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Hockey Daily Dose

Devan Dubnyk's Big Break

by James O'Brien
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

If you asked me to list the unluckiest goalies of the 2013-14 season before Jan. 15, I’d bet that Devan Dubnyk, Ben Scrivens and Pekka Rinne would figure into the top five. That list would look a little different after Wednesday’s whirlwind,* however, especially for the man I occasionally call DD.


Things are, in fact, different enough that I will postpone my division-by-division outlooks for at least a day.**


Let’s take a look at the goalies and teams who were affected by yesterday’s round of goalie musical chairs. Before I do that, let me throw out the most urgent bit of advice in case you’re in a league with other Dose readers but you’re also the early bird: add Devan Dubnyk now. Just do it.


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In a vacuum, Nashville Predators GM David Poile hit a home run by trading Matt Hendricks’ baffling contract (which he handed out not that long ago) for Devan Dubnyk. The fact that he was able to swindle the Edmonton Oilers into covering a big chunk of DD’s salary only makes a lopsided trade look hilarious. It also shows the gap between the absolutely, positively putrid (the Oilers and their management) and the questionable but at least fairly competent (the Predators and their management).


Context makes this situation a little more frustrating, though, as this deal gets downgraded from “moon shot” to “base hit” because it happened in January 2014 instead of, say, November 2013.


It makes me think back to a funny and under-reported/insufficiently mocked comment Poile made about Bobby Ryan, as the American GM compared the perennial 30-goal scorer to the hare in the old tortoise and the hare fable. There’s no doubt in my mind that Poile believes himself and his Predators to be that hare; I bet he’d get a tattoo of such if he was the tattoo-sporting type.


Well, here’s the problem: the Western Conference is a much different race and Poile has been caught sleeping for far too long. Sports Club Stats gives the Predators a 2.1 percent chance of making the playoffs as of today and as much as Poile would like to act like a victim of circumstance with Rinne’s troubling hip issues, it’s not as if Rinne suffered that issue in-season. When a $7 million player gets offseason surgery, and he’s one of two guys who can fill that position (and the only one during game action) … maybe you should buy a little insurance, shouldn’t you?


Instead, Poile basically decided to buy goaltending lottery tickets, which doesn’t seem like a very “tortoise” thing to do.




Specifically, Poile stuck with two inexperienced goalies and suffered the predictably bad results, but here’s the wrinkle that should perk your ears up: this could all make Devan Dubnyk look like gold. Heck, he even has an inch in height on Rinne, so you know he’ll meet the Predators’ obviously urgent “Must be tall enough to be a small forward in the NBA” goalie requirement.


This Dose contains the longer version of my defense of Devan Dubnyk, but in a nutshell, he occasionally put up the kind of numbers that made him a potential diamond in the rough in Edmonton. Considering the fact that he’s fighting for his career as an unrestricted free agent and the Predators are obviously desperate to make a surge toward the playoffs, I think Dubnyk could pay off for fantasy owners even more than he might for the Predators.


Think of it as this formula: goalie who could be better than we think + traditionally strong defensive team + serious motivation from everyone to win = profit.


He’s only owned in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there’s a good chance you can drop your dead weight (aka your Matt Hendricks***) for Dubnyk. So do it. (Forces your hand to the mouse, gets kind of weird about it.)




While Dubnyk is the fantasy equivalent of Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places,” Ben Scrivens’ luck is a little more grounded in the harsh realities of the business. I mean, even his wife isn’t happy.


As much as I feel bad for Dubnyk, he at least received ample opportunities to prove himself. Scrivens went from playing for Toronto on Jan. 19, 2013 to playing triumphantly for Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles only to be out-triumphed by Martin Jones to being traded to a very tough situation in Edmonton. I’m not sure he ever really got a fair shake.


My guess is that the Oilers aren’t happy with Ilya Bryzgalov, so the top job may, in fact, be Scrivens’ to win. If nothing else, their already-embattled head coach Dallas Eakins saw him excel for the Toronto Marlies. That’s positive stuff, but it doesn’t change the fact that Scrivens now has to play behind a poor defense in a franchise that is deeply dysfunctional.


All the sneaky-good work he’s done (.917 save percentage for his career in the NHL, very strong work in the AHL) could be greatly hindered thanks to issues that have very little to do with him. That’s a tough break, too, because Scrivens is battling for a free agent contract just like Dubnyk.




The hare in this story isn’t Bobby Ryan, it’s Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. While I like a lot of the things the helmet-hating executive has done (I thought he fleeced the St. Louis Blues for David Perron, but that’s worked out even better than expected,) he’s shown how antsy and reckless NHL teams can get with goalies.


Instead of grabbing Scrivens for that third-rounder and merely burying Dubnyk in the minors, he took on a bad contract and paid to give DD away. Weird.


The worst part is that he didn’t get a defenseman from Nashville to do so. Ryan Ellis wouldn’t save the universe there, but Edmonton could use him far more than a grinder. *** Remember when the Maple Leafs grabbed a nice asset in Cody Franson to take on Nashville’s bad contract (Matthew Lombardi) of that time? MacTavish failed to duplicate those results.


