Was Devan Dubnyk the answer for the Wild?
So maybe Mike Yeo wasn’t the problem after all. Take a look at the Minnesota Wild since the arrival of goaltender Devan Dubnyk – yes that Devan Dubnyk who has played with five organizations over the last two years.
He is the key for this resurgence. He is the reason for Minnesota playing lights out hockey of late. Wait … Devan Dubnyk? Yes, this is true. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“Dubnyk now has four shutouts in nine starts with the Wild and has allowed three goals in five games since the All-Star break. In nine starts, he is 7-1 (one no-decision in Detroit) with a 1.31 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. Per Elias, Dubnyk is the fastest to post four shutouts with a team among goalies who debut in the NHL expansion era (1967-68 or later).”
Remember the Mike Yeo angry tirade in practice? The six-game losing streak? The drama around the Wild? Niklas Backstrom couldn't stop a beach ball. All a thing of the past … even though Minnesota is still five points back of the playoffs.
And really all it took was a goaltender, and the fact that it was Dubnyk of all netminders is just bizarre. Bravo to general manager Chuck Fletcher and his scouting staff for not hitting the panic button and seeing that the 28-year-old had finally realized his potential.
Dubnyk’s revival has been quite remarkable. He had a save percentage that was sub-.900 a year ago with the Oilers then Predators before Montreal took him off waivers for depth.
He did win 20 games once with Edmonton once, but never started more than 42 in his career. He was a first round pick in 2004, but you had to wonder if it was because he was 6-foot-6 more than had talent.
Enter Sean Burke – Arizona’s goaltender coach/whisperer. Dubnyk started the season with the Coyotes, before a trade to Minnesota where Burke helped resurrect the netminder.
His 2.72 goals against average wasn’t great, but he notched a .916 save percentage in front of the 27th worst defensive team in the NHL. He was clearly a better option than Mike Smith, who continues to founder with the Coyotes.
Burke is famous for helping taller goaltenders find their game. He did so with Smith when he arrived in Arizona as a journeyman, and – regardless of this season – turned him into a stellar starting netminder over the last few years. It appears that Burke’s guidance has continued to rub off on Dubnyk, even if he's thousands of miles away.
Said the Star-Tribune in another piece:
The former first-round draft pick, coming off a rough year with Edmonton, was limited in action behind Mike Smith in Arizona. So he welcomed the move, his confidence buoyed by work with Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke.
"To go from a place where there obviously wasn't an opportunity to start long term and to come to a place and have an opportunity to play games right away is exactly what I wanted," Dubnyk said.
It was apparent before the trade to Minnesota. The Hockey News figured it out while Dubnyk was one of the few bright spots on a horrid Coyotes team:
The common thinking in recent years has been that Tippett’s defensive system insulates his goaltenders and lets them put up numbers they couldn’t achieve elsewhere. That might be true, but it’s not particularly evident this season. The Coyotes are among the five worst teams in the league for goals-against, yet Dubnyk is still having a solid year.
Former goaltending star Sean Burke likely has a lot to do with it. He helped revitalize Mike Smith’s career, and he seems to be weaving his magic again with Dubnyk.
Does this make the Wild a playoff team? As Russo points out, the Wild is five points out. But as we pointed out in Saturday’s column about the Kings the teams in front of Minnesota are due to regress – or at least one of them should between Winnipeg, Calgary or Vancouver. If the Wild can stay hot behind Dubnyk then it’s entirely possible.
Then again, this is Dubnyk we’re talking about. He was part of three organizations last season and two this year. Can you place your faith squarely on his shoulders?
Regardless, the Wild is back in contention thanks to the netminder – and a goaltending coach from another organization. It probably owes Burke – and Coyotes GM Don Maloney who traded Dubnyk – a debt of gratitude if all works out. And Smith for making a ton of money and being untradeable.
- - - - - - -
Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY