Principe: Opportunity Knocking on Devan's Door
Gene Principe examines Devan Dubnyk's development & the opportunity that exists to grab the reigns in the crease
|Devan Dubnyk makes a sliding glove against the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Getty Images)
Try telling Devan Dubnyk there's no pressure being second in command of your own net. It is different if you are a journeyman goaltender (ie. Andrew Raycroft or Johan Hedberg) who jumps from team to team and is considered a temporary fill in. It's much different if you're the backup and are considered the goalie of the future; and that describes Dubnyk.
He beat out Jeff Deslauriers to be the caddy for Nikolai Khabibulin and ever since Edmonton made that decision, he hasn't disappointed those who believed in him. The 24-year old is really starting to look like he can play in this league and I don't just mean every three or four games but I think he can play three-four games in a row or more.
When Khabibulin was out it was Dubnyk and Martin Gerber who filled in for those half dozen contests. Suddenly it wasn't the backup mentality that Dubnyk had to embrace, but it was to be a starter to be 'The Man'. He had to do it even though his resume was about 200 games shorter than Gerber's. Neither disappointed but it was the first time, unlike Gerber, that Dubnyk was number one in his short NHL career.
I think Dubnyk proved what he could do and it showed Sunday night against Vanouver. Edmonton entered a game against a Northwest Division team -- who also happened to be the best team in the division -- they had their top netminder Robert Luongo starting and Nikolai Khabibulin has been on fire and who does Tom Renney go with. Yes, Devan Dubnyk.
If you are considering conventional wisdom the response might be why Dubnyk? The answer would be in the form of a question -- why not Dubnyk? He hasn't shown any characteristics of being intimidated or uneasy with big assignments. Credit the coach for thinking of his goalie and not just his team. It's clear life around Edmonton isn't just about today or tomorrow but the future which will Ínclude the 6'6" puck-stopper.
Here's the way I see it. Khabibulin will be 38 by the time this season is done. By the time his contract is complete, the Russsian will be 40. I'm not suggesting that will be it for him but the finish line to his career should be very close. Now, by then Dubnyk will be 27, which is about the right age to become a number one in this league. The timing for all this should be just about perfect for Khabibulin to pass the goaltending mantle into the awaiting glove and blocker of Dubnyk.
For Devan it's important for patience to be a big part of his equipment. Understanding the situation and then seizing the moment when his full time opportunity arrives. The kids will be moving into the early swing of what should be their prime and they'll need a netminder like Devan Dubnyk to turn promise into a trip to the promise land of hockey and a Stanley Cup.