Tag: Minnesota Wild


Under Pressure: Devan Dubnyk


With a new six-year $26 million deal in his back pocket, Devan Dubnyk is under pressure to prove last season’s heroics were no fluke.

The 29-year-old led the Wild, who were sitting 12th in the Western Conference at the time of his trade from Arizona, to a third consecutive playoff berth.

Dubnyk made 39 appearances with Minnesota, including 38 consecutive starts, finishing with a 27-9-2 record to go along with five shutouts, a 1.78 G.A.A. and a .936 save percentage.

“It was nothing crazy, nothing extravagant. I’m a pretty simple goalie the way I play,” Dubnyk told the Star Tribune at the time of his signing. “The way we played as a group, there weren’t any miracles happening out there. We were playing the right way and for myself it was just being simple and strong and keeping goals tight. I wasn’t doing back flips out there and doing stuff that I’m not capable of continuing to do.

“I’m only 29 years old. I’m fully planning on continuing to get better as I go here.”

His spectacular season won him the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and saw him finish third in voting for the Vezina Trophy.

Head coach Mike Yeo is expecting a similar performance this season from the veteran goaltender.

“I’m going to ask the same of him that we asked from him last year when we made the trade for him,” coach Mike Yeo told NHL.com. “Obviously his numbers were heroic. What he did was, looking back on it, may seem heroic, but we asked him not to come in and try to be a hero.

“We didn’t need him to be a savior for our team. We needed him to do his job really well and we knew that we had a group that could play a good game in front of him to give him the support that he needed. It clicked.”

Dubnyk led the Wild to a six-game upset of the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs stopping 66 of the final 68 shots he faced in the series. However, he went 0-4 with a 2.81 G.A.A. and a .901 save percentage in the four-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

“He’s entering the prime of his career. He’s had some good seasons (with the Edmonton Oilers) and had a great season this year,” GM Chuck Fletcher told the Star Tribune per NHL.com. “We’re not asking him to duplicate what he did this year every year. Maybe that’s not realistic, but we believe he can be a good goaltender in this league. He’s right at the stage of his career where he’s ready to take off.”

Related: Wild ’15-16 Outlook

Report: Ballard, Leopold leaning towards retirement

Keith Ballard

Veteran defensemen Keith Ballard and Jordan Leopold have likely played their final NHL game, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.

A concussion limited Ballard to just 14 games last season. The 32-year-old was the recipient of a Matt Martin hit on Dec. 9, which sent him to hospital. Ballard, who recorded one assist and a minus-3 rating while averaging 12:03 in ice time, is still not 100 percent nearly nine months later.

“I’m just trying to get healthy,” Ballard said. “If I make a full recovery from this one, I’ll chalk it up to good luck. But I admit, if I’m hit like this again, I’m a little freaked out about what would happen the next time.”

Ballard’s two-year, $3 million contract expired in July and he remains an unrestricted free agent. The Minnesota native appeared in 604 career NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Wild.

Leopold, a fellow unrestricted free agent, doesn’t have his agent making calls to teams.

Leopold, who was dealt by the Blue Jackets to the Wild in March at the request of his daughter, appeared in 18 games with Minnesota last season registering one assist and a plus-1 rating while averaging 13:19 a night in ice time.

Russo reports that Leopold and his wife are in the process of opening an events and wedding center on the Bluffs of the Mississippi.

Neither player has formally announced their retirement.

Related: It’s Minnesota Wild day at PHT

Wild ’15-16 Outlook

Zach Parise

When looking at the Minnesota Wild, it’s easy to see their potential, but without making any major additions over the summer, are they in a position to get past the second round for the first time since 2003?

To a decent extent, Minnesota’s fate rests on Devan Dubnyk’s shoulders. This is a team that was in a free fall when he was acquired and his stellar play helped right the ship. Minnesota doesn’t necessarily need him to win the Vezina Trophy, but if he struggles mightily, as he did in 2013-2014, then Minnesota could be in serious trouble. Of course Darcy Kuemper and perhaps even Niklas Backstrom could step up to fill the void in that scenario, but Backstrom is 37 years old with a history of injuries while Kuemper is coming off of an erratic campaign.

Part of the reason why so much rides on Dubnyk though is because Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been anything to write home about. Which is a shame because in theory, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Mikko Koivu should make for a great core and when you throw in promising youngsters like Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle, the potential is there for the Wild to be more than a middle of the road team when it comes to offensive production.

That’s what they were last season though, in part because Koivu regressed while Granlund, Niederreiter, and Coyle weren’t able to make meaningful offensive improvements compared to their 2013-14 campaigns. Perhaps that will change this season though and if it does, that would certainly take some of the pressure off of the Wild’s goaltending.

As far as their defense goes, Ryan Suter is expected to once again play in nearly half of every game. Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, and Jonas Brodin are projected to make major contributions too, but the X-factor is 21-year-old Matt Dumba as he should play a bigger role in his sophomore campaign after being limited to 15:00 minutes per contest last season.

The makings of a contender are there. It’s just a question of if everyone will click this time around.