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.


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.

  • MessyEH!

    I hope Shabby Khabby plays alot less this year. I think Dubby can be an average starter in the NHL. If the real Dubby was the guy we saw the second half. We would have been at least 15 points higher in the standings. I may be sounding like a total FANBOY but I think the Oilers can make the playoffs this year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Realy pumped about the Schultz aquisition this summer. In 2 or 3 yrs he could be one of those #1 or 2 blueliner we so desperately need.

    With Edmonton not doing enough for higher end blueline help, combined with the status quo in goal….this handcuffed method of management sure looks as though they have us headed towards one more lotto pick this coming season, if there is one.

    26th, and win the lotto. It’s what we’re good at.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s an interesting case as he did end up getting the majority of the starts last year, and looked good when he was the go-to number one. The stat that’s most impressive is where his save percentage was as compared to goalies with more experience on better teams, such as Fleury.

    If he can play consistently at around .915 and the brass can give him some getter defense, I think the team will have a big improvement this year. I can’t remember how many games we lost by one goal, and that’s telling of our inexperience, but towards the end it seemed like the team was getting better at holding onto leads, being able to close out teams, and find ways to win in close games.

    My only concern this year is how other teams have either improved, stayed the same, or are expected to bounce back, especially in the West. Teams like Nashville who lost Suter, don’t really worry me as we had their number last year. But teams like Detroit and St Louis who for whatever reason we just don’t match up against very well are where we’ll be tested. Also teams we gained a bit of ground on, like Calgary and Minni made some moves to improve their clubs, where as we’re simply relying on young players to meet or exceed expectations, with no back-up plan if they don’t.

    Finally, great ranking on Dubnyk, it was well thought out and I think you are correct with where he’s placed. Obviously you need an elite goal tender to make a deep cup run, and Dubnyk had flashes of that last year, but it’s not a rule you absolutely need one to win when you can overpower teams in other areas like skill (kind of how Pittsburgh and Chicago won their cups)

    Great read, here’s hoping there’s hockey next year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Honestly I think as long as Dubby starts the majority of the games they have a legit chance at the playoffs. Addition by subtraction, Barker, not playing on the team should make a fair bit of difference for the defense as well as the addition of J Schultz. Add the Yak to the forward core and I think this could be a pretty decent team. I think the big ? is the bottom six. They were just aweful last season.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    About the soccer game…it’s funny that Solo actually committed more of those 6 second infractions than McLeod. Just goes to show you how much Wambach’s counting affected the ref’s decision…Solo was committing the same infractions but no Canadian was making the referee aware of it. That’s some gamemanship by Wamback, I have to give her credit even though I don’t like the result of it.

  • Reg Dunlop

    THIS Oilers fan will be at the games in Halifax… Just got married and our honeymoon is in the maritimes and I have an awesome wife who wants to go see the games with me!

  • Jay Gray

    One of the best columns I have read here, Jason, thanks. I completely agree that Dubnyk’s play will likely be the biggest factor in the Oiler season. If he maintains or exceeds his form from the second half of last season, there is a genuine longshot chance at a playoff spot. But will he?

    My biggest worry is that he tends to finish seasons better than he starts them, the opposite of Khabi, who stole the starting role with an unconscious first month and then totally collapsed. For me that means they must live or die with the Dube this year.

    I would only add that too many people treat Save percentage as an absolute stat when it is clearly a highly contextual one. Witness Brain Eliot’s .940 last year, an obvious reflection of Hitch’s defensive system more than Eliot’s brilliance. It would be nice to see a save percentage based solely on quality scoring chances for example. I suspect that Dubnyk would fare better on such a measure than many more highly rated goalies, courtesy of the Oil defence. At any rate this season should tell the tale about where he rates.

  • Lexi

    It’s interesting how few sure things in goal there are nowadays. I would say the five closest goalies to sure things are Lundqvist, Luongo, Lehtonen (when healthy), Price and maybe Miller, and only Price is younger than DD.

    Last year was Quick’s first in the top 10, and while he was team MVP for the season, LA was so dominant in the playoffs that I’m not sure he was that great in the playoffs.

    Rinne might look a lot different without 2 elite Dmen playing 26 tough minutes in front of him. Kiprosoff has been up and down the last couple of years and at 35 could go any way this year.

    My point is DD could be anywhere from 6th to 30th best starter this year, and where he finishes will have a huge impact on the Oilers record, but the same variable exists for over half the teams in the league. If DD has a season like Mike Smith, than we should make the playoffs, if he plays like Steve Mason, we’re in the lottery. I feel hopeful, because he has played pretty well over the last 2 years. He actually played well in Oct/Nov but because NK was playing so well, didn’t get as much action as we would hope. He obviously struggled in Dec/Jan, when half the D was injured, but I thought he was excellent from Feb on as I don’t think he had a bad game after the Toronto game on Feb 12th. He is at the age that most goalies come into their own, so I feel they are making the right call on taking a chance on him. Boston is a Stanley Cup contender and Rask has as many games played as DD, was injured for the last two months of last year and have no plan B.

