers (looks likely) then I’d rather see him suit up as the backup, and let Doobie split starts with Gerber in OKC, preferably with a 50-30 split.

    Dubnyk will still be here next year, probably as backup, and I’d rather see him with 40 games under his belt instead of 20-something this year.

  • @ Archaeologuy:

    If there’s a clear-cut winner of the competition in TC, absolutely give the job to that guy. Otherwise, though, I’d argue Dubnyk’s a better investment than Deslauriers. If this is a rebuilding year – and I think it is – then that’s the priority.

    • But if we’re rebuilding for the future wouldnt you want the guy you think has the most upside honing his craft as much as possible? 50 good games in the AHL has got to be better for him than posting crap numbers in 30 NHL games.

      To me, it’s not even close. DD doesnt look like he’s bringing his A game this camp. If he’s too nervous in training camp then I’d wager he isnt ready for the NHL period.

      I’d like to see them in more games, but I’d rather have the guy with the below .900 save percentage stay in the minors. He isnt getting picked up on wavers.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i thought JDD looked more composed vs. Vancouver than DD did. i still think Deslauriers has developed a little better than Dubnyk has at the moment.

  • Victoria

    Bah. I tend to put very little weight on age when it comes to goalies; Maturation is such an individual thing. For me, when it comes to these two, the book is still out. I just don’t think we’ve seen enough of each of them to judge – especially considering the circumstances of their development. I still think there’s something worthwhile in JDD, though it’s based off a gut feeling (hey, I picked Penner to be the star last season on that same reasoning).

    At the end of the day, though, we’ve still got ‘Bulin sign for three more seasons, so I guess we’ve got a little time to figure out where we are with the two young guys.

  • Here is where I completely disagree with Willis.

    I’m watching Dubnyk, and based on what I see, he isnt ready. He’s shaky and lets in some weak stuff all the time. That might be fine if we had a goalie that played 70 games a year, but it’s more likely that our back-up needs to play 30+ games.

    Now if the goal is to compete for last place again then DD is the way to go. If not then JDD has the compete level and numbers to support his bid for NHL backup. Dubnyk’s brutal NHL save percentage says he’s not ready.

    We arent talking about 2 highly touted prospects here. We’re talking about 1 NHL backup and a suspect in Dubnyk. On top of that is the fact that the older player is still only 26. As far as goaltenders go, 26 years old is still young.

    Dubnyk isnt ready. Considering your previous article suggested that playing Paajarvi in OKC might be best for his development and so forth, I think it’s strange that despite the NHL numbers saying different you would support Dubnyk as the NHL backup.

    I wouldnt support Dubnyk over Deslauriers. Not the way Dubnyk is playing. You just cant invite a competition in training camp and then disregard the competition and hand a job over to a guy that didnt earn it.

    • Dubnyk started off with a .865 save % just like JJD. JJD jumped to .909 save% then had the collapse in TO.

      Dubnyk took over from Deslaurier, after his toronto collapse, at the end of the season. Dubnyk had an 8 game run were he had a .923 save%. Look at how many goalies had an 8 straight game run of .923 last year.

      Your thinking drivell is not fact.