Devan Dubnyk’s SV% had improved during his first three NHL seasons. His first season he had a .910, then 9.14 and last year he finished with a .920SV%, but this year in 29 games with the Oilers his SV%, .896, and his overall play took a huge dip.
What happened? I asked him.
I don’t know, but I had the chance to talk with Dubnyk about his recent trade to Nashville and what went wrong this season.
Jason Gregor: Did this trade surprise you, or did you sense that something was coming?
Devan Dubnyk: It was surprising. I think that it was a disappointing year and it had been for everybody there [in Edmonton]. You know, you accept the possibility that a trade will happen, but it doesn’t really matter it still doesn’t prepare you.
I’m sure if it had started to get closer to the deadline, obviously everybody starts to get a little more tense and waits for something to happen, but I certainly didn’t expect that in Minnesota. It was a strange day, it’s’ still a little bit surreal to me.
I didn’t know that there was an opportunity to come play here [Nashville] and come to this group. I’m very excited to do it.
Gregor: I was looking at your numbers. The three previous years, your save percentage was 0.910, 0.914 and last year 0.920. You really struggled out of the gate this year. Looking back, what happened at the start of the year? Was there more internal pressure from you, pressure from the organization, or was it just a funk?
Dubnyk: It might have been a little bit of all of that. I think that there was a little bit of pressure on everybody. I think that we had high expectations. I know that I had high expectations on myself and us as a group.
If you look at the games, those first four games of the year were… were disastrous, almost real tough to come back from starting the year that way, stats wise. You kind of work your way back into it and it just seemed like the off nights were more often than usual. It was frustrating. It was one of those times. But I’ve felt that I’ve gotten better, played better over the last couple of months, but it’s my job to find a way out of it, especially now that I’m with a new opportunity here.
I’m excited and looking forward to getting back to the level that I was at and also exceeding that level going forward.
Gregor: Everybody has theories when someone struggles; talk radio, media, fans. Everybody has a theory. Some people suggested that the smaller pads and the shorter goal stick impacted you. Any truth?
Dubnyk: I don’t think so. If pucks were trickling through my five-hole from bad angles all of the time, then I guess you could suggest that. But to be honest, now after wearing them I don’t remember what the old ones felt like. The pads feel like pads I’ve worn my whole life. You get used to them.
So I mean yeah it was an adjustment, it was different when I first put them on at the start of the year, but it was different for everybody. I’m certainly not going to look to that as an excuse for some struggles at the start of the year. Like I said, every goalie in the league had to change, so there is no reason why mine would be any different than anybody else’s.
Gregor: This year there was a lot of shots beating you up high. Sean Burke mentioned ‘when a tall guy doesn’t play tall, he is wasting the advantage of his size.’ Were teams shooting more above your shoulders, did you change anything from last year? How do you explain all of the shots upstairs?
Dubnyk: No I didn’t change anything. When there is an opportunity to go upstairs, that’s where players shoot in the NHL. It doesn’t matter who’s in net, that’s where they’re going to look to go. Sean Burke is exactly right, you want to use the size to your advantage but you have to play big and you have to play positional to get that.
We changed a lot of things (defensively) at the start of the year. I think that it was a change for everybody and I was having a tough time finding the puck sometimes and reading the play just with different things going on. And when that happens, you’re not finding the puck, or you feel that you can’t track it down then you end up leaving your feet early and you end up going down, just to go down.
Almost every goalie nowadays is going to go down on 99% of the shots just to make the save. But it’s going down into the save and when you’re not finding the puck and tracking it real well, well then you end up going down just to go down and that’s when things start to get by you upstairs.
Gregor: When you say that you are not tracking the puck well, was that due to the change in defence, guys were in the lane more, or were you not picking it up as quickly as you had in previous years?
Dubnyk: I mean there is no reason why I all of the sudden wouldn’t be able to track the puck [laughs] the same way. It was an adjustment for all of us, we’d been playing a certain way, but that’s why they brought Dallas [Eakins] in; to change things. But there’s a certain adjustment period, and you start thinking about what’s going on and it’s about picking up pucks through sticks, through bodies, through feet, through shin pads, that’s all a part of playing goal. And sometimes when you’re struggling a bit, you have a tougher time finding it, that’s a part of playing goal. You have to find it; you have to find a way to look around and look through or over top or underneath and find a way to see the puck on the guys stick. And when you don’t, you’re in trouble.
Gregor: Confidence is huge for any athlete in any sport. For goal scorers you go six or seven games and you don’t score, they all admit that they’re confidence wanes. Then they get one goal and suddenly they get their confidence back. As a goalie you are always facing shots, so when you lose your confidence, how do you get it back?
Dubnyk: Just working. You need to know, you need to trust in what you’re doing and just come back to certain things to concentrate on to help you get that confidence back. There is a lot of pressure, a lot going on and a lot to think about. If you start losing confidence you start to think about all of these things and every situation on the ice and you’re thinking, thinking, thinking. The easiest way to get it is back is take a few things that you know you have to do and really just concentrate on those things and work hard to find the puck and it will come back to you.
I’ve always said that you don’t necessarily have to be perfect every night, or get a shutout every night, but you have to be able to give the guys a chance to win on nights that you don’t necessarily feel at your best. In an 82-game season there are going to be those games and those times that you have to come back to those things that work for you and find a way to get hit by pucks.
Gregor: Last summer Craig MacTavish said about you as a starter, “If you have to ask the question then you know the answer.’ Did you feel like you had to re-prove yourself to the organization? Did those comments weigh on you at all and was that a factor in your play this year?
Dubnyk: When you get new management and a new coach, there is always going to be a period of time where you need to show them what you can do. Yes it was frustrating, and I felt like over the three years before that I was growing into a starting role and I had done so the season before.
Looking back on it now, I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t a frustrating situation this summer. I think that it would be ridiculous to pretend that it wasn’t, but that’s a part of the sport and I really wanted to go out there and show them otherwise. Like I said it’s upsetting that it didn’t work out that way.
I told them that I wanted to a part of that group going forward and as the year went on, it looked like that wasn’t going to be the case. I’m grateful for the opportunity I got here with a great group of guys.
Gregor: I’m sure that you look at the big picture. Pekka Rinne is the starter, he’s got a five-year contract and you had mentioned earlier that you had thought that you were moving forward to be a starter. Do you feel that these next three months will be an opportunity for you to audition as a pending UFA and likely sign somewhere else where you can have a chance to be a true starter?
Dubnyk: Absolutely. It’s a great opportunity for me to play games, and get back on track; get back on the track that I was on before. It’s an opportunity to push for the playoffs here. Watching this group, I don’t see any reason why we can’t and to get an opportunity to be a part of that and to help this team to make a playoff push is really exciting and it’s easy to just focus on that going forward.
And like you say, obviously with Peks, he’s one of the best goalies in the world so they are going to want him back as soon as he can be back, but for the time being I’m excited to be a part of this group and that’s just what I’ve got to concentrate on for now.
Gregor: I know that sometimes we forget about the personal side. You and your wife had a baby boy just before the season. How difficult is it being a new dad and now suddenly you’re going to be separated for a while?
Dubnyk: That’s really the tough part. Obviously the opportunity and coming to a new team, it’s exciting, but it is tough enough being away from them on the road, never mind when halfway through the trip I’m gone for the immediate future going forward. That’s something that you go through. Obviously my wife was a little bit upset. She’s very excited at the opportunity and we both know that it’s a great chance for me, but obviously just the shock of it all has been tough on her. She’s excited to get out here and we’re coming out to Edmonton pretty quickly, so then she and the little man are going to make their way out here. It will all work out. You stick together and that’s what’s important.
I respect that Dubnyk admitted MacT’s comments had an impact o his play. He could have given the expected answer, "No, you block that out," but he told the truth. Confidence plays a major role in any athlete’s success, and from the start of the season Dubnyk never looked comfortable.
He might need an entire summer away from the game to regain his confidence. We’ll see.
Trading Dubnyk didn’t clear up the Oilers goaltending future, and likely just muddied it a bit more with the arrival of Ben Scrivens.
Is Scrivens starter material?
Well, if you have to ask the question then we probably know the answer. I do think Scrivens will get every opportunity to play himself into a new contract with the Oilers, but only as either part of a goalie tandem or as the backup.