Flames’ Patience in Dube Paying Off in Big Way

When the Calgary Flames chose to select Dillon Dube with the 56th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, it was evident that they had added an offensively gifted forward to their organization. During his draft year with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, he recorded an impressive 26 goals and 66 points in 65 outings.

Related: Flames’ Prospect Dustin Wolf Looking Like a Star in the Making

After being drafted, Dube spent two more seasons with the Rockets, where he was able to accumulate 58 goals and 139 points in a combined 93 games. Once his final season in 2017-18 had concluded, he went on to suit up for six American Hockey League games with the Stockton Heat and continued to produce, registering four assists.

At that time, Flames fans began to get quite excited over Dube, who appeared to have all the potential to be a solid producer in the coming years at the NHL level. That very next season, he appeared in 37 games with the Heat and had an impressive 15 goals and 39 points, while also logging 25 games with the Flames. Expectations were continuing to grow at that point, but started to lower shortly afterward.

Dube Struggled to Progress After Rookie Pro Season

In his second professional season, Dube was able to log 45 games with the Flames. For the most part he was solid, registering six goals and 16 points. Unfortunately, those numbers failed to progress over the next two seasons, causing many to debate whether or not the organization should move on from him.

Dillon Dube Calgary Flames
Dillon Dube, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On top of his offense failing to progress as many had envisioned, it seemed as though head coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t a big fan of his play. During Sutter’s first season with the team in 2020-21, he called out the now 24-year-old, saying he had “lots of growing up to do.”

Despite some of his struggles, general manager Brad Treliving chose to give Dube a three-year, $6.9 million extension in hopes that he would adapt to the NHL. While it didn’t happen through the first year of that deal, things have turned around in a big way in 2022-23, as he appears to finally be figuring things out from an offensive standpoint at the NHL level.

Dube Becoming Key Contributor for Flames

Things started off slowly for Dube in 2022-23, as he had just a goal and four points through his first 17 games. As a result, many believed it was time for a change, as it was more of the same in terms of consistency from the past few seasons. Since then, however, he has seemingly found his game and looks to be a player that could be sticking around for some time.

Over Dube’s past 23 games, he has put up a much more impressive seven goals and 17 points. Many have taken notice of his major uptick in production, including Sutter, who currently has him on the Flames’ top line alongside Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli.

What is even more impressive about Dube’s production this season, and particularly as of late, is that 18 of his 21 points have come at even strength. As of now, his power play time has been limited, as he averages just 1:23 per game while on the man advantage. One would have to think that if given an opportunity on the top unit, his production as of late would be even more impressive.

Sutter Gives High Praise for Dube

As mentioned, Sutter has been critical of Dube in the past, but it is clear that the young forward is quickly changing his head coach’s perspective when it comes to his game. Speaking with media on Thursday afternoon, the veteran bench boss was very complimentary of how his game has grown this season.

“Dillon is a guy that works at his game,” Sutter said. “Dillon is the most improved player in our organization, hands down. Give him lots of credit. He works at his game and it’s about repetition, preparation, training, everything.”

Darryl Sutter Head Coach of the Calgary Flames
Darryl Sutter, Head Coach of the Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As it works in hockey, coaches often get on players for not being at their best, while the player believes he would perform better if given more of an opportunity. This season, Dube has put his head down and worked each and every time he hits the ice, and is finally being rewarded with an opportunity alongside some of the Flames’ best players.

“I think for me coming in at a young age was a challenge for me to find my game and figure out the player I need to be in the league,” Dube explained. “Having some older guys when I came to learn from and how they establish themselves, guys like Backs (Mikael Backlund), following his career and he talked to me a lot about it and it was good for me to have.

You may also like:

“Older guys to learn from was a real important thing for me to become the player I need to be for this team.”

Despite his recent success, however, Dube was quick to acknowledge how quickly things can change. Having spent time as a healthy scratch in recent seasons, he is well aware that he needs to continue his contributions in order to remain in the lineup, as there is always someone else waiting to get an opportunity. Should he continue to play as well as he has lately, however, he should have no problem when it comes to remaining a fixture in the lineup.