The Minnesota Wild are 13-2-2 since acquiring Devan Dubnyk from Arizona in mid-January. It’s an impressive feat to say the least, and one that few saw coming — including the guy that went out and acquired Dubnyk.
“I don’t know that anybody would have envisioned how well Devan’s played and how well we’ve played since the trade,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said, per NHL.com. “I think our players were excited about Devan coming in and he played very well right from the get-go, and it was amazing how quickly we regained our confidence defensively and how much better we played collectively with the goaltending he provided.”
The Dubnyk acquisition has been absolutely vital for both the Wild and Fletcher. From a team perspective, the 28-year-old netminder saved what was shaping up to be a step-back season; after winning a playoff series for the first time in 11 years last spring, the Wild were expected not just to make the postseason this year, but challenge the Western Conference’s elite upon getting there.
And for Fletcher? Dubnyk (13-2-1, .936 save percentage, 1.64 GAA, five shutouts) got him out of a major jam.
Goaltending was a problem in Minnesota for most of last season and Fletcher didn’t do an awful lot to address it during last summer. He put faith in two older players with significant health concerns — Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom — then engaged in a contentious contract negotiation with the untested Darcy Kuemper, who eventually signed and became the club’s No. 1 after Harding busted his foot in the preseason.
As a result, Minnesota’s situation in goal remained largely unchanged from ’13-14. And when things went south — Kuemper struggled, as did Backstrom — Fletcher was feeling the heat, and there didn’t seem to be any immediate fixes on the horizon as the team sunk to its low point, an 18-19-5 record, on Jan. 13.
Yes, Dubnyk had promise. He looked good in a small sample size as a Coyote, but he also was the same guy that played badly as he bounced from organization to organization last year, ending the season with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton.
What’s more, Dubnyk was also one of just a few goalies available on the open market when the Wild made the deal. So without taking complete credit away from Fletcher, it has to be said that some of this is luck — a notion he doesn’t entirely disagree with.
“Let’s be honest, when you’re looking for a goalie in the middle of the season there is typically not many available,” he explained. “We called around and tried to find how many goaltenders were available, and the situation with Arizona, they were looking to get Mike Smith a bigger role and they were willing to consider a draft pick.
“I think it was a good fit for both teams, but timing is everything.”