  • Reg Dunlop

    So Canada lost a soccer game. Unfortunate, but who really cares?

    I am tired of oil fans saying we are relying on this or that to happen or else we are lottobound. What about the what-ifs of our competition? Calgary is a Kipper injury away from finishing 30th. Whats more likely, Eberle getting shut down all season long or a 35 year old high mileage guy breaking down? Whats more likely, the old, retirement-depleated Red Wings FINALLY cycling towards the bottom of the standings or Yak bolting for the KHL and proving to be a collosal bust? Whats more likely, RNH and Hall being sent to OKC because of lack of production or separating Suter and Weber proving that together they were far greater than the sum of the parts?

    Every team has question marks, it’s time the oil makes the opposition pay for theirs.

  • Jay Gray

    I’m really pulling for the big guy to have a break out year this season.

    But for crying out loud, please pull those commercials he is in. I cannot take another year of watching those (are they ATCO gas commercials?

    He’s got a personality that rivals Bouwmeester, which is like wet, soggy bread.

    But here’s for a good season otherwise, and real push for a playoff spot.

    Looking forward to some Nail ad’s this year.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Those were really awful ads. Reminds me of the brutal radio ads for some lounge Jari Kurri did during the glory days. I remember one he did in fractured English, saying ”The staff is no nice they even let Semenko in.” Nothing could be worse that Gretz’s appearance on The Young and the Restless as Wayne, from our Edmonton operation.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Dubby’s acting career is closer to Bogart than Larry, Mo and Curley. Look at how he immerses himself in the role…

      As for BAD oil ads, how about Cowboy Flett shilling Rafina Pizza?

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Excellent story, and enjoyable reading, Jason.

    One thing I needed to say was my take on why Dubnyk’s record is different +/- 29 shots.

    If the other team gets a lead fairly early they will go into a shell more or less, and will take fewer shots. And, if they are losing they will be hell-bent for offence, and shoot a lot more on goal. Personally, I did see that happen with many goals right off the bat against our Oilers, then – the defensive shell for the other team.

    I say this had more of a bearing on the shot total and win/loss, than on the quality of saves Dubnyk had after a lead was already established – and the shot total then went down. You could say that Dubnyk didn’t start those games well and that might well be the case, but to say he didn’t play as well during the time in the game when there were fewer shots…I didn’t see that. To me he actually did a better job than most at ‘staying in the game’ in what is a more difficult situation for all goaltenders to be in. It’s like a wide receiver who doesn’t get a look in the first 3 quarters of a game. Even if they do a terrific job staying in the game mentally, it’s only natural for them to play better when they’re getting their hands on the ball.

    And just like football, you establish a nice lead and there’s going to be a lot more passing yards against you than there would have been otherwise. A bit of statistical strangeness, even though it does make sense why those stats at those times would be reversed!

    I don’t believe there is a mental lapse in that part of his game at all. I actually think he is pretty strong at something incredibly hard for all goalies to have to do!

    Very interesting stuff though, Jason, and I liked your rankings – even though of course we would all have different opinions on those!

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    hahaha Cam Ward a second tier goalie….good one.

    i don’t think the oilers strategy was that bad last year..ride khabby while he’s fresh at the beginning of the season and turn it to the kid. it seemed reasonable at the time.

    but its obvious DD needs to play more and a lot, to be successful. new coach new strategy i hope..

  • Spydyr

    Dubbie better do well this season.It is a turning point in his path to being a starter.With Khabby gone next year the team will need either a starter or a backup.This is Dubbie’s year to show what one it will be.

  • Gregor:

    last half of the season dubnyk played 71% 29/41 of the teams games.
    Was 2.39GA .924SV% 16W – 10L – 1 OTL
    He was in a group of goalies with .925-.924. that ranked 8th to 12th.
    Quick .925
    Rinne .925
    luongo .925
    Dubnyk .924
    miller .924
    Lundquist .924

    Gilbert and barker left and whitney was more mobile mid march on.
    we will have Smid, Petry, Schultz, Schultz, Whitney, Sutton Peckham, Potter, Fedun,Tuebert.our depth to 10 Dmen.

    Dubnyk started 41 Games. He had 27 games were he had at least 4 of Smid, Petry, Schultz, Sutton, Whitney in the top 4 without a combo of Gilbert, Tuebert, Barker.

    Dubnyk 27GM 18W – 6L – 3 OTL 2.22GA .931SV%

    he played the other 14 games top 4 based on less than 3 of the 5 and had at least two of Gilbert, Barker, tuebert playing.
    Dubnyk was 1W – 13L 3.49GA .893SV%

    I feel alot better knowing we cannot see two of Gilbert, Barker, Tuebert on on D units.