I wouldn’t add Scrivens unless you’re in a really deep league and are desperate for any warm body in net, but I’m pulling for the guy. At minimum, he’s proven that he can be a strong backup in the NHL, yet he’s been thrown around like he’s a replacement-level journeyman. Sadly, the Oilers might doom him to the life of such a goalie.


If you don’t believe in the impact of a goalie’s supporting cast, consider this: I would have been hugely pro-Scrivens if he was in Dubnyk shoes in Nashville.


After the jump: Mr. Jones counts Scrivens’ crows and Tom Sestito’s rage.


* I call it a whirlwind relative to the disappointing lack of trade activity so far this season. I’ve seen more swaps in leagues full of people who hate and/or distrust each other.


** - I provided that “unless something big happens” caveat on Tuesday thanks to the experience that comes from three seasons of writing those Dose in which it’s never wise to type anything up until the games are all over and the narratives have time to cement.


*** - For the record, Hendricks seems like a great dude. He’s just overpaid and inessential in the scheme of the NHL.




To bring things back to fables, Dean Lombardi makes me think of the “just right” porridge in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or at least how one remembers such things (spoiler: not well). MacTavish is too hot and Poile is too cold, but Lombardi’s combination of the hot (proactivity) and the cold (patience) make him one of the best GMs in the NHL.


Much like Poile, Lombardi had an expensive goalie go down with an injury (though obviously not as severe). Unlike Poile, Lombardi made sure to back Jonathan Quick up with a goalie with a decent amount of NHL experience and (of underrated importance) a nice AHL track record in Scrivens.


(Oh yeah, he also filled his team with high-quality players and bargains instead of paying a bizarre premium for grinders and average types like Poile did, but let’s move on.)


Lombardi probably got lucky that Martin Jones blossomed like he did, but the bottom line is that his strong management (plus some luck) turned what would sounded like a crisis into a free third-round pick. After all, with Scrivens showing the competence he did, he wasn’t going to be a minimum wage guy come next summer … so why not get something for him when you can?


(Note: Scrivens does stand to lose quite a few thousands if the Oilers hang him out to dry, though.)




Anyway, Martin Jones becomes an interesting consideration. I’d lean toward watching him like promising stock that might not be mature enough for an impulse purchase.


My gut instinct is to say that the Kings will treat Jonathan Quick as a workhorse if they can, but two things promote optimism for potential Jones owners: 1) injuries and 2) the Olympics.


It was my opinion that the Kings were pretty stubborn when it came to handing Jonathan Bernier starts over Quick last season even though Bernier had been out-playing Quick in a resounding way, but those injury and Olympic fatigue-related reasons (plus being a little further removed from Quick’s Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup-winning year) probably make Darryl Sutter more amenable to starting Jones.




Dubnyk is Wednesday’s biggest winner, yet one Quick injury could swing that in a big way. At worst, Jones could be a nice guy to add and drop periodically if you’re into that kind of thing.




That was a brain-full, so just to summarize:


-- Dubnyk is a must-add, Scrivens is worth watching immediately and Jones might be something of a slow-burn.


-- Lombardi is a fantastic GM, while Poile and MacTavish sport interestingly contrasting strengths and weaknesses.


-- Rinne’s season is probably over; let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse (sadly imagines digitized Bo Jackson) than that.


-- Bryzgalov basically falls into the spot Dubnyk vacated in Edmonton: old news, and borderline discarded in management’s eyes. Still, fantasy owners should keep an eye on him; after all, Dubnyk heated up a bit when Breezy was signed ...


-- There could be a valuable goalie on your waiver wire who isn’t discussed. Don’t just add someone because it’s an interesting storyline. Unless it’s Dubnyk. Then just do it.




It’s difficult for me to evaluate enforcers who do nothing but get penalty minutes, at least if they’re forwards. It’s easier for me to throw away a D spot for an otherwise useless player because there are so many dime-a-dozen fantasy defensemen in the midrange.


The problem with enforcers is that they’re unpredictable. Tom Sestito has a ridiculous 49 PIM in his last two games, giving him a sizeable lead for the season over Antoine Roussel for the top PIM prize, but Roussel shows flashes of being … you know, a hockey player instead of a mixed martial artist on skates.


If my eyes don’t deceive me (let me know if they did) Sestito registered PIM in 19 of his 45 games this season. Are you willing to go all-or-nothing in that category more often than not? If so, you better be clairvoyant when it comes to when John Tortorella will throw some raw meat his way.


Personally, if punting PIMs altogether isn’t in play, I’d rather just grab that category with guys who can also do other things. You should know the group by now: the likes of Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Brandon Dubinsky, Steve Downie, Chris Stewart and so on.


That being said, I’ll do my best to come up with some more helpful research and theories on the risk-reward factor of enforcers at some point. Just don’t expect it to happen as quickly as Sestito’s night of work was over against the Kings on Jan. 13.


In fact, I might just raise a glass to Poile and take the tortoise-like approach with that plan.


For a full list of injuries and suspensions, click here.

James O'Brien
James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.