For the second time in three years, a Minnesota Wild goaltender has been awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. Devan Dubnyk has earned the award following his re-emergence in the NHL following a season that left his career in doubt. But through his effort and unwillingness to give up, Dubnyk was able to reinvent himself and make a return performance so loud that is also earned him a spot as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender.
The 2013-14 season was one that Devan Dubnyk would probably like to forget. Having been the starter for the Edmonton Oilers beginning the previous (lockout shortened) season, Dubnyk carried a .920 SV% and 2.57 GAA into the new year. Unfortunately, things did not get off to a good start for a struggling Edmonton team and Dubnyk was close to losing his starting job to offseason acquisition (and old friend) Ilya Bryzgalov. An injury to Bryzgalov allowed Dubnyk to retain his starting job, but that may not have been for the better. Dubnyk went 11-17-2 with a .894 SV% and 3.36 GAA when Edmonton decided to pull the plug and trade him.
With Pekka Rinne on LTIR, the Nashville Predators were looking for a goalie and sent Matt Hendricks to Edmonton in exchange for Dubnyk. In his first 2 games in Nashville, Dubnyk continued to struggle, allowing 9 goals and posting a .850 SV%. Pekka Rinne returned from LTIR and Dubnyk was quickly sent to the minors. A couple of months later, the Montreal Canadiens wanted to shore up their goaltending depth and acquired Dubnyk for future considerations and assigned him to AHL Hamilton. Dubnyk also struggled there in 8 games posting a .893 SV% and 3.33 GAA.
In the offseason, the Arizona Coyotes decided to take a flier on the former first-round pick and gave Dubnyk one final shot at the NHL. They paired him with goalie coach Sean Burke, who took Dubnyk under his wing and began to dive deep into his past success and rebuild his confidence. Dubnyk had played on a series of poor defensive squads, and it had deeply hurt his ability to trust himself. Burke also began to work with Dubnyk on a new technique called "Head Trajectory" with which Dubnyk would latch onto and become a student. Dubnyk's confidence started to return and he actually outplayed incumbent starter Mike Smith over the first half of the season. Having already committed money and term to Smith, the Coyotes knew they had a lost season on their hands and started to move pieces, including Dubnyk, who was traded to the desperate Minnesota Wild for a 3rd Round pick in Friday's draft.
Dubnyk went on to post an amazing 27-9-2 record with a .936 SV%, 1.78 GAA with five shutouts and included a string of 38 consecutive starts for the defensive-minded Wild. When Dubnyk arrived in Minnesota, the team was 8 points out of the wildcard chase, but rallied to capture the first wildcard spot and went on to win their first round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. This performance ultimately earned Dubnyk the nominations for both the Masterton and Vezina, and will long be remembered as one of the most astonishing comebacks for both the team and the player.
Hockey Wilderness congratulates Devan for his achievement and thanks him for bringing this team back from the dead last season.