NHL: Wild's Dubnyk content but not complacent
By Chad GraffSt. Paul Pioneer Press ST. PAUL -- When Barry Dubnyk landed in Minnesota for a visit with his son, Devan, he was greeted with a list of chores. There was furniture to set up, pictures to hang and hardware stores to visit. He's used t...
By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL - When Barry Dubnyk landed in Minnesota for a visit with his son, Devan, he was greeted with a list of chores. There was furniture to set up, pictures to hang and hardware stores to visit.
He’s used to that.
Because Devan has moved five times in 21 months, Barry and his wife, Barb, have gotten accustomed to helping Devan and his wife, Jennifer, get settled into new places across North America.
They’ve hung pictures on the walls of houses in Edmonton, Arizona, Nashville and Minnesota. And if a picture wasn’t exactly straight or in the perfect spot, it didn’t really matter. Chances were Dubnyk wouldn’t be there long.
This visit was different.
After Dubnyk signed a six-year, $26 million contract this summer to stay in Minnesota long-term, Barry’s task wasn’t just hanging pictures. It was helping turn his son’s new house in Edina into a home.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” Barry Dubnyk said.
After six seasons in the NHL, Devan Dubnyk finally has the stability that proved so elusive when he bounced to five different organizations in less than two years.
In turn, the Wild, who open the 2015-16 season Thursday night in Colorado, are hoping Dubnyk gives them stability at the position where they’ve needed it most.
Barry has noticed something different about his youngest son. “I see it in him,” he said. “It’s what I would call ‘comfort.’ ”
But Barry Dubnyk was cautious about using that word. Comfort, he said, insinuated a sort of complacency that doesn’t exist with Dubnyk after he and the Wild were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the playoffs last season.
“There’s no reason for complacency,” Dubnyk said. “Getting to the playoffs last year, we learned what we can do as a group. I just want a chance to win the Stanley Cup. So, there’s no reason to be complacent.”
After Dubnyk was traded to the Wild on Jan. 14, he and the team went on an incredible 38-game run, each started by Dubnyk, that vaulted the Wild from 12th in the conference to the playoffs and made Dubnyk a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
In 39 regular-season games with the Wild, Dubnyk posted a 27-9-2 record to go with a .936 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average.
He finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting.
“I don’t want to approach the year and just think about last year and try to match those numbers,” Dubnyk said. “I know it’s going to be talked about anytime I have an average or below-average game. But I want to go out and concentrate on the things that I was doing last year that helped me be successful.”
Dubnyk’s performance helped revitalize a Wild team whose postseason chances were on life support. And considering where his previous season had ended, it was unexpected.
After five years playing behind Edmonton’s notoriously poor defense, Dubnyk was traded to Nashville, then to Montreal. He ended the season with the Canadiens’ minor-league affiliate, a humbling end to a long, frustrating season.
“Two years ago, you couldn’t have imagined the season to be that bad,” his father said. “And last year, you couldn’t have imagined the season to be that good.”
Time to reflect
During Dubnyk’s busy first season with the Wild, he said there would be a time and place to reflect on all he accomplished.
Finally, this summer, that time came as Dubnyk lounged at his offseason home in British Columbia.
“It’s nice to just reflect on and think about it,” Dubnyk said. “It’s pretty outrageous how many things had to fall into place for everything to happen the way it did right from the very start of the year. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Just before agreeing to his new contract this summer, Dubnyk took a weeklong golf vacation to Europe with seven other current or former hockey players set up by Dubnyk’s former Arizona Coyotes teammate B.J. Crombeen.
They played 18 holes Sunday, 36 on Monday, 18 on Tuesday, 36 on Wednesday - at which points calluses developed on their hands - 27 on Thursday, 27 on Friday and 36 on Saturday.
At the time, in late June, there was growing concern among the Wild fan base about whether Dubnyk and the team would agree on a contract before he was set to become a free agent July 1.
“He was going through it a little while we were over there and taking phone calls,” Crombeen said. “But he was pretty calm through it all. That’s the kind of guy he is. And he was ecstatic to go back (to the Wild).”
A new season
Last season, with the Wild goalie situation in crisis, Dubnyk debuted with his new team in Buffalo on Jan. 15, starting in goal after catching a red-eye flight from Phoenix.
The Wild won that game 7-0.
“I watched that game and thought, ‘Boy, is it fun to watch hockey like this,’ ” Barry said.
With three goalies - Darcy Kuemper backing up Dubnyk and Niklas Backstrom as a third goalie - on the roster this season, it is unlikely Dubnyk will have to start 38 straight games again.
But doing that last season - doing what needed to be done - Dubnyk gained the respect of his teammates and coaches.
“He didn’t look at the big picture. He was focused on the moment and that particular game, and when he did that, he was real strong for us,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Dubnyk credits his teammates for that.
After his first week with the Wild, he called his dad and raved about his new team.
“Don’t get me wrong, he has loved his teammates over the years,” Barry said. “But even from the very first day he got to Minnesota, he talked about how comfortable he felt and how supportive the guys were and how much fun it was.”
After he helped save their season 10 months ago, much of the Wild’s prospects this season once again ride on Dubnyk.
He is not expected to post the same chart-topping numbers as last season. But the Wild, a team that has struggled to find any semblance of consistent goaltending, are desperate for a drama-free season inside the crease.
“I want to go out and concentrate on the things that I was doing last year that helped me be successful,” Dubnyk said. “The thing that makes me comfortable and not worried about that going forward is just how good I feel about this group and playing behind them. I know we’re going to win a lot of games. I just have to be solid for them and give them a good feeling back there, and then we’re going to have a real good chance to win hockey games.”
Because of the hockey games Dubnyk helped win last season, he finally has the stability that has eluded him throughout his career.
And that could set up another big year from the goalie.
“You can just tell,” Barry said, “that he’s at ease.”
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