Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Should the Canadiens have signed and kept Devan Dubnyk?

Lots of talk on Jacob Markstrom on TSN 1040 Vancouver, how he’s finally delivering on his promise, a former can’t-miss 6’6″ prospect, drafted 31st overall in the 2008 draft. They’re saying that he responded really well to the Canucks' Rollie Melanson’s coaching, after being confused by a succession of goalie coaches in Florida, who all tried changing his style, working on his weaknesses instead of playing to his strengths.

It’s reminiscent of Carey Price maybe not responding very well to former Habs' goalie coach Pierre Groulx’s methods, looking confused at times, sliding way out of his net, dropping to his knees too early, etc. The change to Stéphane Waite has been a godsend, he’s now at the top of his game, fully exploiting his physical gifts, reaching his lofty potential.

This great response to a coaching change is what made me wonder last summer if we should try to hold on to Devan Dubnyk and see how he’d do working with Stéphane Waite. His recent play in Minny, and Dustin’s concurrent struggles, have made me re-visit this idea lately.
Devan Dubnyk is the most intriguing UFA on the rolls, in that he’s a big NHL goalie, a former first-rounder, and that the Canadiens’ goaltending situation past Carey Price is now more muddled. Dustin Tokarski will be eligible for waivers next season, and has probably little left to learn at the AHL level, it may be time for him to take the next step and function as the backup to Carey Price. This would mean Peter Budaj getting traded away, and every goalie in the system taking another step up the depth chart.

Most probably, Devan Dubnyk will ply his trade elsewhere next season, in the NHL most likely. He’s obviously not eager to remain in the AHL, few players are. The fact that he left the Canadiens during their playoff run rather than remain with the Black Aces, and was unavailable for emergency duty when Carey Price fell to injury, probably didn’t endear him to Canadiens management. It would be no big loss, in that he was received at the trade deadline at no cost, in a ‘future considerations’ move to help out the Predators. There is nothing invested in him by the Canadiens.

Yet a fan can dream. What if he did stay as the main guy in Hamilton, and got some of the Stéphane Waite treatment that worked wonders with Carey this season? Could our goalie coach point the former Oiler in the right direction, and unlock his potential? Could Mr. Dubnyk see this as a necessary step for the good of his career? This is a very long shot, but it’s worth discussing it before dismissing it as a pipe dream. Right?

Now, Marc Bergevin has proven to be very in tune with team dynamics. He prizes character, veteranship, guys who are ‘good in the room’. We’ve heard talk about Peter Budaj being a perfect backup, that this helped the team morale.

So maybe he thought that having Devan Dubnyk as a backup to Carey was a non-starter, that he’d chafe in that role and be a rival rather than a complement, that it might poison the well.

But as an uninformed fan, I’d feel a lot less exposed going into the playoffs with Devan Dubnyk as our spare tire rather than scrappy, undersized Dustin Tokarski.

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