While Justin Schultz is one of the biggest benefactors of this lockout, Devan Dubnyk might be one of the biggest losers. He just signed a two-year extension with the hopes he’d have the opportunity to prove he can be a #1 goalie. The lockout has been a massive roadblock in those plans thus far, and I wonder if being the Oilers’ PA representative makes it even more frustrating for him.
I caught up with Dubnyk and got his thoughts on the CBA, being the Oilers representative, the Roberto Luongo rumours and how he is trying to keep his goaltending skills sharp.
JG: How heavily involved are you? Do you talk to Donald Fehr on a regular basis? Do you have conference calls with your teammates or text messaging? How does it work in your position?
DD: Well, it’s pretty much any time there’s something significant to talk about, there’s a conference call; and lately, that’s been two or three a week, and I’ll jump on the call and listen in. There’s a question period at the end if we want to make a comment or ask a question. They’re really at good keeping us informed. From there, all the guys know to contact me. I’ll get text messages from the guys, or whoever is around Edmonton with me, we’ll talk about it whenever we’re together and just stay informed. I think that’s the most important thing. It’s been clear that the players have been extremely informed through all this.
JG: Have you noticed if the tone of questioning changed now that the season is on and we’ve already lost a month of games?
DD: Yeah. I mean guys want to play, that’s no secret. We grew up loving the game and playing the game so when it’s taken away from us, it becomes real pretty fast. When you’re sitting here in October and not playing, guys start to ask if we think something’s going to get done. But at the same time, they’re very adamant about getting a fair deal, so it definitely makes it a little more real, I should say, when you do start missing games.
JG: Last week the NHLPA came out and said they weren’t overly happy with the NHL and their 48 hour window that allowed management to talk to players. Did you know about this window, and did you have contact with the Oilers organization during the 48 hours?
DD: I didn’t realize until after it came out that it was a league wide thing. There was a little bit of reach out from the organization, but it was not a push from them by any means. It was just simply: If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. But I’ve heard other things as far as how other teams handled it, but it’s one of those things it was a tactic. It seems to be a PR thing that the league did. But for me personally, I didn’t have much involvement with Edmonton.
JG: You mentioned how other teams went about it differently. Were they more aggressive contacting the players? Did they call the reps? How was it different?
DD: I don’t know too much about it. It was just a reach out saying if you have any questions, call us. And I’m not sure how other things were handled, but obviously it’s not something that the PA wants. They don’t want the NHL kind of going around the union representative to get to the players another way.
JG: Manny Malhotra said had he known it was available to him, he would have called the Canucks and asked a few questions himself. How come you didn’t make a call to the Oilers and ask them some questions?
DD: I’ve been on these calls every week, and Don does a very good job of informing us exactly what the proposals are and what theirs are, what they mean, and what they would mean for us; so I just didn’t feel like I had any questions. I certainly thought about it and thought about different things that I might have questions about, but like I said, Don keeps us so well informed that I really didn’t feel like I had any questions.
JG: So where do you go from here. Because on a personal level, this would be a huge season for you; an opportunity to be the number one guy going into the season; a chance to start the year; finish the year; play maybe 55 games; and hopefully, for you, cement yourself as number one netminder. The longer you go without playing, how much more difficult does that become?
DD: It’s frustrating. Obviously, there’s a lot of excitement around Edmonton, and for good reason. And on a personal level, like you said, this is a very big season for me, and I was very excited. So I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that we can get after it, sooner rather than later, but it does become tough. I think there are a lot of other players that are in the same position as me. You know it’s going to be tough to get after it when we get going here; but if it goes longer, I might have to check out some European options, just to get playing, get some games in. But I’m really keeping my fingers crossed that this thing gets done in the next few weeks here.
JG: Right now you’re skating in Dallas with about 22 or 23 other NHL guys. How often are you skating, and how hard is it to test yourself and stay fresh in essentially a game of shinny?
DD: Well, that’s why I came here. This camp is very good, similar to the camp that was held in Vail a few weeks ago, and there’s a pretty elite group of players out here. We played some five on five yesterday with whistles and play stoppages, and we played three 12 minute periods, so we’re trying to structure it a little bit. Obviously, there’s no hitting, and it’s never going to be the same as a game, but you try to get a little bit of structure there. Other than this camp, it’s difficult. You play summer hockey, it’s shinny. Some days are good, some days are bad as far as motivation factor for guys because it just gets tough as it drags on. And like I said, that’s why if it continues to drag, I might have to look at some options overseas.
JG: You mentioned it’s a pretty good group of guys. Any NHL snipers shooting on you which likely would test you more than some of the fourth line guys?
DD: Oh, yeah, there’s quite a few here. I don’t really have a list to give you, but Crosby and James Neal and Kunitz are here from the Penguins. There’s a bunch of Dallas guys here. Souray is here, hitting pucks pretty hard, some a bit too high (laughs). There’s a good group of skaters and a good list of guys, so it certainly is challenging this week.
