Fresh off signing a three-year, $6.9 million extension in the offseason, Dillon Dube was really hoping for a breakout year with the Calgary Flames. The product of Cochrane, Alberta, had an inconsistent 2020-21 campaign that saw him post only 11 goals and 22 points in 51 games after he was looking to establish himself as a true offensive weapon at the NHL level.
Dube was also a healthy scratch multiple times near the end of last season and was called out by head coach Darryl Sutter for not doing enough to keep his spot on the roster. The 2021-22 campaign offered up a clean slate for the 23-year-old, but it has turned out to be a real mixed bag from start to finish. While the Flames’ third-line winger has already hit a career-high with 28 points, his points-per-game average is down from last year’s COVID-19-shortened campaign.
Dube has bounced between the top six and bottom six, auditioned at center for several games, and even found himself a healthy scratch three times in early March. However, watching a few games from the press box seems to be exactly the kick in the pants the 2016 second-round draft pick needed to turn his season around.
Dube Trending in the Right Direction as Playoffs Loom
The points didn’t come right away, but once he was inserted back into the lineup on March 5, Dube’s play picked up immediately. His 5v5 advanced stats made him one of the most dynamic offensive threats on Calgary’s roster, and that didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach. Sutter gave the fourth-year Flame some shifts with Matthew Tkachuk and also moved him to the second power-play unit. By the end of March, the coach known for being extremely stingy with his compliments was happy to dole out a pretty big one to Dube.
“One thing I’ll say about Dillon (Dube) is…Dillon shows up,” Sutter told reporters. “If you look at his track record, wherever he’s played, Dillon shows up at important times. If you look at his junior career and things like that, he shows up at important times, and that’s a great trait to have. That’s on Dillon. We’ve talked a lot about the stretch and staying in the race and being in the race, and Dillon’s done a good job of that if you think about it. Which means he’s played at a different level in big games.”
Dube Was One of the Flames’ Best Players in the 2020 Bubble Playoffs
When Sutter talked about Dube rising to the occasion, he was specifically referring to his playoff success with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets and his turn as captain of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2017 World Junior Championships. However, something Sutter failed to mention was the important role Dube carved out for himself, playing on the Flames’ best forward line of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Slotted in alongside seasoned veteran Milan Lucic and perennial playoff overachiever Sam Bennett, Dube found instant chemistry playing on the third unit. The hardworking trio was instrumental in defeating the Winnipeg Jets in four games in the 2020 qualifying round. After the Dallas Stars eliminated the Flames in six games, the playoff rookie finished with four goals and five points in 10 contests, tying for second in goals on the team and proving the speedy left-winger could elevate his game in the postseason.
Dube Has Finally Found His Scoring Touch
Over the last week-and-a-half, Dube has been on fire, scoring four goals and six points in his last six games. It seems all of the bad puck luck from earlier in the season has been replaced with the scoring touch that made him an elite sniper in junior and the American Hockey League.
While he’s seen teammates like Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington all have breakout campaigns, the speedy forward – picked 56th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft – is saving his best for last. If the Dube we’re seeing right now can continue his stellar play into the 2022 Playoffs, we could see another welcome appearance from a player who has a history of showing up “at important times.”
Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.