The Minnesota Wild have officially secured a spot in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs with last night’s win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
While the entire team played a part in turning this season around and making it into a Cinderella story, there’s one guy that’s especially responsible: Devan Dubnyk. I never thought I’d say this, but the guy is practically a hero in Minnesota right now, and the Wild are lucky to have him in net. He’s been huge for Minnesota and by far the most valuable player on the ice for the past three months.
But how much do you really know about this season-saving, giraffe-wearing goaltender?
The Early Days
Devan Dubnyk was born on May 4, 1986, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and began his hockey career soon after that.
He started out with the Calgary Bruins, spending two years and playing 32 games with them before moving on to the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. Between 2001 and 2006, Dubnyk played 192 games with the Blazers, while also playing on Canada’s U18 and U20 teams.
At 6’5″, Dubnyk seemed to have an easy time keeping pucks out of the net, and helped lead the Blazers to the playoffs three times during his career there.
After compiling a record of 83-87-14 with the Blazers, Dubnyk left for the ECHL.
Dubnyk then started his professional career with the Stockton Thunder of the East Coast Hockey League, where he spent one season, and played 43 games. In that time, the netminder worked his way to a record of 24-11-7. Dubnyk also managed to break a couple of club records during this time, and was selected for the ECHL All-Star Game in 2007 as a result.
His 2.55 GAA and .921 SVPG eventually led to Dubnyk getting a call from the Edmonton Oilers’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.
It seems that quite a few people think Dubnyk has always been this second-place backup goaltender, but the guy actually played quite well in the minor leagues and moved to the NHL pretty quickly. Unfortunately, that’s when things started to get a little crazy for Dubnyk.
The Big Leagues
After two seasons with the Springfield Falcons, Dubnyk was called up to Edmonton to replace Nikolai Khabibulin, whose season was ended by back surgery. Things began to get a unstable for Dubnyk, who bounced around between starting, backing-up, and spending time in the AHL.
Dubnyk and Khabibulin competed for the starting position, while Edmonton struggled to win games. Something about the big goaltender impressed the Oilers staff, however, and in 2012 Dubnyk was rewarded with a 2-year, $7 million contract extension. Dubnyk began the season as the starting goaltender for Edmonton, and played relatively well, but the Oilers failed to make the postseason for their seventh straight year.
In his next season, Dubnyk struggled early on while facing increased pressure from Ilya Bryzgalov, Edmonton’s new goalie. (Side note: do the Minnesota Wild just like to take Edmonton’s washed up goalies and turn them into gold? The Wild should really try to figure out a deal with the Oilers. Maybe they wouldn’t even need minor league goalies anymore. They’d just come from Edmonton?) After 32 games, a 3.36 GAA and .894 SVS%, Dubnyk was traded to the Nashville Predators, where he played two not-too-great games. He was then sent to the minors.
After Nashville, Dubnyk was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, where he was against sent down to the minors. He spent eight games in the AHL with Montreal’s affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs.
When the 2013-2014 season ended, the drifting goaltender signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes, but, surprise, he didn’t stay long there, either. In January of 2015, Dubnyk was acquired by the Minnesota Wild. And the rest is history.
Since joining the Minnesota Wild back on January 15, Devan Dubnyk has been unstoppable. He’s saved Minnesota’s season, pushed them to the playoffs, and made them one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. In three months, Dubnyk has gone from being a bounced-around backup in Arizona to a possible Vezina candidate in Minnesota.
Vezina Trophy: Our top 3 (and 3 on the cusp) Carey Price MTL Devan Dubnyk MIN Pekka Rinne NSH Others: Holtby WSH, Bishop TB, Schneider NJ
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) April 7, 2015
Right now, he sits in behind only Carey Price in GAA with 2.06 and SVPG with .930. Dubnyk has amazing stats, but it’s so much more than the numbers for the Minnesota Wild and their goaltender. He is that spark that was missing for Minnesota.
I’ve said it all along, this team has talent; something has just always been missing. Apparently, that something was a solid goaltender. The Wild started out the season with a tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom, but that quickly went downhill, as did Minnesota’s season. Luckily for the Wild, Devan Dubnyk arrived just in time and turned the year around.
Before Dubnyk arrived in Minnesota, the Wild had a 5.5% chance of making the playoffs. Now they’re in. If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.
This guy is a big topic of conversation in the NHL right now, but what he’s done this year is even more amazing when you consider where he’s been over the past few years. Dubnyk has been with six teams in the past four years, and really hasn’t had a place to call home. I can’t imagine it’s easy to stay consistent when you play with a different team every six months.
But things seem to finally be working out for Dubnyk, who seems to have found his home at the Xcel Energy Center. Some may say this is a fluke, and next year will end up going differently, but that’s hard to believe. There’s nothing fluky about 38 consecutive starts, a 27-8-2 record, and the second-best stats in the National Hockey League.
Devan Dubnyk is the real deal. He’s here to stay.
Alli covers the Minnesota Wild and has been a contributing writer with THW since August 2014. She is currently a journalism and sports management student at the University of Minnesota. For all of your Minnesota Wild news and updates, follow her on twitter: @allibaker23