JG: Has your agent looked into Europe, and how hard is it for a North American goalie to find work in Europe?
DD: It’s extremely difficult. I still don’t believe there are any North American goalies that have gone over there, so that kind of shows you that it’s not that easy to get over there. We’ve continued to look into options over there. Like I said, you end up with kind of minimal options, and you want to make it that if you do pack up and go over there, that it’s going to be a good situation and a good league and on a good team. That’s the most important thing.
And then obviously the insurance coverage becomes an issue as to who would be willing to cover it. So it’s not an easy thing, and we’ve been looking into it. I’m really hoping that I’m not going to have to explore it, but I’m not sure.
JG: What about the East Coast league? Scott Gomez is playing in Anchorage again. It’s closer to home, it’s on the same continent; would you look at that?
DD: Well, I don’t think the insurance would be able to be covered, unfortunately. I think I’d end up paying a pretty good chunk of money out of my pocket to cover my contract, so that doesn’t really make sense.
JG: Lately there have been some Luongo rumors; and I’m sure when the game’s on, you don’t focus on it too much, but have you heard about that? How do you respond to that? Because right now, you don’t really have an option to say, "I’ll prove everybody wrong that I can be a starter."
DD: You know what? I haven’t even heard the Luongo rumors to be completely honest. What are they?
JG: They are just saying Edmonton’s one of the three or four teams he would actually be interested in going to, allegedly, according to a report out of Vancouver.
DD: Okay. I would like to think that Edmonton has a lot of confidence in me. We spoke about it over the summer with them showing that with the new contract, and I certainly think that they’ll give me a pretty good shot before going down a road like that.
JG: You’ve said you’re confident that a deal can be had within the next few weeks. The original proposals from the NHL started out with a 24 percent rollback, and then they came back at 17%, now down to 12.5%, so they’ve kind of cut it in half. Does that leave you confident that there’s room to maneuver? And based on your conversations and the conference calls you’ve had, do you feel that there’s progress being made and that ultimately this will end?
DD: Sometimes I think there is, and sometimes I’m not sure. I think it’s become pretty frustrating for the players, especially this last proposal, and then last night having our request to meet with the league being shut down. They just don’t seem to be willing to really negotiate. It seems that every few weeks, they come to the table with an offer that’s a little bit less or I guess they call it a movement towards us but really it’s just kind of offering us to take a little bit less.
And when we offer to talk about it I feel if there was truly some motivation to negotiate, that you start looking at structure and then you start talking about different numbers. That’s what a negotiation is. You say, "We want this"; and then they come back and say, "No, we want this"; and then you start going back and forth. It’s not just put in an offer and sit on it and refuse to talk unless we want to take it. That’s been the most frustrating part.
JG: I think there are 13 pay periods over the course of the year. At the end of the month, that’d be two down. So there are only 11 to go. That’s money that guys won’t recoup back. Do guys sit down and crunch the numbers and look and say, "Well, maybe ultimately if we want no rollback, then maybe if we take a 5 percent rollback in the big picture, cause it benefits us long term"? What’s the thought process right now amongst most of the players?
DD: That’s something that the PA and the players are constantly calculating. It’s something that you’re right, it does make sense how much are you willing to stand out for and you have to calculate it against the pay cheques lost. But I think the biggest thing, and especially for fans that I don’t think the average person looks into or understands too much is the other parts of the CBA.
We’ve said that we want to find a way to get down to 50, and we’ve shown that, but they refuse to budge on every other part which is pretty much our contracting rights and our negotiating rights when it comes down to contracts, and those are things we accepting the salary cap and the role back last time those are the things that the players fought for and gained. So it’s not just the money that they’re trying to take; they’re trying to take away everything that the players gained out of the last CBA. That’s really what they’re sitting on right now. It is the money, but I think there’s quite obviously a deal to be made as far the money goes, but we need to talk about the other things as well.
JG: When an offer does come in that the NHLPA likes does the whole union vote, or is it the representatives and you essentially vote on behalf of the other players on the Oilers?
DD: Yes. As a representative, I would basically hold the vote, the Oilers vote, so it would be my job to speak with everybody and make sure everybody’s on board. But everybody’s welcome on conference calls, and we’re always in touch. So I think when an offer is ready to be made, I’m sure it will be pretty unanimous. Don will let us know if he thinks it’s the best offer that we can find.
JG: What piqued your interest in wanting to be a player rep for your team?
DD: It’s kind of a funny situation. I just said I’d tag along and help out this year and so I was kind of following around Gilbert, who was our rep, and Horc, who was our assistant, so I would kind of go to the different meetings and keep informed with those guys. I don’t think Gilbert wanted to continue to be the rep, so I was going to kind of work my way in there over the next year or so. But the trade deadline came, and unfortunately we lost Gibby, and I got kind of thrown into it. So it was a quick learning experience. I had to make sure I was educated about everything real quick.