Can Devan Dubnyk meet Craig MacTavish’s expectations?

Last night, new Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish participated in a question and answer session with Oilers season ticket holders. The question of goaltending came up, and as he has since taking the job, MacTavish indicated significant concerns about incumbent Devan Dubnyk.

”If you have to ask the question…”

In between all but saying that Nikolai Khabibulin would not be back, and that the organization doesn’t have confidence in Yann Danis to replace him, MacTavish said this about Devan Dubnyk:

Devan, I think that you’re right, the verdict is out on Devan. I’ve always believed that when you’re assessing goaltenders, if you have to ask the question you know the answer. The question would be, has Devan established himself as a number one goalie in the National Hockey League? And I still think it’s a valid question. So, I think that Devan, although he’s trending upwards in his numbers and played adequately for us this year, I still think, and I know Devan feels the same way, that there’s another level for him. From our standpoint, we’ll see that he can get to that level.

And here’s what MacTavish said in his end of season press conference:

I think Devan took a step this year. His numbers were good, on the year. I think he’s got further to go. To be a top level goaltender he’s got to play better. Not to say that goaltending was any reason we were in the situation we were in; he took a lot of good looks night in and night out, breakaways, shots from the slot. But he’s a guy who is still developing, still growing as a goaltender, so I have lots of faith in his ability to get there, but you’ve got to make the development happen. I think Devan going into the summer has really got a proper focus, he’s going to be around Edmonton, he’s going to put in a good summer of training and I think it’s going to have a huge benefit in his ability to perform next year.

The Numbers

Devan Dubnyk posted a 0.920 save percentage last season, tied with Washington’s Braden Holtby for 11th among starting goaltenders. However, his even-strength save percentage was scarcely better (0.922) and ranked 19th among starting goalies.

This matters because Dubnyk had an extremely high save percentage number on the penalty kill, and typically those numbers can’t be sustained. Ryan Miller is a great case in point – in 2009-10, he was Ryan Miller, Vezina Trophy Winner (0.928 EVSV%, 0.919 PKSV%) and this year he’s Ryan Miller, guy the Sabres are open to trading away (0.928 EVSV%, 0.862 PKSV%).

Unlike MacTavish, I do see Dubnyk as an established starting goalie. However, I don’t see him as an established above average starting goaltender, and it could well be that MacTavish is one of the (many) hockey people out there that believe a team needs an above-average starter to be successful.

Can Dubnyk get there? Maybe. In recent history, players like Tomas Vokoun, Kari Lehtonen, and Jimmy Howard have all posted significantly better numbers after their age-26 season. Others, though – including Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Patrick Lalime and Chris Osgood – have seen their numbers either stay flat or deteriorate.

Streakcred

Don’t forget that it’s not too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it’s only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

Over at NHLNumbers, Rex Libris asks Who Are The Edmonton Oilers Best Scouts? Here’s how he describes his process:

I am looking at the Oilers’ prospects taken between 2008 and 2012, the Stu MacGregor era, grouping them according to region drafted, and then grading them based on a variety of rankings including Lowetide’s top 20s, Hockey’s Future, Corey Pronman at Hockey Prospectus and giving weight to LT’s oft-cited preference for players with a “wide range of skills”. In some cases players who have made the jump to the AHL/ECHL may be ranked ahead of those still playing junior and those who have signed professional deals are ahead of those still unsigned.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here at Oilers Nation:

 

  • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

    Which other NHL team’s starting goaltender could Dubnyk start in front of? (insert jeopardy music here)
    Exactly!!
    Oilers obviously need to upgrade in goal just to compete for a playoff berth.

    • The Flames, Islanders, Jets, Flyers, Avalanche, Devils, Lightning and Panthers all definitely have an inferior starter at this point.

      Dubnyk also managed better save rates than the starters in Montreal, Los Angeles, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Anaheim and St. Louis this season.

      So, no, the Oilers don’t obviously need to upgrade Dunbyk just to compete for a playoff berth.

      • horndog77

        I may not be a fan of your scribes J.W., but you usually do have some sort of credence to your work, but to say D.D. is a better Tender than Pavlec, Bryz, Kipper & Marty is beyond laughable…

        You should be ashamed that you penned that in a public forum.

        And to even hint at that DD is any where NEAR Quick in LA because of a % issue is even more disturbing than your 1st diatribe…

        Talk about a “analytic’s guy” gone wrong…

        x6

        • Wax Man Riley

          Your post seems to be based on media coverage.

          Since DD doesn’t get the mainstream media coverage of the tenders that you mentioned, hi splay flies under the radar.

        • Ondrej Pavelec, over the last three seasons, has had 0.914, 0.906 and most recently a 0.905 campaign. He is a career 0.907 goalie.

          Devan Dubnyk, in the same span, has posted a 0.916, 0.914 and 0.920 save percentage. He is a career 0.913 goalie. Ondrej Pavelec dreams of being the kind of goaltender Devan Dubnyk is.

          Ilya Bryzgalov, over the same span, has posted 0.921, 0.909 and 0.900 save percentages. He is a career 0.913 SV% goalie. The numbers are similar, but Dubnyk a) is cheaper b) has a better track record recently and c) isn’t a headcase. I’ll take Dubnyk, thanks.

          Miikka Kiprusoff was once a great goalie. At this point in his career, he’s terrible. Over the last six seasons he’s fluctuated between quite good (one 0.920, one 0.921 campaign), bad (0.906, 0.903, 0.906, 0.882). That 0.882 SV% year, coming at the age of 36, was this season – he’s done.

          Martin Brodeur was also once a great goalie. Not any more. Over the last three seasons he has 0.903, 0.908 and 0.901 campaigns to his credit; all well below NHL average. At the age of 41, there’s no shred of doubt in my mind that I’d rather have Devan Dubnyk as my starter in any game today than Martin Brodeur.

          But thanks for coming out.

          • Wax Man Riley

            That’s why you are a #’s guy JW…

            You choose to only look at the side of the story & they are your only recourse when you stand up for your “OPINION”, which at the end of the day, stats based or not, is still just a man’s opinion when it’s all said & done.

            I don’t give 6 hoots as to what a Save % is when it comes to actually stopping the puck when the game in on the line.

            EVERY Bench Boss would start EVERY single 1 of those Tenders over DD if there were playing a game 7.

            Every single 1, every single time…

            Even Coach K.

            My opinion was that your’s was laughable, you don’t like mine, fair enough. But I’ll stick with it thank you very much…

            I don’t need stats to form an opinion on a player, I use my eyes & common sense.
            But Thanks for coming out as well…

            x6

          • Wax Man Riley

            TV6 wrote:

            I may not be a fan of your scribes J.W., but you usually do have some sort of credence to your work, but to say D.D. is a better Tender than Pavlec, Bryz, Kipper & Marty is beyond laughable…

            You should be ashamed that you penned that in a public forum.

            And to even hint at that DD is any where NEAR Quick in LA because of a % issue is even more disturbing than your 1st diatribe…

            Talk about a “analytic’s guy” gone wrong…

            x6

            Ondrej Pavelec, over the last three seasons, has had 0.914, 0.906 and most recently a 0.905 campaign. He is a career 0.907 goalie.

            Devan Dubnyk, in the same span, has posted a 0.916, 0.914 and 0.920 save percentage. He is a career 0.913 goalie. Ondrej Pavelec dreams of being the kind of goaltender Devan Dubnyk is.

            Ilya Bryzgalov, over the same span, has posted 0.921, 0.909 and 0.900 save percentages. He is a career 0.913 SV% goalie. The numbers are similar, but Dubnyk a) is cheaper b) has a better track record recently and c) isn’t a headcase. I’ll take Dubnyk, thanks.

            Miikka Kiprusoff was once a great goalie. At this point in his career, he’s terrible. Over the last six seasons he’s fluctuated between quite good (one 0.920, one 0.921 campaign), bad (0.906, 0.903, 0.906, 0.882). That 0.882 SV% year, coming at the age of 36, was this season – he’s done.

            Martin Brodeur was also once a great goalie. Not any more. Over the last three seasons he has 0.903, 0.908 and 0.901 campaigns to his credit; all well below NHL average. At the age of 41, there’s no shred of doubt in my mind that I’d rather have Devan Dubnyk as my starter in any game today than Martin Brodeur.

            But thanks for coming out.

            BOOM, Roasted

        • Quicksilver ballet

          I don’t always agree with JW either, but this is just a ridiculous comment!

          JW was speaking statistically.

          As we know Duby posted a .920 sp this season.

          Brodeur (obviously the better career goalie) posted a .901 this year. Quick a .902, and Pavelec a .905

          I don’t think anyone would argue that The Oilers had the weakest D out of that group of 4 teams.

          While i agree that Duby still has to get better to solidify himself as a proven no.1. He certainly has earned at least another look.

        • DSF

          To be fair, JW pointed out Dubnyk’s SH SV% is totally unsustainable.

          At the end of the day, he’s a below average starting goaltender and I think MacT knows it.

    • Rocket

      You don’t think Philly would consider replacing ol’ Breezy with Dubnyk? Or how ’bout Pittsburgh? How’s Fleury working out?

      I don’t know if Dubnyk will meet MacT’s expectations but I for one am willing to give him a chance. I just hope he cuts down on those softies.

      • The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building

        Somebodys worse than us….woo hoo. So with 30 NHL starters what number do you have Dubnyk at? (do not take into consideration some teams number 2s are ahead of Duby)

        • Rocket

          Philly & Pittsburgh are worse than The Oilers? I’ll leave that aside.

          I don’t know exactly where Duby rates among all the starters in the league but I doubt he is the worst. His save % proves it & as I mentioned earlier, his defensive corps are not exactly stellar.

          But you are correct: there are better goalies in the NHL I would start over Dubnyk.

  • Alsker

    Wait, we have a GM with expectations?? Doesnt MacT realize that leads to accountability?? That could be a hard pill to swallow for a bunch of guys in the organization that havent heard that word in a long time. QSB has been compiling a list of them for a few years now,lol, as for Dubnyk, like him but really needs a partner to be challenge for both of them.

  • I know teams can be successful without great goaltending (times seem to have changed), but I think that approach also requires a must more solid team across the board for it to work. That said, that’s something we should be striving for (being more solid in all aspects).

    But I mentioned in another post and will bring it up here, I think a guy who can handle the puck well would be an invaluable asset to the team. Mike Smith is one of those elite-level puck handlers. When you look at our team, you see we get hemmed in our zone a lot, and that can start on a dump in, with the goaltender killing the play behind the net, and allowing the opposing team to break into our zone, and regain possession in the chaos. I think a guy like Smith who can get the puck out in a hurry would help that part of our game immensely. That’s just one area I would improve on. I do like almost all other areas of Dubnyk’s game though. But his his puckhandling ability is a detriment(same goes for Khabi).

    Smith won’t come cheap, and some will hate the idea of spending big money (guessing ~$5M) on a position they feel isn’t so important. I get that. But I think it will pay dividends to have a top notch puck handler in net.. whether that’s Smith or someone else skilled in that area.

    Dubnyk already makes $3.5M.. let’s face it, that isn’t one of our bargain contracts.