Devan Dubnyk arrived this summer with a big time contract signed in July that represented the first real sign of security in the big man’s career. His 2-year, $7 million dollar contract was a clear indication Oilers management is committed to him for the next two seasons, and likely beyond. Or was it?

The 2011-12 season represented a high water mark in the career of Devan Dubnyk: he finished with a .927 save percentage at even strength, meaning he was about "average" among the 30 league starters despite playing in front of a rickety defense and young forward group. On the downside, Dubnyk’s PK SP was a very poor .854 on the PK and a ridiculous .862 on the PP.

The EV number represented a nice step up from the season before (.921) and gave Dubnyk a clear edge over the previous starter Nikolai Khabibulin:

  • Dubnyk at evens the last two seasons: .921 and .927
  • Khabibulin at evens the last two seasons: .905 and .913

For giggles, lets place Dubnyk’s season against the top end NHL starters from last season:

  1. Brian Elliott .945
  2. Jaroslav Halak .938
  3. Mike Smith .936
  4. Jonathan Quick .933
  5. Henrik Lundqvist .933
  6. Niklas Backstrom .931
  7. Cory Schneider .931
  8. Roberto Luongo .929
  9. Jimmy Howard .929
  10. Tuuku Rask .929
  11. Pekka Rinne .928
  12. Miikka Kiprusoff .928
  13. Jose Theodore .928
  14. Devan Dubnyk, Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun, Jhonas Enroth .927

I think that’s a solid number, especially considering the defense Dubnyk played in front of last season. Place him on the Canucks and it is completely reasonable to suggest he would be in the range with Luongo and Scheider (obviously, since he is in the range now!) and the big man should be able to improve on the number (save percentages have been going north for years, so he’d have to improve just to keep pace).


Still, there have always been nagging stories about Dubnyk and his ability as a #1, owing mostly to "lateral movement." Darren Pang caused quite a stir in Oilers Nation just about a year ago with this quote:

  • Pang: “I did a poll of four NHL GMs about Devan Dubnyk and asked them what they thought his upside would be as a #1 goaltender. The answer coming back is: No. And that’s based on his lack of lateral movement. He’s a competitor, he’s working hard, he’s winning over his teammates but at this particular point, no, not a #1 goaltender. I would say there’s at least five or six goaltenders in the same age group who have got more upside as a number one.”

It is important to remember that Pang isn’t just giving his opinion, but asked 4 NHL General Managers about him and got the same answer. That’s fairly damning, although in fairness these are the same GMs that the NHL owners are flushing a season over in order to make certain they can’t shoot themselves in the foot with addled contracts and CBA loopholes.

There are other concerns, including the lack of playing time/activity. With the lockout now over the 1600 hour mark, Dubnyk still doesn’t have a job in Europe and has become a vagabond in search of practice time.

  • Dubnyk: “I’d like to be home in Edmonton, but every time I’m there I end up not skating for four or five days and I can’t be doing that. If the NHL gets going I’m going to have to be ready."

Dubnyk is quoted in the article as saying he’d love to play in Europe, but those jobs are dear and teams are unlikely to sign a goaltender who could jump ship at a moment’s notice unless there’s star value. Additionally, the NHL goalies who have gone over appear to be struggling with playing angles on the wide ice and could pick up some bad habits while adjusting to it.

There is no ideal solution for Dubnyk, but he is remaining active and would certainly get the lion’s share of the work should the league decide to return to normal.


Recently management has sent mixed messages about their own feeling towards Dubnyk. GM Steve Tambellini endorsed Dubnyk as the Oilers #1 goalie the moment he signed the big man to a 2-year deal at $3.5 million per season, but Kevin Lowe expressed in a recent interview that the position is not completely stable:

  • Lowe: "Goaltending is a question mark, and I say that in all respect to Devan Dubnyk and Khabi (Nikolai Khabibulin). Khabi has been injured and he’s approaching 40. He’s given us stretches of strong goaltending but his health is one thing. (Dubnyk)’s got to go out and prove it now if he’s going to take over the Number One job.”


I think the Oilers made a decision in the summer–when they signed Dubnyk–to commit to him as the #1 goaltender. Unless something shakes loose that represents a clear upgrade it would seem to be the intelligent course. The Oilers could do themselves and Dubnyk an enormous favor by adding a veteran defender who can help with those sorties into the Oilers zone–especially on the penalty kill.

With Andy Sutton’s injury, it would seem to be the first order of business after the lockout.

As for Dubnyk, he’s overcome a battle with Jeff Deslaurers for "goalie of the future" honors and worked his way to a fine payday. If he wants those big contracts to continue, he’ll need to improve his numbers–especially when down a man–and prove to the Oilers management group he’s worthy of backstopping the Boys on the Bus 2.0.

We wait.

  • In stretches last year Dubnyk would let in weak goals that seemed to kill the momentum.As the year went on I thought he played much better. Lowetide You said on twitter you miss Horcoff I miss hockey so much I miss horcoff Too!

  • Czar

    Not as high on Doobie as management, but that could be part of the problem too. Alot of buzz about his progress but until he starts the majority of the games and has a winning record,they’re just blowing smoke.

  • DSF

    Not sure how you can blithely dismiss his performance 4V5 and pronounce he’s “in the range”.

    Considering the Oilers ranked 14th in PK performance last season one would have to think that a goalie who ranked 63rd in 4V5 SV% at .862 might be a big part of the problem.

    For example, Columbus had the 30th ranked PK in the league and yet Curtis Sanford had a .955 SV% on the PK while even a struggling Steve Mason managed .879 on the worst PK squad in the entire league.

