The date was January 7th, 2015 and the Minnesota Wild were mired in a 2-4-4 funk that had left them with a 18-15-5 record which was good enough for 20th in the National Hockey League. Head coach Mike Yeo felt as though his team was playing with very little effort and let them hear about it halfway through practice before storming off the ice.
It was only a matter of time before Yeo snapped. Besides the sloppy play and lack of urgency, it was rumored that he was approached by members of his team’s defensive corps to complain about Ryan Suter’s playing time. He was also dealing with injuries to his some of his best players and top-line forward Zach Parise was struggling while dealing with the illness of his father J.P.
Many pundits had opined that Yeo was on the hot seat and a full-blown implosion could end up costing him the head coaching job before the season was over.
About 1,300 miles southwest in Arizona, goaltender Devan Dubnyk was playing for his third team in the past calendar year and the Coyotes were near the basement of the Western Conference with a 15-20-4 record. Dubnyk had begun splitting time in goal with Mike Smith and was sporting a respectable 9-5-2 record with a 2.72 goals against average and a 0.916 save percentage. Despite his somewhat inflated goals against average, Dubnyk had played well enough on a bad team for potential contenders to look at him a bit more seriously to determine if he could be a fit for playoff run.
Enter the Minnesota Wild
One week after Yeo’s tantrum, Dubnyk was traded to Minnesota for a third round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Wild were inconsistent at the position as Josh Harding was recovering from a broken foot as well as being treated for Multiple Sclerosis. Darcy Kuemper started the season off with a string of shutouts but had cooled down considerably and was sporting a save percentage of around 0.900. Niklas Backstrom wasn’t much better, thus the door was open for another goaltender to come in and clean house.
Many were skeptical about Dubnyk being the answer between the pipes for Minnesota, but what happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. He played, played and played some more and started putting up W’s for a team desperate to make up ground in a competitive division and conference. How good was Dubnyk?
After playing 19 games with the Arizona Coyotes, Devan Dubnyk's 2014-2015 SV% is still .930 ?? There had best be a Hart nomination in there
— Catherine Silverman (@catmsilverman) March 29, 2015
The Wild have rebounded nicely from their coach’s January 7th tirade, and thanks in large part to the play of Devan Dubnyk, the team now boasts a 45-27-8 record which is good enough for 98 points and a trip to Lord Stanley’s Playoffs.
Dubnyk is also durable as he has managed to start in 38 consecutive games for the Wild and owns a magnificent 27-8-2 record with a 1.73 goals against average and a 0.938 save percentage. In fact, if it wasn’t for Carey Price, Dubnyk may have a shot at the Vezina Trophy (for which he will likely be nominated for).
While Dubnyk hasn’t been the sole reason for Minnesota’s turnaround, he has certainly provided the consistency needed so that other guys can focus on what they need to do and not worry about the goaltending. His stellar play has ignited forwards like Jason Pominville, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund as well as prized free agent pickup Thomas Vanek.
Defensively, the team can afford to take more chances outside of Suter as there is little concern for the goaltender’s play. Stud defensive prospects such as Matt Dumba have an incredibly high ceiling and can let it go with more authority.
This past week, Dubnyk was nominated for the Masterton Trophy due to his value to the team after such an incredible comeback story of being bounced around the league the last year or so.
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) April 2, 2015
The Regina native was left for dead on numerous occasions and only needed somebody, anybody, to give him a chance. Yeo was becoming an outcast in the organization as well and had learned to have faith in his 28-year-old netnmider. After all, what was there to lose?
As the 2014-15 season begins to wind down, both Dubnyk and Yeo will attempt to do something together that is not easy to achieve; go deep in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.
What are your thoughts on the Minnesota Wild and how much Devan Dubnyk has helped to redeem their season? Let me know in the comments and/or on twitter @healedbyhockey