Since joining the Minnesota Wild, Devan Dubnyk has stabilized not only the goaltending situation, but the team as a whole. Before Dubnyk arrived, the Wild went through multiple starters and back-ups while only finding fleeting amounts of success as their goalies aged, moved on, or fell to illness. In his third season with the Wild, Dubnyk played a large part in getting the Wild into the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
After his outstanding first season with the Wild, most people expected Dubnyk to fall back down to earth, which created criticism for his 6 year, $26 million contract. However, over the last three seasons, Dubnyk has been elite. Of goalies with at least 70 games played since the start of the 2014-15 season, Dubnyk is tied for the second best save percentage with .923. This puts Dubnyk behind only Carey Price with .929, who has played 50 fewer games. In that same time frame, Dubnyk is tied with the third lowest goals against average with 2.23. Meanwhile, Dubnyk is only the 21st highest paid goaltender in the league.
While much of this year’s mid-season slump can be attributed to goaltending, Dubnyk spent most of the season as the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy. Before March, Dubnyk lead the league in save percentage with .932 and wins with 33. Before he was one of the worst goalies in the league for a month, he was by far the best goalie in the league for five months.
In Dubnyk’s first season, he was the Wild’s best penalty killer as he posted a .897 shorthanded save percentage, which was the 5th best in the league. However, Dubnyk regressed most on the penalty kill last season as he had the third worst short handed save percentage of .846 of goalies with at least 200 shorthanded minutes. This season, Dubnyk improved to a ninth best .881 shorthanded save percentage.
Without Dubnyk, the Wild may still have been a playoff team this year with a league average goalie, but they wouldn’t be considered one of the top contenders in the West and wouldn’t have home ice in the first round. Earlier this year, our own Tony Abbot discussed what the Wild’s recent history could have looked like if the Wild traded for Carolina’s Cam Ward instead of Dubnyk. In that scenario, the Wild would have missed the playoffs in both of the two previous seasons. Dubnyk may not be the greatest goalie in the league, but he’s good anyways and few goalies could replicate what he has done in Minnesota.
A team’s most valuable player could be defined in different ways as either the team’s best player overall or the player most responsible for a team’s success. Throughout most of the season and much of his career with the Wild, Devan Dubnyk has been both. Despite his poor play in March, Dubnyk’s elite play through the rest of the season still leaves him with a save percentage of .923, which is tied with both Carey Price and Matt Murray.