    While Vancouver was ahead of the Oilers in PK percentage, you would have to think their goaltending might have been a part of that.

    Schneider: .960

    Luongo: .917

    If the game was played entirely at evens, he would be “in the range” of average but it isn’t and he isn’t.

    • Lowetide

      I said he was in the range at evens and posted his PP and PK numbers–both of which are very poor.

      Having said that, his PK SP a year earlier was .889–not as close to Luongo’s .897 as one would like but not a far cry either, especially considering the team in front of him.

      As for the contract, I felt it was too much at the time and said so–but it does show the organization has decided to run with him (Lowe comments aside).

      • DSF

        Well, if I think you look at the overall body of work it’s more helpful than trying to find a positive in just one aspect of the game.

        In the prior season you mention, Dubnyk’s overall save percentage was .916 compared to .929 and .928 for the Canucks duo.

        I’ve yet to see any definitive work that indicates a goalies save percentage is a result of the team in front of him.

        GAA is certainly a function of the team but no idea how you could show SV% was unless you can measure shot quality.

        • Lowetide

          I think even strength save percantage–like even strength scoring–is a better indicator. Either way, he’ll need to imporve the Pk number (and PP, that’s a joke) in order to move forward and establish himself as a #1 goaltender in the NHL.

          He has a helluva opportunity, that’s for sure.

          • B S

            How high should Dubnyk’s PP Save% be? Bare in mind the majority of shots he’s going to face are long lobs from the opposing zone (no excuse for letting one of those in), and breakaways (in other words a high quality scoring chance).

          • Lowetide

            Well I agree with DSF in that the averages will even out and that SP isn’t impacted by shot quality (not that I’ve seen, although Eric T is writing about 10 things an hour so I may have missed something).

            The PK and PP numbers are (imo) smallish sample sizes from year to year, but 5×5 usually gives us a good indication.


          • Lowetide

            You’d agree that sample size of PK could make these SP number vary wildly from season to season, no? That’s my point.

            But you’re right, if that’s his established level of ability 4×5 then he’s going to be in the Swiss cheese league.

    • Dubs is a young goalie.
      His performance on the PK is just a sign on his youth and lack of confidence, probably wasn’t ready for the challenge or the responsibility. I haven’t looked but I would guess his #s at home on the PK were even worse.

      You can’t compare Dubs to other goalies on other teams, no other team is the Oilers and none of them have a Dubnyk on them. Considering the circumstances and surroundings he played in, I believe, Dubs is a good goalie and will only get better with time and as the team around him does also.

      • DSF

        If you can’t compare him to players on other teams then his stats are absolutely meaningless….as are stats for every player in the league.

        You can say his PK performance is a sign of youth or confidence but, more likely, it’s a measure of his ability.

        Worth noting, Dubnyk is the same age as Schneider, has played 101 NHL games to Schneider’s 68 and yet their SV%s are .928 and .910.

        I think we can agree the Oilers have improved in the past 3 seasons. Dubnyk’s save percentage in those 3 seasons:

        09/10 .889

        10/11 .916

        11/12 .914

        His highest save percentage was in the ECHL in 06/07 at .921.

        Schneider has taken a different trajectory.

        09/10 .915

        10/11 .929

        11/12 .937

        I don’t think you can argue the Canucks were better as a team last season than the previous two but Schneider certainly was.

  • Lowetide

    I think it was the right thing to do, was sign him to a contract. Confidence and stability come to mind, and he was improving with more games being played.
    However… $3.5 million per year was an overpay.
    They could have had him at $2.5 per. Good that the deal is only for 2 years.
    This was the same manager that signed Habby for 4 years , what was it $4. per.

  • Lowetide

    @Lowetide, who do you think the Oilers can/will target for the veteran D position? Could this position be filled with Bob Stauffer’s “Wow” trade if/when the season starts?

    As for Doobie, I’m hoping he proves his doubters wrong. I’d love to see this guy carry this team into the playoffs on a shortened season. He’s as fresh as a daisy right now, so he should be able to play the bulk of the games. Habby can play one of the back to back games.

    • Lowetide

      I think someone like Bouwmeester in Calgary or a Toronto roster defender are possible. There are teams (like the Marlies) who have terrific bluelines and NHL teams will be knocking for sure.

  • Rocket

    I don’t mind Dubnyk on the Oilers but I’m not sure he should be a #1 goalie. The problem is trying to trade for a solid starting goalie is almost impossible for this management so Dubnyk will have to do.

  • justDOit

    If Khabibulin is injured, they should replace him with a backup guy that is really great on the PK. Throw him in on every pk, and leave Dub in the rest of the time. Moneyball goaltending revolution!

    • Def not arbitration.But on your other, happier note, not just RNH but also the likes of Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, Mark Schiefele. Not sure if Couturier is eligible, his bday is in Dec, so he would be over 20 for the tournament, not sure of the cut off date. On the downside, Swedes would have Landeskog and Larsson, and Russians will likely have Yak, Grigorenkp and a few others. would def make for a great tournament.

  • book¡e

    You should never give a goalie a contract that is intended to shore up his confidence – it doesn’t work.

    Vancouver tried this with Luongo and learned the hard way.

  • Puritania

    All numbers aside, I’m not sold on this guy as a number one. If the NHL doesn’t come back for a few years, this guy might just have lost his only chance at big money. Oh well, he got to become the Oiler’s NHLPA rep and only a select few get to become those.

  • vetinari

    By the mid-point of last season, DD was our best option at winning a game… but that doesn’t mean he’s a number 1 starter… he’s going to need a year or two more of consistently improving numbers to get there.